Best New Collaborator: Cactus Plant Flea Market
Cactus Plant Flea Market (CPFM) roused the DIY sneaker wave this year. Formed by Cynthia Lu back in 2015, CPFM have designed merch for A$AP Mob’s Yams Day, Kanye West’s Kids See Ghosts collaboration, and received co-signs from the likes of Travis Scott, Pharrell Williams, and Tyler, The Creator. But 2019 was the label’s first foray into the world of footwear, linking up with Nike for three eccentric sneakers headlined by their tour de force: the Cactus Plant Flea Market x Nike Air VaporMax. It was the first time Cynthia Lu had slung sneakers from her clandestine flea market (CPFM’s product is notoriously difficult to track down), and the people responded: Cactus Plant Flea Market quickly became one of the most lucrative, sought-after brands on the planet. Elusive, psychedelic and uplifting – CPFM are the best sneaker newcomers of 2019.
The Neon Flash
Literally electrifying our sneakers (the F&F edition came armed with full-length light-up neon tubing), the CPFM x Nike Air VaporMax is one of the most impressive sneaker debuts in history. Unveiled during Air Max Day 2019, the VaporMax is constructed with playful 3D puff lettering, a wobbly Swoosh (created with real garden wiring!), and exposed-seam mesh uppers. With an Air unit that took cues from the optical phenomena ‘Green Flash’ (the burst of green sometimes revealed during sunrise or sunset), the VaporMax was unlike anything we’ve seen this year.
Like a ‘Green Flash’ radiating out from the sun’s disk, Cactus Plant’s tripped-out interpretation of the VaporMax was the label’s outright headliner this year – the freaky, four-eyed, DIY-styled silhouette giving us a much-needed burst of fresh perspective from the fledgling label.
Cactus Plant Flea Market took customisation one step further with the Nike Blazer Mid ‘Sponge By You’. Teased in their typically enigmatic fashion, CPFM dropped the Blazer in August, giving sneakerheads the chance to fully customise their material choices (with curated fabrics), colours, Swoosh, and laces. From corduroy to canvas to wool, CPFM touted 117,649 individual options for the Blazer Mid, further heightened by an exposed ankle guard (paying homage to skaters’ own DIY method of cutting their Blazer hightops). An ode to Nike’s 1972 Blazer, and its constant retooling through skate culture, CPFM continued to illuminate a rich sense of storytelling through their silhouettes, even extending a subtle nod to the brand’s ‘flea market’ underpinnings (the Blazer incorporates the kind of crocheted aesthetic typically found in flea markets).
Proving their willingness to break from the status-quo, CPFM gave us a blank canvas for the Blazer Mid and, in doing so, successfully landed one of the more daring collaborations of 2019.
Turning up the Tempo
Once again linking up with Nike ‘By You’, Cactus Plant Flea Market turned up the heat on one of the cleanest mashups of the year. Combining the Air Force 1 with Scottie Pippen’s throwback Air More Uptempo, CPFM offered a bunch of different customisation options, including leather and nylon tongues, ‘FLEA’, ‘SUNSHINE’ and ‘AIR’ graphics, as well as several reflective underlays. Taking cues from the Uptempo’s vintage 1990s letterform, the design slotted perfectly into CPFM’s vernacular, the playful, bold, in-your-face iteration coming to symbolise the brand in 2019. It’s the most stripped-back silhouette by Cynthia Lu yet, the minimalist build allowing all the hallmarks of both the Air Force 1 and cult-favourite Uptempo to shine through the design.
Reflective of CPFM’s distinct vision, the Air Force 1 embodies the brand’s steep come up in 2019, the design again appearing on everyone from A$AP Rocky to Travis Scott during the lead up to its launch. Expect Cactus Plant Flea Market to dial up the tempo yet again in 2020, the freshman collaborator combining all the hallmarks of hype: classy designs, exclusivity and, above all else, a lingering sense of anonymity.