Sneaker Influencers

Initially, it was athletes who moved the needle in the sneaker industry. While celebrities validated particular styles — consider Run-DMC’s impact on Adidas’ shell-toe Superstars — they weren’t as involved with design or big-brand deals until the Aughts when Jay Z signed a multiyear deal with Reebok, which led to a series of other partnerships with artists ranging from 50 Cent to Nelly. Now Kanye West has folded into Adidas with his Yeezy collection, and Virgil Abloh is wielding his creative prowess at Nike — and Louis Vuitton men’s wear.

But, as with most industries, influencers are starting to stake their claim as not only product pushers but designers.

“With the rise of vlogging, Snapchat and Instagram Stories, people crave authentic connections,” said Ray Polanco Jr., a consultant and sneaker influencer. “Brands will be tapping tastemakers, who are more relatable to everyday people as opposed to solely relying on mega superstars.”

Polanco referenced the energy behind Sean Wotherspoon’s Nike Air Max collaboration and the success of Gary Vaynerchuk’s K-Swiss collection. There’s also Aleali May’s popular Air Jordan 1 that ignited the Jordan brand’s bigger push into the women’s market.

WWD spoke to influencers from all over the world to find how they got involved in sneakers, their storage woes and what they predict for the market.

Landy, Tokyo
@LDN2HK

WWD: What sparked your interest in sneakers?
Landy: I was always into sneakers as any kid would be, but frequent travels to Asia exposed me to ravenous collector culture in Japan and Hong Kong. In the early Aughts, you began to see the intersection of sneaker culture and the art/design world and that’s when I became really hooked.

WWD: How are you storing your sneakers?
L:
My main challenge is living in Tokyo and I simply don’t have the space. I actually keep the rest of my sneakers in a climate-controlled storage back home in the U.S. and rotate my collection in and out whenever I’m back in town.

WWD: What’s a pair of sneakers you’d never sell?
L: Fragment Design x Nike Lab Air Jordan 1. I’m a longtime fan of the godfather of streetwear, Hiroshi Fujiwara; this is one of his best collaborations with the Nike brand.

WWD: What’s the pair of sneakers you want but haven’t been able to purchase?
L: The Nike HTM Multicolor Flyknit Trainer.

WWD: What do you predict for the sneaker market?
L:
You’ll see the chunky sneaker trend regrettably continue for the rest of the year.  Too many people are driven by the “hype” of a sneaker and what look is in at the moment, but fatigue is starting to settle in due to how hard it is keep up and/or obtain the product. There will be a course correction as both the sneaker companies create more product to satisfy some of the demand but also some people just return to more simple and classic looks, as it’s already happened with the Vans Old Skool. You’ll also see the luxury sneaker market grow exponentially where the sneakers are easier to get, but the only barrier to entry is simply price.

Mike “Upscale Vandal” Camargo, New York
@upscale_vandal

WWD: What sparked your interest in sneakers?
Mike Camargo: Drug dealers. My sister’s friends and drug dealers were the only people I wanted to dress like.

WWD: How are you storing your sneakers?
M.C.: My storage situation is a nightmare. I have one closet with drop-front clear boxes, floor to ceiling against all four walls, and the center of the room looks like a mosh pit. Then I have another room that looks like a hurricane hit the inside of Stadium Goods. It’s getting outta hand.

WWD: What’s a pair of sneakers you’d never sell?
M.C.:
I would never sell my Nike Unkle Dunks. It took me too long to find them and they’re one of my grails.

WWD: What’s the pair of sneakers you want but haven’t been able to purchase?
M.C.:
The blue and yellow Supreme Trainer SB. I’ve been looking for about five years. This is the last on my grails list, and I haven’t been able to find a deadstock pair in my size.

WWD: What do you predict for the sneaker market?
M.C.: I predict a lot more collaborative efforts. I think footwear companies are starting to realize that the culture is responsible for a majority of their business, so they are trying to adapt by tapping young, up-and-coming street talent.

Rashed Saif Belhasa, Dubai
@rsbelhasa

WWD: What’s a pair of sneakers you’d never sell?
Rashed Saif Belhasa: 
Air Jordan Grateful 3s by DJ Khaled. They were only for friends and family and he sent them to me personally.

WWD: What’s the pair of sneakers you want but haven’t been able to purchase?
R.S.B.: 
The OVO Jordan 3s that never released.

WWD: What do you predict for the sneaker market?
R.S.B: 
It’s going to get bigger and bigger and everyone is trying to be like Kanye West. So every brand is trying to contact these rappers because the rappers have the young generation. So you are going to see more collaborations with rappers.

Thank you @cityjeanspremium for locking me down a pair! #forthekickofit

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DeeDee Negron, New York
@kickitwitdd

WWD: What sparked your interest in sneakers?
DeeDee Negron: My sister. She would usually tell my mom to not purchase sneakers for me when I was younger because I wouldn’t take care of them. The last straw was when the first retro Jordan 13s released around Christmas 2004. I also wanted the PS2 because I was heavily addicted to video games. I told my mom to get me the shoes, it would be cheaper. Retail was like $84.99 for grade school. When Christmas came around the corner I opened the box — it was a PS2 and I was mad.

WWD: Where do you store your sneakers?
D.N.: In one location in my parents’ house and I have close to two closets filled with sneakers. A lot of sneaker collectors have storage problems. I am now in the process of switching my boxes to clear containers. It makes life easier and more organized.

WWD: What’s a pair of sneakers you’d never sell?
D.N.: I would not sell any of my Ewing sneakers, my Don Cs and any of my vintage sneakers.

WWD: What’s the pair of sneakers you want but haven’t been able to purchase?
D.N.: Off-White Air Jordan 1s in white; the Aleali May Air Jordan 1; Yeezys, and the Off-White Prestos.

