The athletic market continued to move the needle within the footwear industry in 2019. Headlines were dominated by smaller brands fighting for a seat at the table, thought leaders addressing industry-wide issues and big names in the market pushing high-fashion labels to the side to take over New York Fashion Week.
Below, read about the five biggest stories of 2019 from the athletic market.
Agents of Change
As employees called out the top athletic brands over racial inequities, thought leaders including Kerby Jean-Raymond, Pensole Footwear Design Academy founder D’Wayne Edwards and others advocated for industry-wide change. Jean-Raymond and Edwards were tapped by Reebok and Foot Locker, respectively, to foster diverse talent within the companies. Also, athletes such as soccer star Megan Rapinoe and Olympic runner Alysia Montaño fought for equal pay and fair maternity policies.
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Athletic heavyweights Nike and Adidas maintained their market leads, but smaller brands mounted serious challenges. Puma earned the respect of the lifestyle and performance crowds, and Hoka One One and On gave runners everything they were looking for.
Sustainability was a hot industry-wide topic, and athletic brands embarked on eco-friendly missions. Notably, Reebok revealed its fall ’20 Forever Floatride Grow running sneaker made with natural materials, and casual sneaker firm Allbirds launched synthetic material and chemical-free, weather-resistant styles.
Hikers and trail runners aren’t required for walking the city streets, but that didn’t stop fashion customers from wearing them regularly in 2019. Rugged looks from brands including Salomon, The North Face and Columbia owned street style.
Historically, New York Fashion Week has been a platform for luxury labels. But that is no longer the case since Ronnie Fieg with Kith Air and Kerby Jean-Raymond of Pyer Moss undoubtedly provided the biggest moments. A month after NYFW, Dick’s Sporting Goods entered the fashion conversation with its debut runway show starring soccer star Carli Lloyd and baseball great Alex Rodriguez.
Exclusive: Ronnie Fieg Gets Candid About Kith’s Rise, Critics Who Don’t Understand Him & Pressures of Staying on Top
How Puma Emerged From the Shadows of Its Competition in 2019
Why Dick’s Sporting Goods Brought Out A-Rod & More Stars for First-Ever Fashion Show