How the Fila Disruptor 2 Has Shaken Up the Footwear Industry

The Fila Disruptor 2 has been named FN’s Shoe of the Year and will be honored Dec. 4 at the 2018 FN Achievement Awards (watch the livestream here). Below is an article from the magazine’s Dec. 3 print issue about the 20-year-old trendsetter.

Some fashion observers called it chunky. Others slammed it as ugly. But few people could deny that Fila’s Disruptor 2 has, much like its name, shaken up the entire sneaker market in 2018. And its rise is even more remarkable given its age.

The first Disruptor sneaker was conceived in 1996 by a New York-based design team, followed by the second iteration that launched two years later.

A true ’90s throwback, the Disruptor 2 burst back onto the fashion scene this year, thanks to a powerful combination of accessible prices, killer collaborations and retro nostalgia. In short order, the shoe has become one of the most coveted among its sartorial species.

Unlike other so-called dad shoes of today, the Disruptor 2 was affordably priced and available on the shelves of both luxury department store Barneys New York and lifestyle retailer Urban Outfitters for around $70. It also eschewed high-profile attachments — think Kanye West’s Adidas Yeezy Boost and Rihanna’s Puma Creeper, both previous winners of FN’s Shoe of the Year.

“It was just part of our DNA, part of our look and part of what made us famous in the first place,” said Jon Epstein, North American president of Fila. “We never needed a celebrity or athlete to carry the product; its uniqueness is what carried it for so long on its own.”

No doubt, the shoe has enjoyed a boost this year through special-edition collaborations including a logo-heavy creation with retailer Alife, a polka-dotted rendition courtesy of Pierre Cardin and a suede-lined adaptation from Liam Hodges.

Despite these variations, the foundation of the Disruptor 2 — with an exaggerated silhouette, jagged sole and elevated platform — remains the same. “It was overbuilt — it’s strong and tough,” Epstein said. “It has its own kind of street cred. It’s an important expression of creativity.”

It also helps that the sneaker re-emerged at a time when decades-old streetwear trends such as bomber jackets, fanny packs and oversized trainers were staging a major comeback. “Fila is riding this ’90s trend very well,” said Matt Powell, senior industry adviser for sports at The NPD Group Inc. “While the ‘ugly’ shoe trend may go away, the ’90s trend is larger — and one that can be sustained.”

As social media influencers and A-listers continue to embrace retro fashion, they’re also helping to drive store business.

In its second-quarter earnings call in August, Foot Locker reported double-digit growth in casual footwear, and more specifically in women’s footwear, heavily fueled by Fila’s trendsetting designs. (The Disruptor 2 is the most popular sneaker from the Fila women’s line.)

“We are seeing a lot of interest in chunky-midsole sneakers,” Foot Locker CEO Dick Johnson told FN. “We saw early interest in our stores in Europe and were able to move quickly to work with John and Gene [Yoon, global chairman] at Fila, to roll out the shoe across Europe and North America. It has helped drive excitement into a wider offering of Fila footwear models and apparel styles.”

What’s more, the Disruptor 2 has had universal appeal — bridging the age gap between teens and their parents, as well as resonating with both men and women due to its unisex features.

“I would say that we owe a lot to the success of the Disruptor, and the Disruptor in some ways owes a lot to the people who believe in it,” Epstein said. “It’s quintessential Fila.”

Click through to see celebrity fans of the Fila Disruptor 2.

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