It’s a $55 billion industry that only continues to make a predominant influence throughout the world. Although–to some–sneakers are just the last thing they put on before a walk to the grocery, to many though they help define talent, foster creative vision, and provide a substantial language for a culture deemed the sneakerheads. As we begin to see bigger, bolder sports retail environments, so too do we begin to recognize the impact the most classic duo in apparel design is making on the industry at large.
Release dates aren’t taken lightly, they act as the first step to a limited purchase. Many shoe aficionados stake their claim to the exterior of the store for hours, if not days on end, transforming a small interest into a multi-faceted social experience. Because the majority of time is spent around the exterior of stores and pop-ups, many designers have begun to switch where the design and overall consumer journey begins. When Adidas designed its pop-up space in London it paid direct attention to what consumers would be looking at for the majority of their visit–the exterior. Stan Smith’s newest release was displayed in an interactive environment based around the design of the actual product: what kind of frenzy a shoebox really has in store. An “‘interactive floor, digital ‘Stan Yourself’ station, and a 3D printing post'” acted as the hub for personalization, driving the entire branded aesthetic from the designer’s iconic colorway. The store was only available to the public for three days, but the influence lingered long after its deconstruction. It was a powerful display of the shoe’s influence on the entirety of a space, depicting how the entirety of physical design should be approached to upset this rather unscathed demographic.
Speaking to a demographic that has been privy to large, disruptive experiences requires a type of design approach that not only surprises on the inside but can create conversation around the outside. Because 66% of the target demographic is between the ages of 10 and 22, brands like Nike, Adidas, and more recently Puma have made the transition to quick, modern posts of the newest product on social media. This type of exposure is just the first step to attaining a pair of shoes that seem to clout discussions around the world. The idea of showcasing features and small glimpses of the product through outlets like Instagram and Twitter help drive traffic to websites and a number of release-driven applications to discover what day and time only a small number of releases will be held. The outcome, an explosion of excitement, fueling the intensity of this must-have concept where the consumer is finally given the opportunity to experience the product around a community of like-minded people.
There is something so dynamic surrounding the topic of celebrities. People strive to attain the same level of authority, power, and even physical talent expediting a small number of individuals to the top. Retailers want to attribute that same level of respect and admiration to their products, thus utilizing the world’s elite as walking advertisements for limited and unreleased products. Transforming the definition of visual merchandise into celebrity endorsement is a tool brands have been using for decades; however, the outlet consumers see the product has transitioned to an in-the-moment type of promotion. Brands like Nike sponsor LeBron James, Serena Williams, and Bella Hadid to showcase how the product has the influence to enhance physical activity. Flashes of basketball shoes during games has become the catalyst to Sneakerhead discussion, instilling a sense of exclusivity on and off the court.
The Jordan by Michael Jordan brand has become the core for sneaker design since the first pair was released in 1985. Tinker Hatfield has helped cultivate the meaning behind the sneakerhead culture, designing shoes for some of the most powerful athletes; a dynamic partnership that has built this multi-billion dollar industry to its current state. These specially-crafted designs translate from concept to fruition of sensorial, impactful environments. Every shoe is different, evoking a feeling and level of performance that was translated in Jordan’s newest concept–The Nike Jordan & Jordan Basketball Experience in Beijing. It provides a larger cultivation of physical amplification and personalization than any other space out there. Sports retail is becoming so much more than just uniquely curated hubs; the core, a digital space cultivated by learning how talent can be fueled by the shoes on which it stands.
Becoming the ultimate space for the Sneakerhead community to experience is no easy task. The ambiance and overall setting must act as a relevant backdrop to the shoes. Fueling a sense of community, culture, and enthusiasm must be infused, but not encompass a store’s entirety. Visual merchandising has grown to large-scale store instillations where the material and features of a simple shoe have begun to fill a journey in unparalleled ways.
For consumers to feel the incentive to spend higher amounts for product, the space must relay the product in a way that induces the idea of high-end. Flightclub has been a well-known beacon, housing an entire marketplace of the industry’s most sought-after footwear. The design, a clean, polished domain to inform shoppers of the importance surrounding its product. Simple material towers the space, leaving room for long shelves covered in plastic-wrapped sneakers. It’s compelling mobile and web presence only amplified the need for a physical presence. “The pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly together.” Says CEO, Eddy Lu, demonstrating his knowledge for the importance of a cohesive brand presence leading this surprising industry. A glass hub fills the core of the space, highlighting the best-of-the-best in shoe design, translating to the consumer that specific product helps propel your overall presence forward.
Branded spaces within the shoe industry should be just that, branded encompassments of what the shoe demonstrates outside of the store and the influence they have on a community. The definite presence the Sneakerhead has on the economy, communities, and retail experience has become a leader amongst a variety of competition. It’s a language formed and cultivated to help express one’s most inner interests and loyalty. Understanding how to appropriately design spaces that focus on the sneaker-and individual wearing them-is a concept that continues to influence the consumer to lace up and acquire the next-best, modern-day product of performance.