September 29, 2023

Salehe Bembury: Current Culture Spotlight

Exsar Arguello

Exsar Arguello is an Editorial freelancer for StockX.

Who is Salehe Bembury? The Crocs and New Balance collaborator has worked on some of the most interesting and influential projects in the industry.

Who is Salehe Bembury? The Crocs and New Balance collaborator has worked on some of the most interesting and influential projects in the industry.

The dominant waves of current culture frequently coalesce around brands, trends, and viral moments. More often than not, there are at least a few guiding personalities fueling the energy and creativity that come through as tangible, identifiable aspects of current culture. Salehe Bembury is one of those individuals and more and more he’s becoming one of the industry’s most influential voices.

The footwear designer, creative collector, and in-demand collaborator is a New York City native who graduated from Syracuse with an industrial design degree. Bembury’s more traditional career path sets him apart as such an influential voice in the industry. Beginning his design career in 2009, Bembury started at Payless and refined his talents in sneaker design with brands like Cole Haan and GREATS. In 2015, he joined Yeezy as a footwear designer where Highsnobiety hailed Bembury as Kanye West’s new protege. 

Bembury’s time at Yeezy would be short lived, less than a full year. In 2016, Bembury took a Head of Footwear Design position at Italian luxury fashion house, Versace. He would eventually be promoted all the way to a VP position, overseeing sneakers and men’s footwear. In late 2020, he was named Footwear News’ “Designer of the Year” and in a shocking twist, announced his departure from Versace to work on a project of his own. He launched Spunge, his own brand and label immediately.

As a designer and creative, Bembury’s style sets him apart from most of his contemporaries. He was an early adopter of the gorpcore trend, frequently pairing hiking and outdoor apparel with bright and contrasting prints. Much of his work, especially his more recent collaborations, is expressive of his style. The designer’s standing partnerships with brands like Crocs, Moncler, and New Balance deliver a relatively cohesive picture of his creative vision and the ways that vision finds life in the form of sneakers and apparel.

Salehe Bembury x New Balance

Bembury’s collaborative relationship with New Balance began in 2020 with the late October release of a 2002R silhouette titled “Peace Be The Journey.” Doubling down on the connotations that point in the direction of self-awareness and maybe even some spirituality, the pairing followed up that release with a second colorway of a New Balance 2002R in June of 2021. This colorway was titled “Water Be The Guide”, delivering a blue and green version of the originally red and orange sneaker. 

Later in 2021, the pair released another collaborative silhouette, this time one where Bembury was clearly given more creative freedom. The New Balance 574 YURT takes the more traditional 574 silhouette and blows up the sole and heel while also getting a little more experimental with materials. Most noticeably, the sneaker features a plastic whistle coming off the back that actually works. This shoe can be taken off and blown into to make a whistling noise. 

The 574 YURT didn’t make quite the same splash in the resale market as the 2002R’s did, which may have to do with the sneaker’s more experimental and eccentric look. In late 2022, Bembury and New Balance released their most recent collaborative sneaker with a misty rose colored “Sand Be The Time” New Balance 990 V2. The pairing hasn’t released anything in 2023 yet, but the designer recently teased a potential 1906R colorway that some are expecting to release later this year.

Salehe Bembury x Crocs

As a brand that’s been on the rise since the onset of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, Crocs seems to have cemented themselves a permanent place in the current culture zeitgeist. In late 2021, Crocs and Salehe Bembury announced and delivered their first pair of Pollex Clogs. The partnership delivers a re-envisioning of the iconic Crocs Clog, presenting it in a new and slightly altered shape which features Bembury’s squiggly, thumbprint-like designs worked right into the shoe. The original launch sold out in seconds, and the first colorway of the shoes released now trades on StockX for more than $400 in some sizes, a price premium of more than 300%. Since late 2021, the pairing has released more than 15 different colors and have even introduced a slide.

On the back of the success of the Crocs relationship, it was announced earlier this year that the company will be extending their partnership with Bembury for at least two more years. As a part of the extension, Bembury will step into the roll of Creative Director over the Pollex Pod division for Crocs. Aside from the more obvious success of the partnership over the last two years, this marks a huge cultural win for Crocs who now host one of the industry’s most enigmatic personalities in house.

Salehe Bembury x Moncler

Riding the waves of his successful partnerships with New Balance and Crocs, Bembury announced yet another partnership, this time with Moncler, that he’d soon have on the way in late 2020. The partnership would eventually launch in July of 2023 under the title Moncler ēquipements, and featured the inclusion of outerwear, accessories, and even footwear. The Moncler x Salehe Bembury collaboration is a harmonious fusion of outdoor heritage and luxury. With inspiration drawn from Moncler’s archival 1950s mountaineering line, the collection combines the luxury outerwear brand’s technical prowess with Bembury’s affinity for playful colors and graphics. 

As a part of the collection, Bembury reimagined Moncler’s Trailgrip sneaker in three colorways. Like most of Bembury’s work, the sneaker functions as a playful expression of the designer’s own style. Each colorway features dramatic contrasting colors and distinctive fingerprint stitching on the nylon upper. The shoes are also incredibly practical for their designed trail running use case. The upper is made from a GORE-TEX material and the inside of the sneakers feature a waterproof membrane. Finished off with a Vibram sole, these sneakers are potentially the most eccentric trail runners available on the market and are almost immediately identifiable as designed by Bembury.