Shoe of the Year

The 20-year-old chunky style, with its sig­na­ture chain­saw­like sole, put fash­ion fol­low­ers and ma­jor ath­letic brands on no­tice this year.

Footwear News - - CONTENTS - By SA­MAN­THA MCDON­ALD

Fila Dis­rup­tor 2

Some fash­ion ob­servers called it chunky. Oth­ers slammed it as ugly. But few peo­ple could deny that Fila’s Dis­rup­tor 2 has, much like its name, shaken up the en­tire sneaker mar­ket in 2018. And its rise is even more re­mark­able given its age.

The first Dis­rup­tor sneaker was con­ceived in 1996 by a New York-based de­sign team, fol­lowed by the sec­ond it­er­a­tion that launched two years later.

A true ’90s throw­back, the Dis­rup­tor 2 burst back into the fash­ion scene this year, thanks to a pow­er­ful com­bi­na­tion of ac­ces­si­ble prices, killer col­lab­o­ra­tions and retro nos­tal­gia. In short or­der, the shoe has be­come one of the most cov­eted among its sar­to­rial species.

Un­like other so-called dad shoes of to­day, the Dis­rup­tor 2 was af­ford­ably priced and avail­able on the shelves of both lux­ury depart­ment store Bar­neys New York and lifestyle re­tailer Ur­ban Out­fit­ters for around $70. It also es­chewed high-pro­file at­tach­ments — think Kanye West’s Adi­das Yeezy Boost and Ri­hanna’s Puma Creeper, both pre­vi­ous win­ners of FN’s Shoe of the Year.

“It was just part of our DNA, part of our look and part of what made us fa­mous in the first place,” said Jon Epstein, North Amer­i­can pres­i­dent of Fila. “We never needed a celebrity or ath­lete to carry the prod­uct; its unique­ness is what car­ried it for so long on its own.”

No doubt, the shoe has en­joyed a boost this year through spe­cial-edi­tion col­lab­o­ra­tions in­clud­ing a logo-heavy cre­ation with re­tailer Alife, a polka-dot­ted ren­di­tion cour­tesy of Pierre Cardin and a suede-lined adap­ta­tion from Liam Hodges.

De­spite these vari­a­tions, the foun­da­tion of the Dis­rup­tor 2 — with an ex­ag­ger­ated sil­hou­ette, jagged sole and el­e­vated plat­form — re­mains the same. “It was over­built — it’s strong and tough,” Epstein said. “It has its own kind of street cred. It’s an im­por­tant ex­pres­sion of cre­ativ­ity.”

It also helps that the sneaker re-emerged at a time when decades-old streetwear trends such as bomber jack­ets, fanny packs and over­sized train­ers were stag­ing a ma­jor come­back. “Fila is rid­ing this ’90s trend very well,” said Matt Pow­ell, se­nior in­dus­try ad­viser for sports at The NPD Group Inc. “While the ‘ugly’ shoe trend may go away, the ’90s trend is larger — and one that can be sus­tained.”

As so­cial me­dia in­flu­encers and A-lis­ters con­tinue to em­brace retro fash­ion, they’re also help­ing to drive store busi­ness.

In its sec­ond-quar­ter earn­ings call in Au­gust, Foot Locker re­ported dou­bledigit growth in ca­sual footwear, and more specif­i­cally in women’s footwear, heav­ily fu­eled by Fila’s trend­set­ting de­signs. (The Dis­rup­tor 2 is the most pop­u­lar sneaker from the Fila women’s line.)

“We are see­ing a lot of in­ter­est in chunkymid­sole sneak­ers,” Foot Locker CEO Dick Johnson told FN. “We saw early in­ter­est in our stores in Europe and were able to move quickly to work with John and Gene [Yoon, global chair­man] at Fila, to roll out the shoe across Europe and North Amer­ica. It has helped drive ex­cite­ment into a wider of­fer­ing of Fila footwear mod­els and ap­parel styles.”

What’s more, the Dis­rup­tor 2 has had uni­ver­sal ap­peal — bridg­ing the age gap be­tween teens and their par­ents, as well as res­onat­ing with both men and women due to its uni­sex fea­tures.

“I would say that we owe a lot to the suc­cess of the Dis­rup­tor, and the Dis­rup­tor in some ways owes a lot to the peo­ple who be­lieve in it,” Epstein said. “It’s quin­tes­sen­tial Fila.”

“[THE SHOE] HAS ITS OWN KIND OF STREET CRED. IT’S AN IM­POR­TANT EX­PRES­SION OF CRE­ATIV­ITY.” — Jon Epstein

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