Whatever Kanye West says about sneakers is guaranteed to make people listen—often raising a few eyebrows—and he did just that when he said he wants to make a $30 sneaker with Adidas. In a recent interview with BBC’s Radio 1, West said, “I'm going to Adidas and I'm like, 'Adidas, I know you've never made a shoe under $50, but we have to make a shoe that costs $30. And I'm gonna wear it–it's gonna be the coolest shoe of all. To me, this thing I'm saying is the thing I'm most excited about of anything I've ever done.” This sounds great in theory: Kanye’s previous Adidas sneakers have retailed for $200 and $350 respectively. But can it actually be done?
There’s a common perception that sneakers cost $2 to make and are then sold for $100, but that’s not exactly the case. In a study done by Sole Review, it was revealed that Kanye West’s Adidas Yeezy 750 Boost costs $76 to manufacture; it retails for $350. The Adidas Ultra Boost, in comparison, has a manufacturing price of $43 and a retail price of $180. These numbers might sound like huge profits for footwear brands, but they follow a model that allows retailers to purchase the shoes and still make a profit when they sell them to customers. Adidas can’t exactly make a Kanye West sneaker for $25 and sell it for $30. It’s just not a viable business model, even if the sneaker is only sold directly through the brand.
If a retailer outside of Adidas was going to buy and sell Kanye’s $30 sneaker, this is how it would need to breakdown financially: According to Derek Curry, who owns Sneaker Politics, a series of sneaker boutiques in Louisiana, “The shoe would probably cost us $15.90 wholesale. Not sure what it would cost the brand, but I'm thinking $8.”
An $8 production sneaker would significantly limit West’s choices of materials and design. Remember: The whole cost of a sneaker isn’t just the raw materials used to make it, it also spreads out the pricey factors of paying for the shoe to be created and the final sneaker’s cast or mold to be made.
Another buyer at a sneaker boutique, who wished to remain anonymous, said, "I can't imagine that they would even sell [these shoes] to stores, [they would be sold] in-house and Adidas would have to eat the loss. I feel as though that would be strictly from a publicity standpoint."
West, however, isn’t the first celebrity or athlete who’s attempted to make a lower-priced sneaker. Stephon Marbury famously launched his $15 sneaker brand, Starbury, in 2006. The shoes notoriously suffered from cheap materials and lack of great design. Things could be different with West working with Adidas, given the brand’s greater resources and experience in shoe manufacturing. This $30 Adidas sneaker, though, most likely wouldn’t use Boost, leather, or Primeknit. It would need to be a creative solution to hyped-up footwear.
Kanye’s always spoke about wanting everyone to have his shoes (even saying he wanted to do shoes with Payless), and a $30 sneaker would certainly be a solution to that problem. The slated opening of his “YEEZY” stores through Adidas would be the perfect platform to cut out the cost of selling the shoes to retailers.
If he’s able to pull this off, he’ll go down as a footwear god (even more than he is right now).