WWD: What do you predict for the sneaker market?
D.N.: I predict that the market is going to be the same as it is now. Meaning prices are high, they will decrease but then go up. There are plenty of shoes that have resale rates that aren’t that high, so people like myself are taking the opportunity to purchase the shoes before the price goes up.

Ray Polanco Jr., Los Angeles
@RayPolancoJr

WWD: What sparked your interest in sneakers?
Ray Polanco Jr.:
Art. Even though I’m an introvert, I really enjoy expressing my thoughts and feelings through fashion. I believe sneakers are the only form of art everyone is capable of understanding because everyone wears them. 

WWD: Where do you store your sneakers?
R.P.:
I used to keep my sneakers in their original box until last year. I’ve recently gotten into interior design and decided to create a shelving unit where I can display my sneakers as an art piece that changes themes and colors whenever I want. This shelf setup displays about 40 pairs of sneakers and honestly I’ve sold 90 percent of my sneakers that didn’t fit on there. I realized that I would often forget about my sneakers if they were tucked away in boxes because I have so many. I’m not a fan of wasted space anymore. If I want them back, I’m sure Nike or Adidas will retro the shoe in four or five years. I’m patient enough to wait.

WWD: What’s a pair of sneakers you’d never sell?
R.P.: The only sneakers I wouldn’t sell are the ones I’ve designed with brands myself — humbly speaking.

WWD: What’s the pair of sneakers you want but haven’t been able to purchase?
R.P.:
The Supreme x Nike Dunk SB Low Black/Cements that were released in 2002. I had them at one point, but sold them for $1,100 and haven’t been able to purchase them again.

WWD: What do you predict for the sneaker market?
R.P.:
 Brands will be tapping tastemakers that are more relatable to everyday people as opposed to solely relying on mega superstars. The energy behind Sean Wotherspoon’s Nike Air Max collaboration was tremendous because he’s just like one of us. We can also look at the impact Gary Vaynerchuk made with his K-Swiss collaboration. He’s definitely not a style icon by any means, but he comes from the bottom and speaks passionately about that as well as motivates others to succeed. I’ve never seen anyone reselling K-Swiss sneakers for more than double retail price until Gary Vaynerchuk. Lastly, you’re going to see brands further immersing themselves in experiences to connect to people through events and festivals.

✨✌🏻Two Face ✌🏻✨

A post shared by =(♡^.^♡)= (@selmaksebbagh) on

Selma Kaci Sebbagh, Paris
@selmaksebbagh

WWD: What sparked your interest in sneakers?
Selma Kaci Sebbagh: 
Like most kids, I wore sneakers. But the sneakers that started my addiction were the Jordan 3 True Blue. When I was a younger, my aunt used to live in the U.S. and she was nice enough to send me sneakers that we didn’t have here in Europe. She always sent me shoes that didn’t exist here. I started liking these exclusive and limited models. When I saw the pictures of the Jordan 3s in 2011, I was like, “Oh my God, I really need these.” So the young me waited in line at Foot Locker and honesty I was the happiest girl ever when I got my pair. And I wanted to have that feeling all the time.

WWD: Where do you store your sneakers?
S.K.S.: That’s the big, big problem. Last year when I moved in this new flat, I was lucky to have a big storage area. To be honest, I thought naively: “Never going to fill that much space. It’s a blessing.” But a few months later, it was already full. And then I started to put a box on the side of my room. Now I have two great walls of boxes and sneakers.

WWD: What’s a pair of sneakers you’d never sell?
S.K.S.:
The Nike Air Max 97 Undefeated x Complex Con

WWD: What’s the pair of sneakers you want but haven’t been able to purchase?
S.K.S.: The Nike Tom Sachs.

WWD: What do you predict for the sneaker market?
S.K.S.: 
I think it’s a very exciting time right now. A few years ago a lot of brands slowed down in their evolution, but I feel that we are back again with more exciting stuff. I used to think that we were on some repeat mode and brands were just repeating, repeating and repeating. But with all the new trends, releases started to improve. Sneakers are getting so much more attention in all corners of the world, and that’s also because of social media and major brands start to respond with the consumer. In the following months, we will have more collaborations to come, more technical innovations, and more dad shoes. The releases are great, but there are way too many. Brands need to slow down.

Sanne Poeze, Amsterdam
@girlonkicks

WWD: What sparked your interest in sneakers?
Sanne Poeze:
I’ve never been much of a girly girl and I was never interested in heels as I’m super tall. My best friend in high school was into sneakers and he kind of infected me with the virus. Together with him I hunted down my very first “exclusive” pairs of sneakers. The rest is history.

WWD: Where do you store your sneakers?
S.P.:
I live in a very small apartment in the middle of Amsterdam. So the struggle is real. I store them on shelving units in my hallway, which we’ve built all the way to the ceiling. The boxes I keep in my attic.

WWD: What’s a pair of sneakers you’d never sell?
S.P.: My very first “collector’s item.” The Nike Air Max 1 Beast Pack. I’ve worn them to death, but I would never get rid of them. 

WWD: What’s the pair of sneakers you want but haven’t been able to purchase?
S.P.:
So many pairs. My latest loss was the second Off-White x Nike Air Jordan 1s. But I’ve missed out on some really good releases and I always refuse to pay resell prices.

WWD: What do you predict for the sneaker market?
S.P.:
Now it’s nothing but dad shoes everywhere, and I think that trend will be here for some time. I think the more extreme designs will get more and more trendy as most people are now used to having and wearing sneakers as a fashion thing rather than sport items. Sneakers are more mainstream now and most high-end designers are doing more sneakers nowadays. I see a bright future for sneakers.

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