Many high fashion brands now produce sneakers: Gucci is in on it; Louis Vuitton upped the game with Virgil Abloh; Balenciaga (for what it’s worth); even Jimmy Choo, who is better known for his femme fatale heels than his ornate hiking boots.
This desire to merge luxury pricing with normcore aesthetics can raise some conflicting questions. Sneakers have been go-to accessories for stunt performers ever since Nike’s Air Jordans turned them into assembly line collectibles, in many ways eclipsing Michael Jordan’s own stardom. But for a long time the most enviable sneakers still came from sports brands.
The serious entry of luxury brands into this category has prompted the question of what they bring to the table, other than a higher price tag. Sure, Gucci can make luggage. Does she know how to make comfortable urban shoes? We love Jimmy Choo, but its sneaker offerings sometimes feel like an extension of its evening bags: cute, but not why you’re shopping there.
Time has made it a dated concern. Jimmy Choo, for example, has demonstrated that he can make perfectly durable shoes. Balenciaga’s sneakers are as much political commentary as equipment. For Louis Vuitton, Abloh took the codes and nuances of a historic, evolving urban style and expressed them as street-ready high art, a sort of Jean-Michel Basquiat for your body.
This work of McQueen does something else again. MetteNarrative’s movements are an organic combination of elegance and athletic prowess – a ballerina in sneakers, but also more. People have been juxtaposing evening wear and sneakers for ages (our prom photos are a now questionable mix of tulle and matching Sauconys), but her movement continues that conversation.
Sometimes when people discuss how their style has changed during Covid, there’s a lot of talk about how we don’t like to wear pants anymore and want to be more comfortable. But another thing that happened was a desire to feel pretty again. (A Zoom-led Clio meeting was prom-themed.)
Some days, tired of wearing pajamas in confinement, I waded barefoot wearing what I called “princess dresses”. Gucci captured that energy in 2020’s “The Ritual,” when it sent clothes to models in lockdown and had them film everything they did while wearing them.
MetteNarrative’s work feels like a descendant of this desire to move both comfortably and stylishly through the world. It combines the primal, embodied and creatively free aspects that arose during Covid with the desire to feel attractive-something the luxury scene is good at. During his lifetime, Alexander McQueen wanted to infuse his feminine creations with a delicious sense of danger, of predatoryness, and this spirit is felt here too.
As mentioned, it’s not just about the juxtaposition of the skirt and corset with the sneakers. It’s about how Mette moves. She lifts weights and does somersaults, aided by her sturdy shoes and a skirt that, while thin, allows her to move unhindered. We’re reminded that we were kids, that we wanted to run around and get dirty when we were all dressed to do the exact opposite…and as a result, we were told to suppress that instinct.
There’s a fluidity to it that exemplifies what makes these shoes unique to McQueen. In some cases, his footwork seems more suited to a pair of pointed shoelaces, but the sneakers welcome him as if they were weightless, less bulky than they look. Yet they also seem able to support her as she impacts Earth.
Dance of any kind is a composition of endurance, athleticism, rhythm and a certain element of flowing grace. These characteristics manifest themselves in different ways depending on the genre and the dancer. Mette uses them all, but How? ‘Or’ What she manifests them says as much about the shoes as about her style: Both are children of multiple genres and inspirations. In a way, they also express, without a word, this contradictory desire that permeates our liminal respite from confinement: to move again in the world and to adorn oneself, but to feel a little more free in its expression than before.
When we last looked at Sophie Muller’s work for McQueen, she gave us “The Jeweled Satchel,” a short featuring musician Lucia Fairfull. The mood and overall message was confusing to us. But this work with Mette is on point, elevating not just the artist but the sneakers as well, and cohesively portraying what McQueen brings to urban luxury.
Alexander McQueen – Sprint Coach
A film by Sophie Muller with MetteNarrative
Commissioned by Sarah Burton Creative Director at Alexander McQueen
Communications & Marketing Director: Paolo Cigognini
Global Director of Digital Communications: Calandra Caldecott
Production Manager: Judith Paternoster
Producer: Aliia Galimova
Production coordinator: Yasmine M’Rabet
Wardrobe: Sid Barton
Design: James Norton
Hairdresser: Ali Pirzadeh
Hairstylist: Tommy Stayton
Makeup artist: Bea Sweet
Nails: Marta Nagorska
BTS Photographer: Rowan Greig
Production company: PRETTYBIRD
UK Co-Founder / Executive Producer: Juliette Larthe
Production Manager: Fiona Bamford-Phillips
Producer: Benji Landman
Production Assistant: Lottie Lindsay-Beavan
1st AD: Clara Paris
2nd DA: Lucia Ritucci
Rider: Hugo Foley
Rider: Josh Haselden
Rider: Peace Ogbuani
Rider: Shaniece Scott
Rider: Naurin Chowdhury
Director of photography: Joel Honeywell
Focus puller: Hopi Demattio
Clamshell Charger: Kairo Jones
Trainee Camera: James Groves
Steadicam: Josh Brooks
Camera Operator: Jess Pearson
Underwater Camera Operator: Rob Franklin
Handle: Tom Stansfield
Handle: Paul Mammone
PR PRETTYBIRD UK: Lee Sharrock
Video reading: Von Adams
SAYS: Ash Daniyan
Director: Kim Fenton
Localization Assistant: Lottie Turner
Conductor: Tom Nowell
Electrician: Cleo Vogler
Electrician: Andy Gonsalves
Electrician: Gregory Britten
Rigger: Nick Curry
Rigger Cables: Andy Thompson
Generator Operator: Taylor Egan
Generator Operator: Eleanor Waller
Artistic Director: Nancy Brown
Props: Ed Kellow
Art Department Assistant: Harrison Clark
Head of the artistic department: Lili Fletcher
Movement Director: Benjamin Jonson
Camera Operator: Jess Pearson
Doctor: Verity Stacey
Boom lift operator: Ian Page Mitchell
Honey Cart Driver: Martin Dean