In April, Bottega Veneta’s creative director Daniel Lee held an exclusive runway show at Berghain, Berlin’s famously impossible-to-get-into den of debauchery. Apart from the select few fashion insiders invited to behold his SALON 02 collection for the Italian fashion brand, including Virgil Abloh and Stefano Pilati, hardly anyone has seen the collection since, given that photos were never made public and the brand’s social media accounts went dark back in January. That changed on Friday when, five months after the show, Bottega Veneta finally released the SALON 02 collection and coinciding campaign. Aspects of it might surprise you — in a bizarrely satisfying way.
In addition to lug-soled thigh-highs, Big Bird-like feathered one-pieces, and shearling ponchos that will undoubtedly spark a meme or two, Lee’s just-released collection included a literally elevated take on fashion’s favourite “ugly” shoe: the rubber clog. A mix between the Bottega Veneta Puddle clog — a rubber slingback clog and a follow-up to Lee’s controversial Puddle Boots from the autumn ‘20 collection — and the brand’s chunky-heeled leather Flash mules, the just-debuted style is not only comfortable, lightweight, and waterproof, it’s also appropriate for your next semi-formal event (remember events?), thanks to an almost four-inch heel.
The style, called the Rubber Flash Mule, is available now for pre-order, with an estimated arrival time of September 18, according to BottegaVeneta.com. Priced at £370, the heeled rain clogs come in a palette of neon orange, royal blue, and chocolate brown.
This isn’t the first time that rubber slides once reserved for grandmas who garden and tweens at the pool have received the heel treatment. In June, Gucci released a pair of monogram platform clogs, made entirely of rubber. The style, which features a heavy lug sole and a thick heel, is currently available in fetching shades like lilac and off-white, and quickly becoming ubiquitous on Instagram.
That same month, Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia presented his spring ‘22 “Clone” collection, which included defaced Gucci bags — part of Balenciaga and Gucci’s “Hacking Project,” a collaboration-adjacent partnership that started with Gucci Aria, a fashion film and runway show that came out in April — as well as a pair of Kermit-green Crocs. But not just any Crocs — these were Crocs with a thin, black stiletto heel and a $1,000 (£726) price tag. And if green isn't your colour, they come in black and gray, too.
The collaboration, titled “Balenciaga Crocs 2.0,” featured three shoe styles in total, with pool slides and rain boots also making the cut. But while the shoes themselves were unexpected — the last time we checked, stilettos and Crocs still occupied opposite sides of the footwear spectrum — the partnership was anything but surprising. Not after Balenciaga’s first collaboration with Crocs, which debuted at the brand’s spring ‘18 show and included a pair of bubblegum-pink platforms, sold out immediately. And that was with an $850 price tag (£617), compared to Crocs’s normal price: a more budget-friendly £40.
“It’s a very innovative shoe,” Gvasalia told Vogue following the initial collaboration’s release. “It’s light, it’s a one-piece foam mould and to me, these kinds of techniques and working with these kinds of materials is very Balenciaga.”
The designer is hardly the only fashion-forward fan of the Boulder-based bulbous shoe company. With lockdown turning many onto a more comfort-driven style of dress, Crocs have spiked in popularity, showing up on red carpets, social media, and runways alike. In April, Questlove arrived at the 2021 Oscars wearing a navy blue tux (standard) and a pair of gold, spray-painted Crocs (not so standard). Later that month, Victoria Beckham received a pair from Justin Bieber’s Drew collaboration with the brand, sharing her thoughts on the style via Instagram stories.
In May, Crocs experienced their biggest win yet: Nicki Minaj announced the arrival of new music by posting a photo of herself wearing nothing but diamond jewellery and a pair of hot pink Crocs. (She accessorized the shoes with a constellation of Chanel brooches, as opposed to Jibbitz.) Within 12 hours, page views for the pink shoes had spiked by 94% on the global fashion shopping platform Lyst.
But with lockdown behind us (or so we like to tell ourselves), our appetite for standard-issue Crocs has started to wane. And yet, comfort is still just as important as it was a year ago, with many still working and going to school from home. Stuck in pandemic purgatory, it makes sense that our go-to house shoes during quarantine would adapt to fit our modern needs, which include going out to outdoor dinners and small parties, as well as staying in on a Friday night and taking calls at the kitchen table. We need our rubber clogs to do it all.
When all we need is a little extra height, it’s comforting to know that there are plenty of heeled rubber clogs on the market, just waiting to lift us up.