The Most Memorable Quotes from 2021 Footwear News Achievement Awards

After the pandemic turned 2020’s Footwear News Achievement Awards into a virtual event, the 2021 FNAAs came back in person in New York on Tuesday.

The FNAAs awarded 16 honors to industry legends, designers, companies and activists. The speeches by both presenters and honorees covered topics ranging from personal struggles to pandemic wins to tributing to the late Virgil Abloh.

We’ve rounded up some of our favorite quotes from the honorees and presenters below.

“The thing that I’ve learned is that my pain has been my biggest privilege. You grow up poor and you’re in the projects and you try to figure out, ‘What is this about? Why is this thing of ours so unfair? The world’s fair right? Why is it? Why is this so f**ked up for us? Why isn’t there opportunity for us?’ But you can get to a point in life where you can tell our stories, you start to feel embraced by the world, you start to get an opportunity and level the playing field.”—James Whitner of the Whitaker Group, who accepted the A Ma Maniére x Air Jordan 3 Collaboration of the Year award

james whitner, fnaa, fnaa 2021, m ma maniere, air jordan 3
James Whitner of The Whitaker Group speaks onstage at the 35th Annual Footwear News Achievement Awards.
CREDIT: Getty Images for Footwear News

“I feel really seen. I also want to thank the entire fashion industry for wrapping your arms around me and loving me through this tragedy. I just really want us to love each other, to keep loving each other, to keep being for each other. And no matter what color you are, where you come from and you know how successful you are. At the end of the day, we are all we have.”—Style Influencer of the Year Law Roach

“My love for footwear is the foundation of who I am, and it’s what set me on the path to do what I love every single day. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with the brands I’ve loved since I was a kid. I helped relaunch silhouettes and have designed some of my own. No matter the assignment, the goal has always been the same: To help people feel the same emotion that I feel opening a box of a new pair of shoes. Something I didn’t expect, though, was what footwear would allow me to do outside the industry.”—Person of the Year Ronnie Feig

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Ronnie Fieg speaks onstage at the 35th annual Footwear News Achievement Awards.
CREDIT: Getty Images for Footwear News

“I want to dedicate this to my buddy Virgil, that’s passed away. I love you, man. Thank you for opening up the mental barriers of my mind about what was possible for my life, man. Thank you for living the life that…the life example, in and of itself, has opened up doors for so many that look like you and I. I appreciate you, I love you, I honor you. Rest In Peace, my man.”—Designer of the Year Jerry Lorenzo

“Crocs has faced a lot of criticism over the years. But we’ve stuck to what’s made us unique. And it turns out that being different has been a key ingredient to our success.”Michelle Poole, who accepted Crocs’ Shoe of the Year award

“Starting with founder Adi Dassler, Adidas has always emphasized the functionality of sport, and more recently in fashion, in designing shoes. And over the years, they’ve been committed to sustainability. Adidas has been using my shoe as the lead on this initiative to, among other things, help in reducing plastic waste in the world by using more recycled materials.”—Stan Smith, who presented the Sustainability award to Adidas

stan smith, adidas, fnaa sustainability award, 2021
Stan Smith speaks onstage at the 35th annual Footwear News Achievement Awards
CREDIT: Getty Images for Footwear News

“[I’m] beyond humbled to be in a room of such inspiring people. But just to keep it one hundred, I’m not an activist, but I have been activated. It was never my intention to be out in front, but I understood I needed to lean in and use my space to bring awareness and participate in the work. I am proud of the work that we’ve done. That #STOPASIANHATE has become an incredible movement from a very dark moment.”—Social Impact award winner Phillip Lim

“I feel that the word icon has really changed. I was growing up here in New York in the fashion world in the ’80s and ’90s and I can tell you, there were five or six houses and that was it. They weren’t letting anyone new in and there was not what I see today. [It’s] beautiful it is that things have changed, that people are willing to collaborate and be there for each other and give back.”—Icon Award winner Kathy Hilton

“I owe everything to New York, and I love all the New York stories that I’ve been hearing in the room tonight. It’s no coincidence that some of the biggest icons are from New York or have lived in New York. There’s just something in the air, or in the water. I just want to say I love you, New York, thank you for the lessons, the laughs, the tears, for giving me so much love, inspiration, excitement and of course, style.”—Icon Award winner Nicky Rothschild

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Kathy Hilton and Nicky Rothschild onstage at the 35th annual Footwear News Achievement Awards.
CREDIT: Getty Images for Footwear News

For 35 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. The 2021 event is supported by presenting sponsor Nordstrom, as well as Authentic Brands Group, FDRA, Informa, On and Wolverine Worldwide.

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