Nov 27, 2023
by Karl Smith
Nicole McLaughlin’s Merrell 1TRL Collaboration Brings Material Change to a Forgotten Favorite
by Karl Smith
Nov 27, 2023

Nicole McLaughlin has been on something of a roll lately. Or at least figuratively, anyway. In fact, in the literal sense, the New York-based designer’s recent tech- and trek-savvy collaborations have fallen firmly in the performance footwear category – all being the kinds of shoe you’d slip on precisely to stop yourself from rolling.

Nonetheless, having linked with the likes of HOKA, Vans, and Diemme in just this past year – and with names like Arc’teryx and Reebok not so far in the rearview – there’s really no other way of putting it: McLaughlin is rolling. And this latest collaboration only keeps that movement going.

“The Merrell Moc Speed Streak (or the “Moc-Laughlin”) is an archive shoe from 2002. I discovered it while scouring the depths of eBay. My interested was even further piqued when I learned the shoe was made on a women’s specific trail running speed last!” – Nicole McLaughlin

Linking this time with Merrell, and more specifically with the Merrell 1TRL sub-brand – a line which offers “elevated products that challenge the traditional perceptions of the trail footwear aesthetic” – McLaughlin brings her eye for upcycling to the outdoor footwear brand, showing why and how, in what feels like a fairly short span of time, she has become the go-to name for footwear labels looking to rethink and rework their products.

An exercise not only in the kind of high-end upcycling work for which McLaughlin has become so well known and has her in such high demand, the shoe in question – officially named the Merrell Moc Speed Streak, but known affectionately as the Moc-Laughlin – is also the work of an archive aficionado; the result of a sincere passion and a systematic approach to some serious footwear crate-digging.

It’s a fun distinction and a clear departure from McLaughlin’s most recent collaboration with ortho-running sneaker brand HOKA. Having re-tooled that shoe in her recognizable, Gorp-inclined and ultra-functional image before the silhouette was even released in its regular form, this time it’s a case of looking backward – bringing an out-of-circulation piece of performance footwear back into the limelight of the present day.

Merrell has an extensive archive and history within the outdoor space. Once I saw this forgotten shoe, I know I wanted to bring it back to life, but re-spec all the materials in an eco-conscious way.”– Nicole McLaughlin

Of course, it wouldn’t fit with McLaughlin’s MO to bring back a silhouette – or even to work on a shoe that’s still currently in production – if there weren’t a chance to make big changes. It isn’t McLaughlin’s style to simply play with color or co-branding (although the “Coyote Olive” iteration is a real highlight). There’s no point in bringing something back, in dabbling with serious footwear necromancy, unless the updates can be worthwhile. And, more often than not, that means a change in materials.

“It’s remade with materials including plant-based leather and a 100% recycled mesh upper,” McLaughlin explains, asked about the make-up of the resurrected Moc. But – for a brand like Merrell and a designer like McLaughlin – these Earth-friendlier substitutions also have to prove themselves in terms of performance.

“For added comfort, it features Cleansport NXT™ for odor control and a 50% recycled removable EVA foam footbed,” McLaughlin adds, “The lightweight EVA foam midsole, with 20% recycled EVA flecks, enhances stability. Its design is completed with Merrell’s sticky rubber outsole for superior traction, ensuring secure, environmentally responsible steps.”

“I hope to influence Merrell’s inline models to incorporate more sustainable materials going forward. Every project for me is an opportunity (and a responsibility I have given myself) to encourage a company to consider making better choices around circularity.” – Nicole McLaughlin

Available now, in “Birch Hiviz,” “Black Amber,” and “Coyote Olive,”exclusively at Dover Street Market, the Nicole McLaughlin x Merrell 1TRL Moc Speed Streak – or the Moc-Laughlin to its friends – gets a wider release as of December 1st, dropping via the Merrel 1TRL webstore.