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Bally launches Retro Sneakers collection | Style/Design Feature 

Sneakers, just like music, are an essential part of hip hop culture — their ubiquity on vinyl covers throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s spoke out as a representation of status. As rap music evolved, fans started paying attention to their favourite artists fashion sense and used sneakers as an accessible way to emulate their style. 2015 saw Bally collaborate with Roc Nation rapper J Cole on a collection of hiking boots. ‘Before I really knew about luxury brands, I knew the name Bally, and I knew in the hip-hop world this was something that Biggie was rockin’, Nas was rappin’ and even before that, Rakim, so it’s cool to be in that lineage.” Footwear News, August 2015. 

Bally has been creating sneakers since the 1930s. Starting with plimsolls and gym shoes and progressing to football, basketball and golf, Bally catered for the sporting industry like no other shoe brand at the time. As sneakers transitioned from their sporting practicalities to become part of everyday casualwear, the style or brand that you wore began to signal a sense of belonging. 

Jumping ahead to the 1980s and there sparked a period of time when the Bally name was synonymous with the urban hip-hop movement, gathering momentum in New York City. The early 80s saw an explosion of Bally within this community and the brand remains a status symbol even today. Bally sneakers rose to recognition as the first designer sneaker in the mid-1980s among rappers on the hip-hop scene. Long before musicians were calling out other sneaker brands in their lyrics, Slick Rick shouts out he’s wearing his ‘Bally shoes and fly green socks’. Doug E. Fresh put Bally where it could be seen when he wore a pair on his 1986 album cover ‘Oh, My God!’, before featuring them in his music video for ‘All the Way to Heaven’ in a Wild West style shoot out with a pair of Adidas Superstars.

The Competition (1983), Galaxy (1983), Vita Parcours (1974) and Super Smash (1965) have all been taken from the extensive Bally archive and recreated as part of the SS18 collection. Bringing back Bally’s best sneaker styles from the past decades, the collection includes four replicas of its most successful lace ups, from hip-hop era classics to tennis shoes and sporty runners.

Last summer LIFE VOCABULARY's LV MAG section featured the latest collaboration by Grammy Award winning producer Swizz Beatz – a capsule collection of shoes, accessories and ready to wear, with designs by Spanish artist Ricardo Cavolo – which came about organically from Swizz Beatz’s longstanding respect for the brand: ‘I’ve been a fan of Bally since back in the day, growing up in the South Bronx. Bally used to be the signature of making it, Slick Rick, Doug E Fresh - ‘Fresh dressed like a million bucks/Threw on the Bally shoes and the y green socks,’ - and now to come back years later and be the one to bring things to a new’s amazing.’, 29 September 2017 

The authenticity of this collaboration was illustrated by the coming together of hip hop legends Doug E. Fresh, Slick Rick and Kid Capri at the launch in New York this summer, alongside new generation artists A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg, along with DJ Kitty Cash. 

Although hip hop is constantly evolving Bally maintains its inextricable link with the music industry. The new collection sees a reintroduction of four of Bally’s most renowned sneakers from past decades, reimaging the brand’s cultural relevance and solidifying the key message ‘Bally is Back’. 

On Sexual Politics and Becoming | REVIEW | Spike Lee 

Spike Lee's 2017 "She's Gotta Have it" for Netflix explores free-thinking and independence through his character Nola Darling; an Artist sticking by her gentrified home of Fort Greene in Brooklyn.

Compared to the time of the original theatrical release in 1986, Lee's late 2017 reinvention addresses what still remains embedded within male/female dynamics today: sexism and patriarchy.  

Notions of ownership within intimate relationships and how women are expected to conduct themselves are explored in a manner which provides solace from present 2018 inequality discourse.  The latter at times distracts from the core issue, an issue that Lee's 10-part series nails: individuals learning to express their choices and determining a space to do so.  

Nola's 'romantic' choices evolve and remain consistent to serve her and her art.  At a time when high profile relationships are labelled online with "hashtag goals", this project promotes intimacy outside of social norms which doesn't fit into a pre-determined package that hinders a woman's creative and professional growth.

Outmoded notions of romance aren't given a single look-in throughout this intelligent, nuanced, and very current tale sure to impact in an insightful way.  In fact, the only social media parallels exhibited are within the post-production edit: a curated playlist of songs punctuating the entire series, each played within scenes that cut to instagrammable images of nostalgic album art.  A creative choice perhaps to the credit of Lee's wife Tonya Lewis Lee who expertly executive produced this adaptation for TV, appealing to the 'new media' content consumer.

The main character's brownstone stoop and eclectic wardrobe reminded me of a late 90's televised female archetype: SATC's Carrie.  Makes one wonder about the hundreds of thousands of real life women whom over the decades have sauntered out of their New York apartments also donning original style and attire, none papped for a social app, and living before it was visually cool to be 'urban'.  

In the episode with the black dress, we're thrown into the emotional deep-end of body confidence, public shaming, and assault.  Themes which are so prevalent now in our post-Weinstein era.

Spike Lee's character journeys through the process of 'becoming' the Artist she is with the help of confidants and community.  With a tight cast and characterful storytelling techniques (monologues to camera and split-screen conversations) the plot is a compelling one.  I desired to see Nola realise her creative voice rather than see her end up with a mate.  It's a story about allowing creativity to manifest, unhindered by social constructs.  

By Founder/Creative Serena Hussain.