VOGUE (Italy) - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - By Ales­san­dra I la­ri

On­ce re­ser­ved stric­tly for the wee­kend and ca­sual­wear, to­day’s snea­kers ha­ve evol­ved in­to cult items and sta­te­ment pie­ces with plen­ty of ed­ge, de­si­ra­bi­li­ty and stay­ing po­wer. The in­du­stry be­hind them is fast-pa­ced and ever-evol­ving, pri­ma­ri­ly dri­ven by ma­le ‘snea­ke­rheads’ - a con­stant rein­ven­tion with one foot in the pa­st and one in the fu­tu­re. Old sty­les and new. Reis­sues or hi­gh-pro­fi­le col­la­bo­ra­tions with in­fluen­tial sty­le icons, drop­ped in str ic­tly li­mi­ted runs. The­se are so­me of the ing re­dien­ts that ma­ke the snea­ker sce­ne a boo­ming mar­ket in­fla­ted by hy­pe, sa­tu­ra­ted with de­si­ra­bi­li­ty and de­fi­ned b y ex­clu­si­ve­ness. As sports­wear be­he­mo­ths Ni­ke and Adi­das, fol­lo­wed by Pu­ma, and lu­xu­ry po­we­rhou­ses su­ch as Guc­ci, Ba­len­cia­ga, Louis Vuit­ton, Va­len­ti­no and Fen­di, all con­ti­nue to spr int ahead with buz­zy new drops and part­ner­ships that ge­ne­ra­te wai­ting lists and raf­fles, to­day’s snea­kers ha­ve hurd­led their or igi­nal func­tion, tran­si­tio­ning seam­les­sly from the r un­ning track to the wor­k­pla­ce, and even on­to the red car­pet.

“I be­lie­ve the ac­ce­le­ra­tion of their cult sta­tus iro­ni­cal­ly star­ted with the wi­de ac­cep­tan­ce of sneak ers as a f ashion and sty­le item,” said Hei­ko De­sens, Crea­ti­ve Di­rec­tor for PU­MA Sports­ty­le. “Sports­wear brands think out of the box now and di­ver­si­fy their pro­duct of­fer. Ex­plo­ring uni­que col­la­bo­ra­tions and brea­king boun­da­ries in de­si­gn is ge­ne­ra­ting de­si­re among snea­ker fans,” he ad­ded. This de­si­re is dr iving sa­les: the cur rent $47.1 bil­lion

“[Snea­kers] are in­trin­sic to so ma­ny things that are im­por­tant to [the con­su­mer] - music, com­mu­ni­ty, an ex­chan­ge of ideas. But mo­st im­por­tan­tly, they’re a free­dom of ex­pres­sion. That’s what ma­kes them so de­si­ra­ble.” — Tor­ben Schu­ma­cher

athle­tic foot­wear in­du­stry is ex­pec­ted to hit the $6 8 bil­lion mark by 2021. Ni­ke, whi­ch al­so owns Con­ver­se, leads the pack with 20 17 foot­wear re­ve­nues of $21.1 bil­lion. At the end of la­st y ear, the Ore­gon-ba­sed giant - mot­to: Ju­st Do It - al­so rank ed fir­st among the lea­ding f ashion brands in ter ms of the num­ber of In­stag ram fol­lo­wers with 75.4 mil­lion f ans.

Ger­man ar­ch-ri­val Adi­das and its street­wear-in­flec­ted Originals brand, con­ti­nues to re­pre­sent se­rious com­pe­ti­tion to Ni­ke, spur­red by red-hot sty­les su­ch as Ka­nye We­st’s ul­tra-suc­ces­sful Yee­zy Boo­st and the NMD si­lhouet­te . In 2017, Adi­das’s foot­wear re­ve­nues to­ta­led $10.36 bil­lion. Tor­ben Schu­ma­cher, Ge­ne­ral Ma­na­ger of Adi­das Originals, ex­plai­ned the phi­lo­so­phy of the brand with the th­ree str ipes. He said: “We con­stan­tly chal­len­ge our sel­ves to evol­ve with our con­su­mer. The­re’s no com­pro­mi­se of func­tio­na­li­ty and com­for t over sty­le any­mo­re, and we need to de­li­ver again­st that de­mand.” He ad­ded that the chief in­gre­dien­ts for suc­cess are ha­ving a g reat team and li­ste­ning to con­su­mer needs. “It’s ve­ry ex­ci­ting to see wher e the new ge­ne­ra­tions will ta­ke us as they crea­te the buzz,” he ob­ser­ved.

