Once again, collaborations are de rigueur for the sneaker industry. And boy, do we have a list for you this year. From cult classic labels like Stray Rats and Brain Dead to industry-defining releases from Travis Scott, there’s been plenty to get excited about in 2022. Of course, let’s not forget designers like Wales Bonner, Yoon Ahn, and Mimi Plange have also killed it this year.
The only bad news? Our bank accounts…
So sit back, pour yourself an early glass of eggnog (or something a little stronger), and relive one of the wildest years in recent memory.
A Ma Maniére x Air Jordan 4
One of the most luxurious collaborators in the game, A Ma Maniére (meaning ‘My Way’ in English), knocked it out of the ballpark yet again with the Air Jordan 4. Arriving in November, the model was decked out in premium full-nubuck construction, bolstered with quilted lining and subtle tongue and lateral button branding.
As always, it wasn’t just the imprint’s aesthetics making an impact.
Throughout the US midterm election day, The Whitaker Group held a social media blackout to provide information and instructions on accessing the voting poles. Hell, they even put a number of orders under review that reeked of bot interference.
Do it your way, A Ma Maniére.
Union x Nike Dunk Low ‘Passport Pack’
It’s hard to truly have an original take on the Nike Dunk in 2022. For the past three years, we’ve been inundated by Dunk collaborations and in-line colourways, and the fatigue is real. Still, the Union ‘Passport Pack’ was one we certainly couldn’t sneeze at.
Inspired by Japan-exclusive footwear of the 1990s, the trio of colourways also references the cities Union calls home: Los Angeles, New York City and Tokyo.,
One of the most difficult sneakers to ‘track’ this year, the ‘Passport Pack’ continues Chris Gibbs’ streak of superlative storytelling and first-class design.
Up There 2002R
The Up There x New Balance 2002R embodies some of the best aspects of sneaker collaborations. After waiting 12 long years for a partnership, when Australian boutique Up There finally lined up to bat, they belted it straight into the bleachers.
Replete with sneakerhead easter eggs (peep the ‘AUS’ stitched onto the top of the tongues), the colab was a tribute to the typical Aussie barbeque – and the unforgettable athletic feats accomplished at them.
Be sure to check out the hilarious short film showing off an epic cricket catch through the suburbs and streets of Melbourne!
AMBUSH x Air Adjust Force
Yoon Ahn does it again! Exhuming a silhouette somewhat estranged from the sneakersphere, the AMBUSH x Nike Air Adjust Force arrived in August. Originally released in 1996, Ahn retained all the vintage hallmarks of the beloved hoops sneaker, including the signature midfoot straps. AMBUSH also conformed to Nike’s ‘Move to Zero’ commitments, utilising Grind soles made from recycled materials.
Neckface x Nike SB Dunk Low
A collaboration with the LA-based artist, the Neckface SB Dunk was replete with bloody, fiendish illustrations, including imps brandishing swords, coiling snakes and infernal flames.
Heavy metal madness!
Brain Dead x Oakley Dead Flesh
Busting open the vault of Oakley’s futuristic 2000s footwear, the laceless design served as a linchpin for the relaunch of the ‘Oakley Factory Team’ innovation lab, where Brain Dead will act as the R&D wing of the conceptual sub-brand.
‘Brain Dead has always been one to push the boundaries of the avant-garde via experimentation’, said Brain Dead founder Kyle Ng. ‘We look to take the founders of Oakley’s original concepts and ideas and bring them forward into our new world. Some of Oakley’s earliest designs, such as the Flesh, seemed so futuristic at the time that it is only now that they have begun to feel like contemporary objects.’
Where do we sign?
Wales Bonner x adidas Samba
Wales Bonner, one of the most sophisticated designers on the circuit, has made a name for herself by combining European heritage with cuts from an Afro-Atlantic vernacular. Tapping a silhouette that’s been doing much of adi’s heavy lifting in 2022, the Wales Bonner x Samba collection, which overhauls the uppers with nylon complemented by suede detailing, cranked plenty of necks here at Sneaker Freaker HQ.
Travis Scott x Jordan 1 ‘Reverse Mocha’
Nothing says ‘blockbuster collaboration’ like Travis Scott taking flight with the Jumpman. The Air Jordan 1 ‘Reverse Mocha’ enticed a record-breaking number of raffle entries this year, the release sending sneakerheads into a frenzy after Travis Scott’s long hiatus. Retaining all of the collaboration’s signature hallmarks, like the flipped Swoosh and Cactus Jack branding, the Air Jordan 1 was yet again another popular canvas for creatives this year.
CLOT x Air Jordan 5 Low
Edison Chen’s CLOT imprint have always been masterful storytellers, and the Air Jordan 5 ‘Jade’ was no exception. This year’s collaboration highlights the importance of jade in Chinese culture – a mineral symbolising beauty, protection, power and eternity.
Manufactured in textures and colours recalling Chinese jade ornaments adorning traditional attire, the model came manufactured in special black-satin uppers, reflective tongues, and jade-inspired details throughout the design. Illuminated with glow-in-the-dark detailing, MJ’s number 23 came embroidered in Chinese characters at the rear, further emphasised by jade beads arranged into twos and threes on the lace stay.
Stray Rats x New Balance 580
We love a Stray Rats collaboration here at Sneaker Freaker. Always featuring oozing, gaudy colourways, the New Balance 580 was not for the faint-hearted. A silhouette that was once nearly impossible to get your hands on outside of Japan, the Stray Rats collaboration was inspired by a retina-burning Y2K aesthetic.
Who said chunky shoes were dead?!
Mimi Plange x LeBron James
It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen a basketball signature sneaker receive a collaboration that really hit the mark, but Mimi Plange’s Nike LeBron 18 ‘Scarred Perfection’ and ‘Mad King’ were no doubt hardwood highlights this year. Through her own sense of storytelling, Plange is celebrating pre-colonial African cultures and representing all forms of diversity, resulting in a unique and ‘unfashion’ take on sneaker collaborations.
Kith x New Balance 990v3 ‘Daytona’
Paying homage to Kith’s classic New Balance 1600 collaboration from 2013, Ronnie Fieg and the team again delivered the goods with the 990v3 ‘Daytona’. Inspired by Fieg’s childhood trips to Daytona Beach, Florida, the execution was crystal clear with the beachside suede quarters and ocean blue toe boxes.
One of the world’s preeminent sneaker collaborators, we still think Kith’s New Balance link-ups are the crème de la crème, with Ronnie Fieg this year celebrating his 40th birthday with the Boston imprint in style.
Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1
For those that could afford it, the Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force one was undoubtedly the most luxurious collaboration of the year. Quickly generating insane resale prices, the collection debuted to the world back in 2021 at Louis Vuitton’s SS22 ‘Amen Break’ show. The capsule featured a whopping 21 styles, all designed by the late great Virgil Abloh – Louis Vuitton’s former creative director.
Sneaker Freaker x atmos GEL-Lyte III ‘Alley Cats’
You may view this as shameless bias. And you’d be absolutely correct. But we think the Sneaker Freaker x atmos GEL-Lyte III ‘Alley Cats’ is hotter than little Whiskers on a tin roof. A feline tribute to the mini-boulevards that crisscross Tokyo and Melbourne, the melange of ‘Alley Cats’ materials includes high-class violet and lilac suede alongside super hairy cowhide, regal satin, and a splash of midsole speckle adding to the grit and grime.