Sneaker Influencers Predict What’s Next for Footwear Market

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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

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