Pu­ma’s De­sens ag reed that the­re is a g ro­wing le­vel of dia­lo­gue bet­ween the com­pa­nies that mak e the snea­kers and the snea­ke­rheads who wear them: “With the hi­gher tur no­ver on pro­duct re­lea­ses the con­su­mer de ve­lops a mo­re sen­si­ti­ve fil­ter on what’s cool or not.” Ac­cor­ding to Maur izio Pu­ri­fi­ca­to, co-foun­der of the tr en­dy land­mark Antonia sto­re in Mi­lan and Ma­cao, the f asci­na­tion for li­mi­ted-edi­tion sneak ers is a si­gn of the ti­mes, espe­cial­ly in the men­swear mar­ket. He un­der sco­red how Ni­ke and Adi­das ha­ve dr iven a new way of in­te­rac­ting with the y oun­ger ge­ne­ra­tions that ser­ves the sen­se of im­me­dia­cy ty­pi­cal to Mil­len­nials, Ge­ne­ra­tion Z and of the f ast-pa­ced ‘Street’ world.

“Dif­fe­ren­tly from fa­shion la­bels that are still tied to r un­way sho­ws - to sea­sons and to a mon­ths-long w ait for an item to r ea­ch the sto­res - snea­kers are sea­son­less with in­ces­sant r elea­ses,” said Pur ifi­ca­to. Re­cen­tly Antonia tea­med up with Dia­do­ra Her ita­ge to re­fre­sh the B. Eli­te ten­nis shoe, ori­gi­nal­ly laun­ched in 1983. Pu­ri­fi­ca­to said: “Snea­ke­rheads are plug­ged in. They fol­low the laun­ches on so­cial me­dia and kno w that the­re are li­mi­ted quan­ti­ties and a li­mi­ted ti­me-fra­me. All at de­mo­cra­tic pr ice poin­ts.” Re­vam­ping ico­nic sty­les with the r ight ba­lan­ce of le­ga­cy and cur ren­cy sco­res ma­jor poin­ts among­st snea­ke­rheads. Stan­dou­ts he­re in­clu­de Ni­ke’s Air Jor­dans, the Air Max that ce­le­bra­ted its 30th an­ni­ver­sa­ry la­st year, the Adi­das Su­per­star and the Pu­ma RS-0 ran­ge.

In­crea­sin­gly the spor tswear gian­ts blend form and func­tion by wea­ving their sports he­ri­ta­ge and per­for man­ce know-how in­to li­fe­sty­le-lea­ning de­si­gns.

“Whi­le we ha­ve a fa­shion and cul­tu­ral ap­peal, eve­ry­thing we do is roo­ted in sport. Our goal is to ex­tend this cul­tur e in­to fa­shion and li­fe­sty­le,” said Adi­das’ Schu­ma­cher.

Foun­ded in 1911, Fi­la is a brand that boasts plen­ty of he­ri­ta­ge. In April 2018, it up­da­ted its Mind­blo­wer run­ning shoe from 1995, cha­rac­te­ri­zed by a chun­ky si­lhouet­te and bold, war­ped lo­go that taps in­to bo­th the cur rent lo­go­ma­nia and the cra­ze for ‘ugly’ and osten­ta­tiou­sly tech­ni­cal sneak ers.“The Mind­blo­wer col­lec­tion al­lo­ws us to ex­pand on the suc­cess of the Her ita­ge ca­te­go­ry by seam­les­sly ba­lan­cing the pa­st, pre­sent and fu­tu­re,” said Louis W. Co­lon III, Vi­ce Pre­si­dent of Her ita­ge and Trend at Fi­la Nor th Ame­ri­ca.

