Footwear
Jun 12, 2024
by Karl Smith
Merrell 1TRL and Advisory Board Crystals Walk the Path to Enlightenment – In Hydro Mocs
by Karl Smith
Jun 12, 2024

Given that the Michigan-based brand produces the world’s best-selling hiking shoe, it’s fair to say that Merrell is one of those brands that people just know; from full-blown sneakerheads to the kind of consumer that sees footwear as nothing but a necessary means to practical ends, Merrell figures as part of the conversation.

And it should: the Moab 3 is a best-seller for a reason, after all. But there’s also a lot more to the brand than just the better-known top-line product; its 1TRL subdivision, not unlike Nike’s ISPA branch, is a progressive paragon, focusing not only on pushing the technical capabilities of practical footwear as far as possible but also on reducing impact with Earth-friendlier solutions to those performance-based problems. While 1TRL may not be the the same level of household name as Merrell proper, it falls very much into the “If You Know You Know” category. Or, more than that perhaps, into the much rarer and much more desirable “If You Know You Know, And You Really Should Know,” category.

Which, funnily enough, is a neat little segue to Los Angeles-located Advisory Board Crystals (or, Abc.) – another label you may not yet know, but which you really ought to, and which self-describes as “An American Luxury Brand “Thinking Critically” since 2015” – 1TRL’s latest collaborator.

In line with how other luxury brands have incorporated sportswear into their repertoire, this link-up sees Abc. putting its own spin on the Hydro Moc not as a standalone product but as as part of a new collection, slipping in seamlessly with apparel and accessories which share the same vision of elevated, Earth-forward simplicity. And it’s this philosophy which drew co-founder Remington Guest to the Hydro Moc specifically.

“It’s a versatile shoe and the origin of the foam shoe movement,” Guest explains, “It’s versatile as it’s such a technical, functional shoe, yet so simple. We wanted to work on this model specifically as it’s foundational.” More than this, though, the Hydro’s unique material DNA – being constructed from a mix of recycled materials and BLOOM® performance foam, created from algae biomass and which “transforms green water into clean water in the process” – makes it a unique proposition for a brand like Abc., looking to deploy a little more of that critical thinking. And, in this case, it also connects with the collection’s particular narrative through-line – a story of enlightenment and acceptance, which is a pretty tidy encapsulation of sustainably-minded thinking.

All of which sounds very lofty, but it’s also important, Guest notes, to remember that there is a sense of fun imbued in this collaboration – a sense of pursuing something like the Unknown, which, of course, also sits at the core of Merrell’s brand philosophy.

“It’s also challenging to make this uniquely ours as there are so many limitations with such a simplistic design. Not to mention Merrell has done so many colorways of this model,” Guest says of Abc.’s approach, “We liked that it was clear what we added, all of our key identifiers as a brand, and they all added to the functionality of the shoe in some way. It’s the First Moc with an adjustable strap, too!”

It’s also important to note that Abc. doesn’t suddenly change tack if you look beyond the Hydro collaboration; the whole collection is imbued with forward-thinking creative choices – a kind of Story mfg.-esque approach that considers time and artistry to be the ultimate luxuries when it comes to fashion.

“We do what we do well. DIY aesthetic with a futuristic, in some cases technical approach,” Guest says of the broader collection, titled The Sacred Mountain 2 in a nod to the long and winding path toward a better way. “We utilized custom-milled quartz, heavy stitching and a ton of fabrics from Japan; their quality and eco practices are some of the best, which you can see reflected in the price of the fabrics themselves but also in the hand feel.”

Alongside these more subtle, material-level choices there’s also more overt calls to arms – like the slogan “stop chemical farming or erode,” which is about as unequivocal as it’s possible to get. “The chemical messaging is something we stand behind,” Guest says, confirming that these aren’t just empty words but deeply-held beliefs. “The use of glyphosate is an issue within our food system and those who are called by the mountain would share in the sentiment!”

Priced at $120 USD, the Advisory Board Crystals x Merrell Hydro Moc will be available exclusively via advisoryboardcrystals.com and GOAT from June 13th.