This past May, rising streetwear label Cactus Plant Flea Market made a strong push to claim the title of sneaker of the year. The brand’s DIY-inspired Air VaporMax 2019, a brilliant juxtaposition of technical savvy pressed firmly against child-like artistry was a whimsical burst of youthful energy, not unlike the very foundation sneaker culture is built upon.
First breaking in 2016 (although the brand officially launched in 2015) when Pharrell Williams began wearing pieces from the label helmed by Cynthia Lu—his former assistant for many years—Cactus Plant, in what seemed like a singular yet palpable moment, captured the collective attention of menswear nerds and sneaker aficionados. Now, an even more powerful energy catapults the brand’s second collaborative release with Nike. And the sneaker leaked less than 24 hours ago.
Cactus Plant placed its enthusiasm creatively behind the Blazer Mid. A Swoosh hallmark that first debuted in the early ‘70s but has found new life over the past year following a retro campaign, the silhouette serves as a clever canvas for yet another thoughtfully considered collaboration. A part of Nike’s budding “By You” customization platform, this contemporary version of NIKEiD features more materials and textures than the former that allows sneakerheads to be just as intuitive in their creation as Lu is with her emerging brand.
Breaking on the Instagram accounts of a few friends close to Lu that were seeded pairs before the official release details and pricing were announced, lush shades of brown in varying textures lean into contrasting hues on the Swoosh branding, lace collar and eye stay. Graphic-heavy, multi-colored insoles are reminiscent of the aforementioned VaporMax 2019. Still, what makes this Blazer Mid special is that it will apparently come with hundreds of thousands of customization options.
Aptly dubbed the “Sponge,” we wonder if this upcoming Cactus Plant Flea Market x Nike Blazer Mid will outshine its adoring predecessor. There’s certainly an edge given that wearers can make the shoe unique to their own personal specifications. Given that, the Blazer can’t technically be seen as just one singular release; it’s more like a thousand pairs in one shot, given that consumers use all the customization options available to them. Which, of course, they will—vying to create the best possible iteration of the shoe in hopes to become the envy of all their friends and endless internet commentators.
Looking back to May when the brand’s VaporMax first released, it was clear that Lu understood sneaker culture better than most in her position. Working alongside Pharrell Williams for many years certainly crystallized that vision. But put Williams’ influence aside, Lu is raising the bar with Cactus Plant all on her own.
It’s possible that Cactus Plant will have two of the best sneaker releases of 2019. Given similar accomplishments from Sacai’s Chitose Abe and Jordan Brand collaborator Aleali May, it’s growing more evident that women represent a lion’s share of the power in sneaker culture. The proof is not only in the hype. The influence is there, too.