Feb 12, 2024
by Karl Smith
Is Nature Better Than Next-Gen? Saucony and Bodega Go Back to Basics.
by Karl Smith
Feb 12, 2024

Bodega has been around the block. In the last year alone, we’ve seen the Boston-based boutique collaborate with New Balance, ASICS, HOKA, Vans, BEAMS, and adidas. The pinnacle of Bodega’s sneaker partnerships, however, remains its ongoing relationship with fellow Bay Staters Saucony. And, having already worked on the 3D Grid Hurricane, the GRID Azura 2000, and the Grid 2 Shadow over the course of that partnership, the two Massachusetts-based labels have reaffirmed their footwear kinship with another joint-rework of the latter.

This latest iteration of the Grid 2 Shadow – the “Jaunt Woven” model – takes some interesting liberties with the sneaker’s familiar structure – rethinking its material construction and making a pretty bold change to the shoe’s overall aesthetic.

Unlike Saucony’s original version of the sneaker, the Bodega collaboration does away not only with the suede accents but also with the full-grain leather, making this a vegan-friendly shoe.

More than this, however, it’s worth noting that Bodega hasn’t subbed out animal leather for plastic-based alternatives like polyurethane or even a next-generation material product like MIRUM or one of the many fruit-based leathers on the market. Instead, this sneaker takes a somewhat more classic material approach – working with hemp, cotton, and canvas.

“With Saucony’s HQ being just west of Boston, we were fortunate enough to swing by the material library and meet with Jason [Faustino] about some ideas,” says Drew White, Bodega’s Lead Designer for Product and Collaborations. Explaining how the two brands ended up taking this more natural turn, he continues: “Ultimately, we landed on a design that mixed hemp and organic cotton textiles; we’d never seen this done on the Grid Shadow line before, or any notable Saucony really. The textural nature and depth of the materials is what brought us there.”

With so many next-gen materials on the market, though, why exactly did White and his team eschew those future-facing products?

“There are a lot of great bio suedes and such in the market,” White acknowledges, “but we wanted to be direct in our approach – very evidently using natural materials. Also, we wanted customers to have the option to further customize the product and make it their own through dying/hand embellishments, etc. so we stayed away from synthetics.”

It’s this approach, really, that defines this latest take on the Grid Shadow 2 – a kind of naturalism and anti-prescriptivism that resists that particular brand of Of-The-Momentness that footwear and fashion labels so regularly find themselves catering to and ultimately trapped by.

“It’s about creating things that you live with and in – things that become a part of your life. Each project is an opportunity to explore uncharted territory for Bodega.” – Drew White, Lead Designer for Product and Collaborations at Bodega

The cut-and-sew look, for example, nods to modular construction – although doesn’t quite make the leap – and feels like something of an antidote to the slick, streamlined and ultramodern sneakers we’re presented with on a regular basis; a remedy for the proliferation of “Triple White” colorways and the rise of more aerodynamic-looking silhouettes outside of the performance space.

“For sure, the modular ideas are super-interesting, and – although we haven’t been there yet – I hope to experiment in that arena soon,” offers White, pointing to continued experimentation with the form. “That ultimate level of functionality and the ability for your footwear to evolve over time is something else. The idea of creating things that have staying power and the flexibility to make them distinctly your own is definitely inspiring, timeless beyond aesthetic. This design just plays with different weave patterns panel to panel and that’s why it comes across so pieced together. I’m always trying to keep the material mix funky, and since these are mostly tonal I think the range of textures really come into focus.”

That mix of textures, which gives the sneaker a sense of weight and physicality, also harks back to past a little too – as a nod to skate shoes of the 90s and early 2000s with their fat laces and their ultra-wide shape, and to a more traditional mode of craftsmanship. Looking at this shoe – comparing it to its peers – there’s something distinctly human here that’s often missing, perhaps drained by the rigor of the release schedule or an encroaching sense of sanitization within the footwear industry that comes with trying to please everyone.

“That’s a huge compliment,” says White, “For myself the goal is always to create something that has a sort of everyday, down-to-Earth character about it. Something that gets worn in and beat down, and which might actually look better that way.”

This, then, is a sneaker to be worn – not just to be admired and, speaking plainly, probably not to be admired by everyone. There is none of that blandness in this particular version of the Grid Shadow 2 – no notion that either brand is trying to make everyone happy. Instead, White and the teams at Bodega and Saucony have made the kind of shoe that’s likely to be loved by a certain subsection of the sneaker community and, quite possibly, reviled by just as many (if not more) beyond that; a design that exists on its own terms, as an object to be desired and – ultimately – to be put to work, not simply to be consumed.

“I’m not necessarily out to create things that just look pretty and sit on a shelf, or things that you have to wear with caution,” White agrees. “It’s about creating things that you live with and in – things that become a part of your life. Each project is an opportunity to explore uncharted territory for Bodega, the brand partner, and even the model of shoe specifically, whether that’s through color palette or materials, packaging, or presentation.”

Set to retail for $140 USD, the Bodega x Saucony Grid Shadow 2 “Jaunt Woven” releases on Friday, February 23 – available from 12pm ET at the Boston and Los Angeles Bodega stores and online via the Bodega website.