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Arch Deluxe : It's Anything but Plain Old Canvas or Leather for Summer's Fashion-Conscious Low-Tops

May 16, 1996|WILLIAM KISSEL

As a recent guest on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," singer k.d. lang invited viewers into her backstage dressing room to see her concert wardrobe. Holding up a pair of plastic burgundy Airwalk sneakers, she told the TV audience: "This is my newest vibe onstage. I know boots look cool. But you can't dance in boots."

Whether they're for dancing or just cruising around town, sneakers rule. And we don't mean those bulky, futuristic-looking athletic things. We're talking strictly fashion.

"Sneakers are completely chic and very club now," says Airwalk designer Chelle Orenstein. "Everyone is dressing down, so it's become more acceptable to wear them with something like a floral dress or a pair of khakis. . . . But they have to have a twist to them to make them look a little new and fun."

That twist is the shoes' unconventional surfaces. Vans, Airwalk, Converse and Simple are among the makers adapting everything from pearlized vinyl and rubber to mesh, terry cloth, even that screaming-yellow tennis ball material, into fashion-forward footwear.

The inspiration, they say, came straight off the runways. "Vinyl is very hot right now in fashion," says Tomoko Hori-Callery, "athleisure" footwear manager for Converse. "So it makes sense to see how that material plays in footwear."

But the sneaker makers say they know their limitations. "I don't think we've necessarily gone to an extreme," says Hori-Callery. "Something like terry cloth is very familiar. It says 'comfort' just by looking at it."

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