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How Sneaker Brands Catered to Women in 2018

December 21, 2018


At the beginning of the year, Nike released one of its biggest launches for women. The global sportswear brand gave 14 of its female employees the task of creating brand-new takes on some of its most iconic silhouettes, the Air Force 1 and Air Jordan 1. The collection, called Nike 1 Reimagined, boasted a total of 10 styles and upon its release, the first drop sold out, says Jenna Golden, director of Nike’s North America Communications team.

During Paris Fashion Week in February, the company also premiered Unlaced, an online destination and physical store concept specifically for women that offers expanded or unisex sizes, exclusive styles and fashion-forward collaborations.

Reimagined and Unlaced were among Nike’s many recent efforts in response to female fans voicing what’s wrong with the sneaker industry for years. “We certainly made 2018 a year where we wanted to put our Nike Women stamp on it,” says Golden, adding that the casualisation of the traditional workplace and the rise of athleisure, fitness and wellness were among the reasons why the brand finally decided to make bigger business decisions with women in mind.

The female consumer is spending 70 percent of every dollar worldwide, which is a huge number. Plus, the footwear industry has grown by 7 percent during the first half of 2018 alone, with sport-leisure styles becoming the fastest -growing category at 65 percent of dollar sales gains. Over the course of 12 months from April 2018 to the year prior, women’s sneaker sales grew noticeably faster than the men’s market: 33 percent compared to 10 percent comprised over 60 percent of footwear sales.

Indeed, the Fall 2018 runways of Paris Fashion Week were proof that high-end labels collectively jumped on the sneaker-trend bandwagon. (Perhaps, as a means to those all-important millennial dollars. “Now it’s the norm for designers to have a sneaker, whether that will stick, we’ll see,” says Footwear News Fashion Editor Shannon Adducci, who’s already seeing a dip in the trend for 2019. “But the point is, women are wearing sneakers. They’re not going to stop wearing sneakers.” And as a result, they’ve ushered in a new era of comfortable shoes for women, too.

Of course, it’s great to see such a huge push at one time towards women’s sneaker needs, but why now? And why not sooner? Adducci pointed out that the start of the #MeToo movement at the end of 2017 helped catapult feminism marketing this year. “2018 has clearly been a year for women across all industries and aspects, so it’s naturally trickled down into the footwear industry,” says Ashley Haines, a former Hypebae editor who now works on Foot Locker’s global corporate communications and PR team. “Thankfully we have seen brands paying closer attention to us and actually giving us what we want.”