The ra­pid r ise of the snea­ker bu­si­ness has ca­ta­ly­sed ma­ny sub­si­dia­ry snea­ker-dri­ven ini­tia­ti­ves su­ch as Stoc­kX, the in­du­str y’s own stock mar­ket to buy and sell the coo­le­st pair s, and The Drop Da­te, a web­si­te who­se aim is to help fans col­la­te and keep track of the m yriad laun­ches. Even Ikea has jum­ped on the band­wa­gon with a cap­su­le col­lec­tion de­si­gned with Chr is Stamp of street­wear brand Stampd that co­mes with clear pla­stic shoe bo xes de­si­gned to show off your fa­vo­ri­te sty­les, even when they are in sto­ra­ge.

The lu­xu­ry mar­ket has be­co­me a who­le­hear ted par­ti­ci­pant in snea­ker fe­ver too. Guc­ci leads the w ay with its hall­mark Ace ten­nis shoe as well as the re­tro­chun­ky Rhy­ton. Ba­len­cia­ga’s mi­ni­mal Speed sock snea­ker and ma­xi­ma­li­st Tri­ple S sty­le ha­ve bo­th be­co­me con­tem­po­rar y cult items. And Fen­di has in­tro­du­ced the Roc­ko­click, a cu­sto­mi­za­ble, han­d­craf­ted snea­ker avai­la­ble in 24 dif­fe­rent com­bi­na­tions to whi­ch you can add your ini­tials. Big bu­si­ness fuels big sta­te­men­ts: music star Ka­nye We­st, al­so the crea­ti­ve mind be­hind the Yee­zy Boo­st 350, re­cen­tly stir red things up on Twit­ter by clai­ming that he is “the sin­gle hi­ghe­st paid per son in foot­wear. That means I ma­ke mo­re mo­ney on shoes than Mi­chael J or­dan.” He ad­ded that the Yee­zy sells 40 0,000 pairs in four hour s.

De­spi­te his bom­ba­st, Ka­nye is not the on­ly ce­le­br ity snea­ker au­teur rea­ping the rewards of snea­ker fe­ver: col­la­bo­ra­tions in all sha­pes and for m chan­nel plen­ty of star po­wer. A stan­dout for Adi­das is its par tner­ship with Phar­rell Wil­liams, who­se rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of the NMD si­lhouet­te in­clu­des a bloc­k­bu­ster ef­fort with Cha­nel, laun­ched ex­clu­si­ve­ly at Pa­ris’s mu­ch-mour­ned con­cept sto­re Co­let­te.

Ni­ke ge­ne­ra­ted ma­jor buzz by joi­ning for­ces with Off-White’s Vir­gil Abloh for the ‘The Ten Icons Re­con­struc­ted’ pro­ject. From the Air Jor­dan I to the Air Max 90 via the Con­ver­se Chuck Tay­lor All Star, Abloh in­fu­sed his si­gna­tu­re post­mo­dern twi­st, im­po­sing or igi­nal ta­ping de­tails and a tight co­lour pa­let­te. Evi­den­ce of this stra­te­gy’s im­pact is the suc­cess of the r econ­struc­ted Chuck Tay­lor: thanks to Abloh’s Mi­das tou­ch an al­mo­st ubi­qui­tous sty­le, whi­ch ac­cor­ding to Stoc­kX “ra­re­ly ma­kes its way in­to the se­con­dar y mar­ket,” was re­sel­ling for up to eight ti­mes its $1 30 re­tail va­lue af­ter re­lea­se.

Abloh said of the pr oject. “The­se ten shoes ha­ve bro­ken bar­riers in per­for­man­ce and sty­le. To me, they are on the sa­me le vel as a sculp­tu­re of Da­vid or the Mo­na Li­sa. You can de­ba­te it all you want, but they mean so­me­thing. And that’s what’s im­por­tant.”

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