I love croissants so much that I regularly get up at the crack of dawn to get a warm, freshly baked croissant from my local bakery. But I recently discovered that my love of croissants pales in comparison to Dominique Ansel’s.
Ansel is best known for his viral pastry sensation, the croissant-doughnut hybrid called the Cronut. But his real love is the pure, unadulterated croissant. Ansel begins every day by staring at photos of the cross-sections of croissants that the managers at each of his six restaurants send him.”I’m looking for that perfect honeycomb structure inside,” he says. “The layers, the lamination of the dough, all of it can tell you if it’s going to be a good batch.”
Today, Ansel expresses his love for the croissant in an entirely new form: A $348 sneaker made by the startup Koio. Sneaker collaborations are all the rage these days, largely because they are a clever way for brands to cross-market products and tap into new audiences. They also provide sneakerheads with a steady stream of exciting, new, limited-edition goods. All of this helps drive the growth of the $21.2 billion sneaker industry. Often, collabs bring together high-end and mass-market fashion brands (like Adidas’s partnership with Missoni) or pop-culture icons (like Drake’s partnership with Nike). But this may be the first-ever sneaker collaboration with a baker. And it is certainly the only sneaker inspired by a croissant on the market.
As Ansel sat down with Koio’s founders, he pointed out that while croissants are highly complex, they also consist of a few simple ingredients: flour, sugar, butter, and eggs. The team decided to use this idea to put a new spin on Koio’s Avalanche shoe, which is thick-soled trail shoe for both men and women. The sneaker’s upper is made of calf leather that has the texture of eggshells, flour-white suede, patent leather the color of yellow butter, and detailing on the toe and heel that looks like sugar. To top everything off, the laces come adorned with a rose-gold croissant accent. Oh, and the shoes come with a box of Ansel’s pancake mix so that you can channel the baker’s creativity at home. (Pancakes are a lot less challenging to make than croissants.)
As I’ve reported before, Koio has grown significantly since it launched in late 2015, thanks in part to its collaboration strategy. In the past, the brand has partnered with a range of people, from potter Ben Medansky to ballet dancer James Whiteside to surfer Quincy Davis. Koio’s cofounder Johannes Quodt says this partnership with Ansel came about because, well, the Koio team loves his pastries. But also, they loved how much creativity Ansel brings to pastry making. “We try to partner with people who live purposeful, creative lives,” he says. (Of course, the virality of Ansel’s creations can’t hurt either: There’s the hope this shoe may take off the way the Cronut did.)
These days, if you spot Ansel at one of his restaurants, take a look at his footwear. There’s a good chance he’s wearing the Croissant Sneakers he designed, since he now wears them every day. “When you’re a baker, you spend a lot of time on your feet,” he says. “I’ve been wearing a prototype of the shoes for weeks now. They’re basically part of my uniform.”
As for me, I probably won’t even notice, because I’ll be too busy stuffing my mouth with a perfectly baked croissant.