Sneaker Trends: Past, Present, Future

In 1985 Michael Jordan was fined during every game of the 1984 NBA season for wearing the Air Jordan I in colours that didn't conform to NBA uniform rules. Fast forward 23 years to 2018 and Nick Young, aka Swaggy P, wears Yeezy 500s to the court against the New York Knicks. Sneakers have always been and will always be a provocative expression of personality. But where next for the sneaker industry?

The last 10 years in sneakers has seen a boom in sneaker market. In 2017 sport leisure footwear grew another 17% to $9.6 billion dollars but where has this growth came from. According to Matt powell, a leading industry analyst, “we’ve always had at least one performance category that was trending positively as a fashion trend,” says Matt Powell, vice president and sports industry analyst of NPD Group, a market research firm. “Now we’re in a period where there’s not a single performance category—not running, not basketball, not training, not even hiking—that is trending positively. All of the growth we are getting out of the industry is coming from what we would call sport lifestyle or sport leisure footwear.” Sneaker fashion has taken over, and this shift is “historic” according to analysts.

We wanted to dig deeper in to what category will inspire the next sneaker fashion trend. @lacelessdesign, we believe that the future of footwear is consumer driven. What we mean by this is that we believe that the bridge between consumer and design is becoming so close, so hyper local, that they effectively become one. So we thought to ourselves, why not ask the community whats next?

The running silhouette has been driving the sneaker fashion industry arguably since the ultraboost, and has taken many forms over the last year. Whilst the design community has pushed the boundaries of that bottom unit style and we have seen some great products, we felt it was starting to get a little bit stretched. Hence we opened it to you - what takes over after the runner silhouette?

The question provoked quite a response, a lot of comments, private messages and discussions. We are definitely not the only ones thinking about that topic. Throughout 2017, we saw various efforts from hikers, to basketball, to the “dad shoes”. You cast your votes and gave your comments, many comments! The feedback was amazing and everybody wanted a say. But what did we learn?

Well honestly... it wasn't what we expected. We naively expected to walk out with an answer that would guide our next step in consumer driven design. But we didn't. Our result confirmed the statements from Matt Powell, that right now no style is trending significantly more positive than the others on a global scale. It confirmed that that we are currently in a state of flux coming out of a dramatic rise in sneaker culture and it confirmed that we are in a position of higher diverse opinion than ever before. The gates of access to information have been opened and consumers have more choice than ever, and now more than ever, everybody has a voice.

What this ultimately might mean is that to be relevant, you need to be speaking to a local audience with products that matter to them, and to do that credibly, you need to be there. In 2017 the apparel industry saw the rise of the private label, who spoke directly to the consumer where brands couldn't. Direct to consumer selling opened up the doors for the private label collective to become the largest and fastest growing brand in the apparel industry in the US. In footwear, high development costs are the obstacle for the private label: mold costs, sourcing complication and lack of transparency all preventing those with ideas breaking through.

In @lacelessdesign we want to break down those barriers by sharing our journey fully transparently and represent the creations of future private labels to open up the gates of access for the future of sneaker design - relevant, local, open source.

Our next blog picks up that journey as we go on the search for a bottom unit, sharing the process, suppliers, the challenges and the opportunities so you can skip a few steps. Be sure to check it out!