Li-Ning's Essence 2 is a freak show high-top, and it rocks

The deconstructed sneaker comes in a collage of colors.

Li-Ning has been quietly stepping up its sneaker game. Late last year, the Chinese sportswear brand put out a bonkers basketball / hiking hybrid that would have fetched a lot more attention had it come from Nike. Right now, we're excited about Li-Ning's Essence 2, which is dropping in its wildest color suite yet after debuting in 2018 at New York Fashion Week.

The Essence 2 is a deconstructed high-top sneaker that's very much of the moment. It's reminiscent of Off-White's deconstructed Nikes, particularly with "Designed in Beijing" stamped onto suede and a similar flourish on the midsole. You can't exactly ignore the mimicry, especially when Chinese brands are constant targets of copyright suits, but this Frankenstein's Monster of a shoe takes on a life of its own.


Sorting out the many details — There's no shortage of materials at play here, with a patchwork upper constructed of leather (both real and faux,) mesh, nylon, and a large iridescent swatch on the heel. The same could be said for color, as there are at least a dozen different hues throughout — from several shades of red and blue to a teal green that serves as the focal point. In addition to that shimmery heel, the sock-like color and sectional midsole give it a cyberpunk feel.

Converse did something similar with the midsole for its modernized Chuck Taylors, so this partitioned look may indeed be the future. DIY aesthetics, however, have already proven their staying power.

An elevated price tag — Li-Ning is clearly swinging for the higher tier of footwear with the Essence 2's $320 price tag. That's a nontrivial amount of cash, but in this case, you gotta put out to show out. It's available on Browns' website right now, and look for other retailers to follow. Should you decide to cop, expect a lot of surprise reactions when people ask where you got them from.