Once upon a time, sneakers used to be banished from catwalks, offices and others ceremonial events. Now its return entices new clients. Luxury brands understood the rise of sneakers very accurately and are now launching their own sneakers. This sport footwear echoes the free-spirit aspiration of millennials, the new strategic segment that luxury brands wants to attract.
Sneakers are an appealing comfortable icon for millennials
If there is one segment that both media and luxury brands focus on, it’s definitely millennials. This demographic born between 1981 and 2000 is renowned to be uncatchable, highly demanding and critical with brands.
By 2025, millenials will represent 40% of the luxury sales clients according to the Bain & Co consultancy.
This is why millennials and their little brothers, gen Z, became the new strategic target of brands and the standard of the luxury satisfaction customer policy.
Unlike the former generation X, millennials appear to be real sneakerheads who worship sporty innovative and comfortable sneakers.
Therefore, traditional shoes are losing ground as women swapped hurtful high heels to comfortable flats and thick rubber soles to hit the floors of corporate open spaces.
Trainers were initially worn by athletes and hip-hop stars, think about Michael Jordan and Run DMC among others — in the nineties and early 2000s. The revival of sneakers sparks reminiscence of childhood for many.
This nostalgia relies on a nineties revival that presently sets fire to the fashion scene.
Even if millennials haven’t got so much disposable income to allocate in luxury items, they are, paradoxically, fascinated with the luxury lifestyle. Following that mindset, saving money to acquire higher-priced items doesn’t thrill them at all.
Millenials are keen with the mix and match attitude — fusing high-end products with more accessible brands items.
It must be said that this cultural shift, noticeable among the luxury industry, illustrates the fact that these aspirational clients want to convey a more laid-back image where exclusivity meets casual wear.
For example, Nike provides a digital visualisation tailoring service, the New York Nike makers experience which come closer to the strategy implemented by luxury major brands. Innovative startups also carved out a niche in this segment, like Buscemi and its signature 18K gold padlocks, defending a high level of craftsmanship in its customizing service.
In short, more than a utility item, sneaker is a state of mind.
Sneakers are a thriving potential for the luxury industry
The sneaker represents the new goose that lays the golden eggs for luxury brands. Which appears to be a “sneakerization” allows luxury brands to grab market shares to traditional sportswear brands, such as Nike and Adidas. It has to be said that the market could worth $55 billion.
Sneakers represents a promising entry point for a broaden audience for luxury brands, especially towards millenials.
Regarding the visual social media sneaker culture influencers, collectors are mostly men.
As early adopters, their fondness for the collectible items push them into queuing in all weathers to catch any limited release.
On the resale market, extra-rare luxury trainers editions know skyrocketing prices, reaching over €10,000 a pair. As a safe investment, the sneaker has it own stock exchange with stockX.
The market is still huge for luxury brands: Matt Powell, a sport industry analyst, pinpoints the fact that for 2018 only, streetwear items, including high-end sneakers, represent 5% of the overall luxury industry revenues.
If the high-end sneaker concept was initiated by Gucci with the immaculate 1984’s white tennis sneaker, the sneaker craze among luxury can be set back to the late 2000s.
At that time, 3 visionary fashion designers have their own top selling luxury sneakers: Lucas Ossendrijver in 2006 for Lanvin menswear collection with washed silk high tops trainers, Pierre Hardy in 2008 with the “colorama” high tops and Nicolas Ghesquiere for Balenciaga with the “Arena” trainers. By adding value to sportswear shoes with valuable leather and exclusive materials, luxury brands ignited a worldwide success.
Years after, this tradition is still a competitive advantage for luxury brands. For example, for its SS18 pre-collection campaign, Chanel features neon colors lambskin and suede calfskin high tops. With this sneaker model, the French luxury heritage brand provides a back-to-basics luxury sneaker staple design.
A trend we noticed as well is the hybridization between sports and high-end fashion.
This initiative came from the collaboration between Adidas and japanese deconstructivist designer Yohji Yamamoto. In the fashion sphere, he was the first designer to envision the sneaker potential for the catwalk with Y-3, a co-creation program including performance clothes and exclusive trainers.
Phoebe Philo then set the tone of the white Adidas Stan Smith trend. She used to wear it in her everyday life and at one of her fashion show in 2010. The Stan Smith then made the headlines.
2015 was a milestone for the luxury industry: sneakers invaded both front row and collections during fashion weeks, at an international level.
Only between 2009 and 2015, the luxury sneaker segment was multiplied by 3.
In 2017, Balenciaga Triple S hit the spot in the luxury sector category. Indeed the model represented 52% of luxury sneakers sales according to Highsnobiety. The sneakers market will continue to grow: by 2020, the sales of sneakers in China are predicted to outperform sports apparel by almost 3% according to a report by Zhi Yan, a chinese consulting firm.
Sneakers trends: Retro Is The New Future
Yesterday, luxury was the purveyor of good taste, now it seems that mostly all the industry finds inspiration with Muccia Prada’s philosophy and its ugly chic signature.
As a mark of this provocation, luxury sneakers gave up their immaculate and minimalist sneakers’ style to imposing and architectural sneakers.
The result brings designs that unleash passions on social media: with enthusiasts praising the genius of some top designers’ sharp eyes and haters equally voicing their opinions.
This surprisingly strong design is represented by the “chunky sneaker” trend and the sock-sneaker shoe. The result is systematically sold-out products.
As a matter of fact, it seems that beauty isn’t mandatory anymore to entice the youngest generation of clients and gain “street credibility”.
For Valerie Cabanetos, French fashion school ESMOD’s accessory professor, “there’s a genuine gloominess with the banalization of minimalist widespread models such as the stan smith. The dad shoes enable people to stand out, it’s no more, no less, a snub to trends which is not surprising. In fashion there’s always a provocative side and younger clients fear less and less to be ridiculous.” This chunky design has the merit of challenging the stereotypical norms of fashion.
One of the latest dividing design came from Dsquared and its brand new sneaker-pump, inspired by the military universe.
More than a “ugly” shoe, the noticeable dystrophy recalls a space opera retro design, something like a bionic leg which seems to question transhumanism at the rising robot era.
In brief, it’s like the 90s Spice Girls buffalo platform shoes meeting 1985’s Akira Japanese anime neo tokyo aesthetics environment.
Following this trend, Louis Vuitton has just released a feminine futuristic version of the notorious iconic springly wave-shaped outsole. The femininity come with oversized tongue with a low cut around the ankle.
The “ugly shoe” movement isn’t over and the next step of which can be called “dad shoe” movement will see an iteration with a blend between bulky shoes and hiking/security shoes, just as Gucci did for its latest fashion show.
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