New York City got a little less sleep than usual this past week. The perfect storm of All-Star Weekend and Fashion Week occurred at the same time in the Big Apple's city limits. Sneaker personalities, fashion editors, and the sports media frequented the same crowded events to get the latest spiel on their respective beats. These three separate industries, for the most part, were all there to cover same story, though—sneakers.
The fashion shows were filled with sneaker happenings, and each brief moment felt as big as the clothing collections being bustled down the runways. The footwear companies were there to show off their latest and greatest products, and the sports guys reveled in the opportunity to get up-close time with some of basketball's biggest stars from past and present. They certainly had different takes on what was going on at each party or preview, but it was a coming-of-age moment for sneaker culture, too. For once, these three worlds felt interconnected. There's always been a degree to which they've played off each other in the past, but last week showed that sneakers were the main event.
Kanye West and adidas brought sneakers and fashion to the kids.
This conversation can't start without bringing up Kanye West and adidas. They took the week by storm, and the city was simply held at the mercy of whatever they wanted to do. The stage for what Kanye and adidas would accomplish in NYC was set at the Grammys, but the allure of the world's most important city brought it to new heights.
It was already predetermined that the Yeezy 750 Boost, Kanye's first sneaker with the brand, would release during All-Star Weekend, but it was also the perfect bridge to link these two celebrations. Sneakerheads would go nuts for this release no matter where it happened, but it also gave adidas an added presence as the rest of the world usually associates this time of the year with new make-ups in the performance-basketball world. Adidas wouldn't have to solely rely on new colorways of Damian Lillard's sneaker or rehashing the few models that Kobe wore during his Three Stripes tenure. The brand had the right guy who could speak to people who loved sneakers in their traditional sense, and those who are in tune with them for their sudden popularity in fashion publications or street style blogs. Both of those subsets awaited adidas' every move.
It all collided at Kanye's fashion show that took place last Thursday. The clothes felt secondary to the gaze placed upon the sneakers. The discussion on Twitter centered around if there would be a new model unveiled at the show, which there was. And everyone wondered when they could get their hands on this low-top Yeezy more than the oversized sweatshirts and military jackets. This was the grand moment everyone had been waiting for when Kanye signed to adidas over a year ago, and it would only be furthered by his performance a few hours later with his G.O.O.D. Music and adidas cohorts—Big Sean, 2 Chainz, and Pusha T—performed next to Madison Square Park with a Three Stripes banner illuminating from the screen behind them. If there was any question that adidas was ready to partake in a coup of the sneaker industry, they were quickly erased.
Both adidas and Nike debuted apps to combat resellers and make buying sneakers an easier experience.
Everything in the world is becoming increasingly more technology related, and the sneaker industry is no different. There's been a steady shift from traditional retail stores to online platforms. Both Nike and adidas made huge advancements in their digital businesses. These moves come at a time when sneaker bots, the pesky programs that snatch up all of the release-day items, are at an all-time high. Starting with the Kanye drop, adidas launched its "Confirmed" app, the only way people could reserve and purchase the Yeezy Boosts at a handful of big-name retailers. Not to be outdone, Nike's app, called SNKRS, made waves after launching with a sneaker box-themed pop-up in NYC's Bowery neighborhood. This was the first time that Nike had created an app that allows customers to buy their sneakers online with a seamless process.
These programs aren't perfect, but they're a step in the right direction for both brands and move towards a world where sneakers can be procured fairly.
While adidas put all their eggs in one basket with Kanye West, Nike invested in multiple independent designers.
Sneakers have been getting noticed more frequently on the runways. They've been there for awhile, but fashion brands are starting to be taken more seriously in terms of working with athletic footwear companies. The market has also been more receptive of these collaborative efforts. Fashion Week saw Public School, who had previously worked on the Air Jordan 1, debut its latest Jordans, this time on the X. That project didn't come as much of a surprise to anyone who's been paying to what's going on lately, although the X is not a menswear favorite when it comes to Jordans.
The bigger surprise was John Elliot + Co's Nike LeBron 12s that were featured in the designer's Fall/Winter 2015 show. Although they were a NIKEiD creation, it showed that the menswear set doesn't only look at sneakers from yesteryear or the simplest of runners for inspiration. There are also modern performance models worth working on, too.
Eckhaus Latta, who also walked NIKEiD makeups, went more traditional than Elliot, choosing to primarily use the Roshe Run and the Air Force 1 Hi. While not as imaginative, the label's choice to use Nikes, rather than traditional shoes, shows that the fashion industry is ready to embrace more comfortable on-foot options.
Sneakers have become more intertwined in lifestyle than ever.
Performance-based sneakers can be intimidating for those looking to wear something casually. Nike, adidas, and Jordan Brand got exposure for their current signature models and athletes this past week, but it was the lifestyle offerings that took center stage. Nothing was bigger than Yeezy 750 Boost, but Jordan didn't slouch, either. There were Melo and CP3 sneakers for All-Star Weekend, but the bigger news was the 30th anniversary for the brand. This brought about lasered versions of the IV and 1, along with other sneakers, such as the X, released specifically for the weekend.
It's nothing new for the brands to offer retro or lifestyle product during All-Star Weekend. But with Fashion Week taking place at the same time, it gave those who weren't hitting the court anytime soon a chance to get in on the fun. The same thinking also gave a better comparison of the athletic world's connection to what's catching on in high fashion.
The NBA had its own fashion show for the first time. Guys such as Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook have been consistently talked about (and ridiculed) for their personal style choices, but this was the first time the NBA put some of the league's superstars' swagger to the test. James Harden, J.R. Smith, and Chandler Parsons, amongst others, went on the runway themselves, and it tied in the theme of basketball and fashion in one fell swoop. It was the center of what this week was about.
The city was literally overrun with pop-ups and one-of-a-kind experiences dedicated to sneakers.
The main reason people love Fashion Week and All-Star Weekend has little to do with the clothes shown or the games played. It's all about the parties that serve up free booze and food. There were tons of sneaker-related turnups this past week, but the biggest deal were the installation spaces held by the brands. Nike had its aforementioned SNKRS Station pop-up, but it also put on its Zoom City basketball events that had guest appearances by LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving.
Jordan Brand's Pearl Pavilion allowed members of the media and fans to relive Michael Jordan's most iconic shots, thanks to a court that was equipped with life-size screens. There were also Air Jordans, from 1-XX9, on display. The kicker: they were all-white.
Besides that, adidas had a pop-up space in Brooklyn, which had Kanye West come through the shop and hand deliver sneakers to the customers waiting. It showed Kanye in a personal way, that he was someone who really cared about his sneaker collaboration, and he wasn't in it to just gain more press. The brand had invested in someone who could weave together all of these worlds: fashion, style, and basketball. That's why adidas won this week, in a microcosm, but it was also why sneakers were the only thing worth discussing for the past 10 days or so.
Matt Welty is a staff writer at Complex and you can follow him on Twitter here.