Salehe Bembury has been named the 2020 Designer of the Year by FN, and will be honored in December at the first virtual FN Achievement Awards.
As Versace’s VP of sneakers and men’s footwear, the renowned designer has brought the Italian brand to the forefront of the fashion sneaker scene, first with its Chain Reaction in 2018 and more recently with styles such as the Squalo and the new Trigreca.
But this year, Bembury also stepped firmly into the spotlight with his independent projects.
“The majority of my time and attention is spent on Versace — that’s the thing that inspires me the most and what I have my head buried in most of the time,” Bembury told FN in July. “And because footwear is my passion, I’m able to work on the side things without really seeing it as extra stress. It’s just more fun for me. Because I manage my time and my work well, [Versace] was nice enough to let me juggle these different projects.”
After months of teasing a New Balance collaboration on social media — including an image of the box that garnered the kind of attention a shoe typically would — musician John Mayer revealed Bembury’s new-look New Balance 2002R via Instagram Stories in July.
In September, Bembury tapped actor Jesse Williams for a campaign promoting the collaboration, which was inspired by the designer’s appreciation of the outdoors — specifically the color palette of Antelope Canyon — that he discovered upon moving to Los Angeles. And when the collab dropped on Oct. 23, it (not surprisingly) sold out quickly.
And the future for Bembury looks even brighter.
Before year’s end, the designer expects to release a project with China-based athletic label Anta with a potentially long-lasting impact. “Not only was it a collaborative exercise from an aesthetic standpoint and building a full shoe, but I also created a technology that they’re going to use across the brand,” he told FN.
For 34 years, the annual FN Achievement Awards (often called the “Shoe Oscars”) have celebrated the style stars, best brand stories, ardent philanthropists, emerging talents and industry veterans. Previous Designer of the Year winners have included Gianvito Rossi, Giuseppe Zanotti and Amina Muaddi.
The first virtual FNAAs will air online Dec. 8 and are sponsored by The Style Room Powered by Zappos, and FDRA. Other honorees include Cardi B as Style Influencer of the Year, the Nike Dunk Shoe of the Year and New Balance as Athletic Brand of the Year — plus many more.
Click here to RSVP for the show.