Following in the ceramic footsteps of the Terracotta Army, China's ancient-warrior tradition is making a renewed march on Europe, this time in the unexpected form of budget basketball shoes.
The Shanghai-designed and made Warriors, once the only trainer brand available in the land of Mao and the standard footwear of labourers and cleaners, have become a badge of ironic cool among Beijing's young urbanites. Now the unisex style is garnering a cult following over here.
Credit for hastening the arrival of China's biggest style export since the Suzie Wong-style qipao goes to Helsinki-based design student Shumeng Ye, who discovered Warriors on a trip to China in 2006. "I saw them on a cleaner at Shanghai Airport and thought 'Wow, what are they?'" says the 25-year-old. "The logo is retro, but the design is fresh. Chinese sports-shoe brands are usually either remarkable by their absence or bad copies of big Western names, so they really stood out."
Shumeng shot a series of pictures of people wearing the trainers for a photo-documentary published as The Book of Warriors, which has gone on sale (accompanied, naturally, by a pair of the shoes) in Europe's trendiest concept stores. The current batch of 420 pairs are going fast, though, so you'll have to be quick off the mark if you want to be initiated into the way of the Warrior.