The Y-3 Harigane: innovation before its time
The SEGA Channel let users play each other through cable TV. Truly ahead of the curve of what is the multi-billion pound online gaming industry, the service was launched in 1993 and officially closed in ’98, just 3 years before the company pulled the internet-ready Dreamcast and left the console market altogether. A year later, Microsoft launched Xbox Live. What could have been.
Innovation – no matter how big, small, culture-defining or novel - is inconsequential unless accepted by the community it serves. Often, it takes years before the public are ready to take new, creative solutions into their lives. Many great products have failed not because of poor design, not because of sub-standard execution, because the potential beneficiaries were not ready for them – the leap was too great.
Yohji Yamamoto’s Harigane silhouette is a new addition for SS18, but the design was conceived way back when the collaboration was yet to prove itself as a genre-defining, tradition-challenging concept. The Harigane was archived as a sketch too progressive to go into production.
For a brand that itself marked the beginning of something genuinely new, it’s surprising that the Harigane didn’t get a run out in Y-3’s earlier collections, especially when the line’s earlier signatures included the cult favourite Qasa High, a shoe that pulled a then lesser known adidas technology (Tubular) out of the archives and updated it with leather, neoprene forefoot straps and lacing placed high on the vamp – creating a shoe with sleek, techwear appeal that still stands as progressive piece of sneaker design.
So why wasn’t the world ready for the Harigane? It probably was, but the technology wasn’t quite there to support it - Primeknit didn’t debut in performance shoes until the 2012 Olympics. The aforementioned Qasa and the all-conquering NMD both took elements from Yamamoto’s original sketch for the Harigane – adapting elements into some of the most iconic sneakers of the modern era, and giving consumers a taste for what was to come.
A knitted, one piece upper features leather toe patch and heel counter on a corrugated, exposed sole. The external lacing system doubles as support – a series of cords wrap the forefoot, anchored around the heel. The construction has all the hallmarks of Yamamoto’s creative mind and embodies Y-3's synergy of innovation and artistry. .
At a time when the trend for sock sneakers is hitting boiling point, the use of Primeknit isn’t anything new – the technology has been used in adidas products since 2012 – but the deconstruction of the shoe’s functional elements is something of a love letter to the aspects of sneaker design often taken for granted by ever-demanding consumers and critics.
A perfect design, then, for adaptation into Y-3’s first taste of Futurecraft. The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it release of the Y-3 Runner 4D on 23rd February debuted (probably) the most advanced tooling ever created on a luxury, fashion-first silhouette. Futurecraft draws from decades of R&D in 3D printing and countless hours of analysis of athletic performance to create a midsole that can be tuned to the unique pressure points of singular feet. The Y-3 Runner 4D is the pinnacle of Yamamoto and adidas’ collaboration: the product of years of painstaking scientific research expressed by an artist.
Maybe it was a lack of suitable, accessible technology that prevented the Harigane from hitting runways (and stores) in years past, or maybe it was too conceptual for 2003’s consumer. Either way, as part of Y-3’s current roster, it offers design innovation that, even 15 years on, is forward thinking, functional and beautiful.
Available in 3 colourways, shop the Y-3 Harigane here.