This month marks the 30th anniversary of the annual Footwear News Achievement Awards, which pay homage to some of the industry’s most remarkable brands, personalities — and hot designs.
Throughout the history of the awards, FN editors have recognized legendary figures who have helped shape the modern shoe world, such as Paul Fireman, Phil Knight, Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin. Their impact continues to be felt throughout the business today.
And on Nov. 29, another group of standouts will take the stage at the IAC Building in New York to celebrate their incredible performances this year. In one of the most challenging environments in recent history, these winners have managed to awe and surprise with innovative designs and visionary leadership.
The Fenty Puma by Rihanna Creeper was the only choice for the Shoe of the Year, the highly coveted award being handed out for just the third time. The super songstress-turned-creative director takes the crown a year after Kanye West received the honor. Her retro lifestyle shoe has become a breakout hit among everyday sneaker lovers, as well as the fashion elite.
To God be the Glory 🙏🏿🙏🏿🙏🏿!!! What a blessing to be honored with this prestigious award, and to be the first woman receiving "SHOE OF THE YEAR" at #FNAA !! Never could I have imagined the amount of support and love we got from around the world for #THECREEPER !!! Thank you to everyone who represented and made the movement!!! One Love ❤️. #FENTYxPUMA
One of the most impactful leaders in 2016 has been Person of the Year Mark King, president of Adidas Group North America. Under his guidance, the group has been turning out its buzziest product releases in decades, often in partnership with some of the biggest stars in sports and music (think: West, James Harden and Rita Ora). Among consumers, those efforts have registered in a major way, leading to quarter after quarter of sales spikes.
Another success story has been Foot Locker Inc., which is marking its second consecutive Company of the Year award. While most retailers across the industry have stumbled — and even failed — of late, the New York-based chain has thrived, continually beating Wall Street expectations and delivering hungry consumers the most coveted kicks on the market.
Retailer of the Year Kith scored its own big wins recently, including cool collabs with Colette, Timberland, Diadora, A Bathing Ape and others. But the shining moment for the New York-based retailer and founder Ronnie Fieg was its New York Fashion Week über-show — the hands-down best party of the season.
FN’s pick for Marketer of the Year is Nike, which capitalized on numerous advertising opportunities, most notably the Summer Olympics and LeBron James’ victory in the NBA Finals. And who can forget Kobe Bryant’s big farewell moment, with was celebrated by both the athletic brand and the world.
But the athletic category wasn’t the only area of note this year.
In the fashion space, Paul Andrew has quickly emerged as one of the hardest-working men in the business. In the three years since launching his namesake line, he has expanded into the men’s market and recently added a new gig to his resume, as design director of women’s footwear at Salvatore Ferragamo. And he can now lay claim to one more title: 2016 Designer of the Year.
For the 2016 Brands of the Year, the magazine has selected two labels that are shaping their markets in different — but equally impactful — ways. In the fast-fashion world, Schutz is redefining the category with a chic sensibility. And for luxury stalwart Gucci, the label has never looked more fresh, thanks in large part to designer Alessandro Michele.
The fashion world also got a jolt this season from Vetements’ clever union with Manolo Blahnik, the Collaboration of the Year. Their limited-edition collection “destroyed” a classic Manolo pump and gave it new life as kitten heels, ankle boots and jaw-dropping waist-high waders.
Meanwhile, up-and-coming designer Nicolò Beretta has been lighting up the shoe world with his Giannico brand, known for its playful and kitschy aesthetic. The 20-year-old Italian whiz kid will receive the highly coveted Vivian Infantino Emerging Talent award.
But while the FNAAs are a celebration of the year’s great performances, they also honor individuals who have made a lasting impact through a lifetime of passion.
This year’s recipient of the Manolo Blahnik Lifetime Achievement Award is Aldo Bensadoun, founder and chairman of Aldo Group, who will be honored for his extraordinary vision and leadership over the course of his 40-plus-year career. In that time, the unassuming executive has steadily grown his namesake firm from a small footwear concession to a roughly $2 billion global operation.
Menswear legend John Varvatos, meanwhile, will receive the Award for Social Impact, recognizing his longtime support of worthy organizations such as Stuart House and the Gay Men’s Chorus, as well as his commitment to the future of his hometown, Detroit.
The 2016 inductees into the Footwear News Hall of Fame include designer Rene Caovilla, who has built one of Italy’s most powerful designer businesses and Linda Fargo, the fashion maven of Bergdorf Goodman.
And finally, FN will pay homage to style maven Iris Apfel for her unrivaled spirit and singular fashion sensibility. The inspirational “cover girl” will be the first recipient of The Icon Award. At 95, she continues to surprise and delight fashion insiders with her sense of unique style.
The FNAAs are sponsored by FFANY, Zappos Luxury, FDRA and Two Ten.