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BAIT x Saucony Shadow Original: Shoes for a Cruel World

November 18, 2013by Aaron Kr.
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California shop, BAIT, has only been around for a little over a year, but thanks to some strong industry roots that were planted long before their doors opened, they’ve been able to dive right into the collaboration circuit and start making some noise from day 1. BAIT hit the ground running with a variety of special projects with a number of different brands like Asics, Reebok, Saucony and Creative Recreation to name a few, and as we’ve seen lately, there are no signs of slowing down. Especially over the last few months, we’ve seen a rapid fire of interesting collaborative endeavors from BAIT, but their latest takes a much different angle than we’re used to seeing when it comes to typical footwear team-ups.

It’s not completely unheard of for a sneaker release to have some kind of charitable or humanitarian aspect, but rarely do they practice what they preach to the same degree as this new project with Saucony. Dubbed the “CruelWorld” BAIT has taken the timeless Shadow Original model and reconstructed it in vegan-approved materials, using no animal products in the manufacturing and delivering a cruelty-free message in the process. And while Saucony does already have a limited selection of vegan-friendly

footwear already in circulation, this project will no doubt spread the awareness to a completely different audience through BAIT’s voice in the sneakerhead world – a place where positive messages and philanthropy usually play a distant backseat to surface value desirability.

BAIT valiantly attempts to bring those worlds together by creating a clean and accessible colorway of a classic Saucony silhouette that will not only appeal to consumers visually, but may also get them to put a little more thought into what their shoes are made of and where those materials actually come from. No one, including BAIT themselves, are suggesting that we should completely do away with the rich suedes and premium leathers that we all love, but it is definitely a poignant reminder that their are other alternatives available and that perhaps the future may see a more environmentally conscious fusing of these contrasting approaches. We spoke to BAIT owner and creative director, Eric Cheng, to get the inside story on their intriguing new Saucony collab and complementary vegan apparel capsule, so keep reading for the full interview and look for the “CruelWorld” Shadow Original to release exclusively through BAIT next week both in-store and online.

Sneaker News:  In your own words, what is the “CruelWorld” concept all about?

Eric Cheng:  The concept started with an effort to create a positive message through a shoe.  Not to sound like we are good people or anything, but we wanted to somewhat play our part in fighting the good fight, and a footwear collaboration with Saucony was an opportunity we wanted to take the privilege of conveying that.

SN:  Why did you choose the Shadow Original model to spread this message?

Eric:  We like the Shadow Original.  It was one of our favorite retro models and Saucony was bringing it back to the market.  Saucony has had a vegan product line for years and it was always executed on low profile midsole models like the classic Jazz and Bullets.  We wanted to help bring awareness to Saucony’s vegan initiatives by working on a vegan collab project using a retro runner.

SN:  Please give us an overview of the materials and the special construction process used to make the shoes.

Eric:  The materials include a deep charcoal, premium soft vegan-suede, black vegan dyed canvas, natural hemp, cork insoles, and a vegan-speckled outsole.

In order for a shoe to be considered vegan, there are several requisites it must fulfill.  The shoe has to be completely animal-free which requires a different set of components and substances to construct the shoe. It is very much like food, where a dish has to be prepared for an inspection team that is animal-allergic and all ingredients along with its sourcing must be animal-free.  As a final product, you also have a completely biodegradable shoe that is eco-friendly. In addition to that, the working environment is also under international regulations and is monitored to abide by ethical standards. We loved all of it and it was readily available with Saucony’s vegan-line capabilities.

SN:  Does the color scheme play into the concept at all or is it more about the materials?

Eric:  It is more about the materials.  The color scheme was to make something wearable, but still retain that “vegan” look.  The goal was to make a vegan runner that can be appreciated by both the vegan product enthusiasts as well as the sneakerheads.

SN:  What’s the significance of the special tongue labels?

Eric:  The content on the tongue label is an official BAIT and Saucony Vegan seal of approval.  We used the skull/crossbones symbol to convey that this design is not only for animals, but for people too. It was our way of emphasizing a vegan shoe into a statement.  “Non-Violent Constructs” was a term we wanted to add to reword and reexamine what a vegan shoe can entail.  We definitely wanted to give it special attention to help communicate our message.

SN:  What was Saucony’s reaction to this somewhat unorthodox approach to a sneaker collaboration?

Eric:  Saucony was on board for the project from the very beginning.  We had the support from a partner with the expertise in vegan footwear production, who shared the vision of creating a collaboration program to make contributions to different charities. It was a perfect match and we greatly appreciate working with them.

SN:  Were there any limitations or obstacles as a result of trying to work within the required Vegan parameters?

Eric:  The main limitation was the selection of materials.  Saucony has an amazing selection of suedes. The suede they use on some of the Saucony models are so rich and silky that it is hard not to use.  We had to give that up, but used premium vegan suede instead, which actually came out better than we expected.  It was a necessary sacrifice we had to make.  The message has to be in the medium and we felt the means will justify the ends.

SN:  Why is this cause important to BAIT?

Eric:  The cause is important to us because it is our way of giving back.  We thought giving back through doing what we love most, sneaker collaborations, would be awesome.  And it truly is. This shoe is the beginning of a BAIT x Saucony for charity program and I hope we can keep the program going to contribute to the cause of more charitable organizations.

SN:  Please fill us in on the charitable aspect of the CruelWorld project.

Eric:  We chose A Place Called Home because we believe in what they do and what they stand for.  We visited their facility and we were amazed with what they are doing with the community.  They provide what’s being taken out of the school systems and what is vital for the youth. They focus on the Arts from music, to design, art, athletics, dance, and even health. It is a CalArts in South Central, Los Angeles, but for local kids and for free! They give the kids an opportunity to empower themselves and not get distracted by the streets.  It also isn’t a big organization, so we felt our donation would mean more and help more too.  Please check out apch.org or check out their video to see the amazing things that they are doing because I don’t think a quick description can really do them justice.

We also created a full vegan apparel capsule (tees and sweatpants) for the CruelWorld project.  Full proceeds from the sales of the apparel capsule will also go to A Place Called Home.  The capsule is available now online at BAITme.com and in our flagship store.

SN:  BAIT has been cranking out a lot of sneaker collaborations lately. Are there any other goodies on the way for 2013 or will you guys be taking a breather until the New Year?

Eric:  We love sneakers and working on collaborations.  We have great partners like Saucony that allow us the opportunities to do so.  Expect more projects with 2013 and for 2014 and stay tuned to Sneaker News.

For your chance to purchase the BAIT x Saucony Shadow Original “CruelWorld” for a retail price of $120, check out the full details for both the in-store and online release. BAIT will be donating a portion of the proceeds to A Place Called Home – a non-profit youth center in South Central, Los Angeles that provides mentorship and cultural programs for local kids and teens.