The boundaries between the luxury fashion house and the sportswear brand have faded somewhat over the last few years , especially with regard to the design of shoes. But don’t make us wrong: this is a new phenomenon. Not so long ago, there was a time when it was easy to differentiate the architecture of a luxurious house from a line of footwear, owing to the almost standardized use of fabrics or forms.
There are exceptions to this rule, of course — Prada is one of them. As brands such as Lanvin or Balenciaga have effectively narrowed the gap to their rivals in sportswear, Prada boasts a long tradition of sneaker fashion, one that reaches back past the boom in cool premium sneakers that began about five years ago.
Although there was a significant difference between the America’s Cup sneaker and the house’s more modern styles, the trend is on Prada ‘s side, and the label doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.
Prada America’s Cup — 1997
Officially labeled the Prada Sneaker, the Americas Cup (as it is known today) was created for the Prada Luna Rossa Sailing Team. Originally a fitness shoe, it was modeled ahead of the team’s first America’s Cup race in 1997 and thus earned its modern-day name. Back in the late ’90s, the sneaker ‘s technical mesh textile structure, leather overlays and rubber soles were perceived to be the apex of sailing shoes.
Almost 25 years on, and the Prada America’s Cup sneaker has become a style staple in its own right. Consistently sold out once it fall and is available in several colorways and varieties, the America’s Cup really sets off Prada’s sneaker lineage.
Prada Sneaker — 1998
Soon after the original America’s Cup sneaker was released, Prada featured a hybrid sneaker in its FW98 collection — a long time before hybrid sneakers became a thing of the past. Again named the Prada Sneaker, while the 1998 edition, this pair merged the original America’s Cup rubber sole with a fashionable calf leather upper.
The juxtaposition between the performance-oriented sole and the more traditional leather upper looks as new and modern today as it would have been in 1998. If you’re assuming that you’ve seen this aesthetic before, it’s because you have—over the last few seasons, most premium brands have launched their own iteration of the formal sneaker shoe, Matthew Williams’ 1017 ALYX 9SM Chelsea boot undoubtedly being the most familiar.
Prada Crossection Sneakers — 2018
The launching of the America’s Cup had carried Prada’s sneaker range for over 20 years before the SS18 launch took Prada’s next groundbreaking sneaker with it. Anyone who’s been around fashion or sneakers in 2018 will know that this was Prada’s year. Whereas in 2017 Balenciaga was with the Triple S, in 2018, Prada ‘s luxurious technical aesthetics was all that everyone wanted to buy — and that spread to Prada ‘s line of footwear.
The Crossection was launched in 2018 and is made almost entirely of mesh. Bringing the technological aesthetic of the sneaker to the extreme, Prada incorporated a slip-on style of hook and loop fasteners as well as a lugged outsole. Although the Crossection was somewhat overshadowed by its sequel, it was the first to channel Prada’s modern design language and set the tone for the next three years.
Prada Cloudbust — 2018
The Cloudbust is Prada’s most popular sneaker of the modern age and came to SS18 shortly after the Crossection. It was first revealed at the Prada Men’s Spring / Summer 2018 runway show and ditches the aggressive lugs of its predecessors for a more rounded, almost bulbous tooling. The outcome is a friendlier, cartoon-like style that still relies heavily on the technological aesthetics that was so common at the time.
At around the same time, Prada ‘s influence in hip-hop started to rise; cosigns such as A$AP Rocky, Pusha-T, and Kanye West cemented the reputation of a luxury house as a must-have tail brand at the end of the decade. That success was turned over to Prada’s Cloudbust sneakers brand and, by mid to late 2018, there was something everyone could write about.
Prada Cloudbust Thunder — 2019
Not fulfilled with the fame of the original Cloudbust, Prada moved ahead with the Prada Cloudbust Thunder, a much more offensive approach than the previously cartoonish and playful original. The Cloudbust Thunder modified the tooling, but maybe more importantly, it also injected rubber into the technological top to produce a unique 3D, almost armor-like effect.
Similar to America’s Cup footwear, Prada’s latest collection leaned heavily on the house’s efficiency know-how. It channeled a strikingly sporty look and sound through a glamorous prism, supplying the brand ‘s followers with the best of both worlds.
Prada Techno — 2020
Prada ‘s new sneaker, Techno, is perhaps the most offensive. Unashamedly scientific, the three-part tooling features lugs that will make you believe you’ll be able to accelerate however the terrain is in front of you. The stretch fabric top is taken from both archival models such as the America’s Cup, as well as more modern models such as the Cloudbust.
Prada’s sneaker pedigree has been unquestionable for almost 25 years. Themes of technical performance fabrics and a style language that holds faithful to the original America’s Cup sneaker without seeming to be stale, recur in Prada’s sneaker lineage.