There was an air of excitement and connection at 35 annual Footwear News Achievement Awards.
After handing out awards digitally in 2020 due to the global pandemic, Tuesday night’s “Shoe Oscars” — sponsor Nordstrom, as well as Authentic Brands Group, FDRA, Informa, On and Wolverine Worldwide — saw a mix of footwear designers, editors and executives come back together in person at Cipriani South Street, where among the awards handed out there was clear message about community.
“I think what people remember is the sense of family that is in this room. Family can mean a lot of different things and I think this industry is a family,” said Michael Atmore, editorial director of FN and chief brand officer of Fairchild Media Group. “That’s the beauty of this event, is that everyone gets to connect,” he added, calling the night the biggest family reunion of 2021.
Atmore — who was introduced by supermodel Christie Brinkley — started off the night championing the winners and speaking about the resiliency of the tight-knit footwear industry, encouraging attendees, both new to the event and those who have attended previously, to reconnect and get to know each other. He took a heart felt moment to pay his respects to Virgil Abloh, a former winner at the awards. The recently passed artistic director of Louis Vuitton men’s wear and founder of luxury streetwear brand Off-White loomed large throughout the night, with many winners speaking on Abloh’s compassion, creativity and how he influenced many industry creatives.
“I want to dedicate this to my buddy Virgil. I love you, man. Thank you for opening up the mental barriers of my mind about what was possible for my life,” said Designer of the Year recipient Jerry Lorenzo via video message from Miami where he was honoring Abloh at the Louis Vuitton men’s show. “Thank you for living the life example. That, in and of itself, has opened up doors for so many that look like you and I. I appreciate you, I love you, I honor you,” the Fear of God designer said.
“I feel really seen,” said trademarked image architect Law Roach during an emotional speech to accept his award for Style Influencer of the Year. Over the weekend, Roach confirmed that his three-year-old nephew Lamar Roach Jr. died after a fall from the 17th floor of a residential building in Chicago. “I also want to thank the entire fashion industry for wrapping your arms around me and loving me through this tragedy.”
Roach continued, “I just really want us to love each other, to keep loving each other, to keep being for each other. And no matter what color you are, where you come from and, you know, how successful you are. At the end of the day, we are all we have.”
Person of the Year went to Ronnie Fieg. “I call him the Don Corleone of retail. He’s the true Don,” said Fat Joe of Fieg during his presenter speech. “We all aspire to be this man. Beautiful person, always giving back to the community, always treating people with respect and dignity, and that’s what I’m all about — all of us uplifting each other.” GQ creative director at large, Jim Moore, shared a similar sentiment, presenting the award to Fieg alongside Fat Joe.
“My love for footwear is the foundation of who I am, and it’s what set me on the path to do what I love every single day,” said Fieg, who is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of his brand and retailer Kith. He added that no matter what his goal has always been the same, “to help people feel the same emotion that I feel opening a box of a new pair of shoes.”
Shoe of the Year went to the Crocs Classic Clog, a shoe that has reached ubiquitous status and is found on all walks of life, across all ages. At the other end of the spectrum, Launch of the Year was given to two brands: Larroudé, by former Barneys fashion director and Teen Vogue fashion director Marina Larroudé, and Saysh, a “by women, for women” shoe brand from track-and-field star Allyson Felix.
Other winners of the night:
The Icon Award: The Hiltons
Retailer of the Year: Dick’s Sporting Goods
Company of the Year: Authentic Brands Group
Brand of the Year: Hoka One One
Brand of the Year: On
Collaboration of the Year: A Ma Maniére x Air Jordan 3
Hall of Fame: Blake Krueger
Emerging Talent Award: Titi Adesa
Social Impact Award: Phillip Lim
The final award of the night went to Adidas, for the Sustainability Leadership Award, presented by tennis — and shoe — legend Stan Smith.
“We have to do more, think bigger, and think differently. We need to do better,” said Caroline Lew-Wolf, vice president of business development for Adidas North America, who accepted the award. “At Adidas, we are committed to ending plastic waste, creating a more sustainable world by creating products with recycled materials, with products that are made to be remade and products that are made of natural materials.”