It’s 8.30am on the 26th of December and I’m wondering the still-desolate mall at Cape Town’s VnA Waterfront. In one of the passageways, I collide with an unusual hive of activity: a rapidly-growing line of expectant shoppers have converged outside the closed entrance of the PUMA store. They’ve come in anticipation of Boxing Day sales. But despite up to 50% price cuts across numerous clothing stores across the mall, this was the only store that had garnered a queue. Young South Africans care about sneakers, and about sneaker culture. We, like many others across the world, have been known to camp for hours for limited edition Nikes. But despite the time, resources, and modes of expression that we dedicate to sneaker culture, we have unfortunately not been as invested as we should be in our local takkie scene — and indeed local releases. Recently, local sneaker don Dane Naharaj commented on Instagram: South African “sneakerheads” out here with every Yeezy colourway but won’t show love when a local collab drops. And we’ve seen some outstanding artistics collaborations on our sneaker scene: New Balance and Dr Zulu; Eytys and Ester Mahlangu; Nike and Lazi Greiispaces.
On the 10th of December, Puma added themselves to the list, dropping a collaboration with Cape Town artist, illustrator and graphic designer, Daniel Ting Chong. Having studied at Vega, he has emerged as one of the country’s most treasured creative talents, working with large brands including Nike, The New York Times and Red Bull.
In his most recent sneaker collaboration, Daniel has re-imagined the Duplex OG and the Duplex Evo through African cosmology. The OG has been inspired by the Zulu Supreme Creator, Unkulunkulu.
“Unkulunkulu sent a chameleon to earth to tell the human race that they will be immortal,” explains Daniel. “But the chameleon became slow and lazy on his journey, so Unkulunkulu sent a lizard to earth to convey the message that there will be death” As Dan explains, The Duplex OG was the first of its kind, launching a sillouette for many more sneakers. It’s an origin story in and of itself. The moral narrative of Unkulunkulu: to live at our highest potential— to clasp the time we have. Sneaker-design has always been driven by an urge to maximize our use of time (speed), space (distance) and expression.
Daniel’s Duplex Evo, with its snake-skin mesh, draws on the story of Mamlambo, the Xhosa Goddess of Rivers. “Mamlambo is well suited to the Duplex Evo because just as Mamlambo alludes to a form that is a synthesis of various species” Daniel says. “So the Duplex Evo is a hybrid created from different materials and technology”.
Both sneakers are emblazoned with a limited edition typographic a logo, different to the generic cat logo we usually associate with Puma.
Literally sneakers of the gods: Daniel Ting Chong’s Pumas are a blend of cutting-edge design and traditional iconography, grounded greens and sky-high imagination.