To make money? To build brand awareness? To use the power of an athlete or entertainer’s celebrity status and media attention?
It used to be all of those things, and to an extent, it obviously still is. But things are different now than they were just a decade ago. Kanye West’s adidas signature shoe has the sneaker world buzzing. Score for adidas. But more importantly, the buzz carried through many of the style and fashion blogs. Not to mention, the Wall Street Journal. Which, is the bigger accomplishment. All with what is essentially, leaked photos posted to various Instagram accounts of Kanye’s Donda partners and some teasing.
Full disclosure, I’m a fan of Kanye West as an entertainer. Nothing will touch The College Dropout, or some of his production from that area in my opinion, but my favorite album of Kanye’s is 808s & Heartbreak. I probably just lost half of you reading with that statement but there is good reason for saying that. That album is the rawest form of expression Kanye has ever put on an album from start to finish. There was no real “pop” sounding track (or video), where you knew from the first spin, he made it to sell the album. None of his other albums, would I feel confident saying the same thing.
I love emotion. Love, hate, frustration, accomplishment, and even heartbreak. It fascinates me, and it also provides inspiration for nearly every piece of creative genius the world has ever seen. When those indelible moments that push the limits of you as a human being, going through the growing pains of life that make you a better person and give you a better understanding of yourself, your relationships and how it all works, are expressed through creative means, the world becomes a better place.
And whether we like it or not, Kanye West is leading the way in creating change in the sneaker game.
Kanye West is that creative expression. His heart is on is sleeve at all times and now it will be seen through his partnership with adidas. I admire what he has created with A.P.C, Nike, and others, but everyone can relate to the frustrations of not having full creative freedom do what you believe in your heart is right. However, based on the partnerships adidas has had in the past, with people like Jeremy Scott, Yohji Yamamoto, and others, Kanye will have the opportunity to take adidas to the level they’ve been striving for in recent years.
This isn’t because Kanye West is the most influential person in popular culture, although that will definitely help. It’s because of where Kanye is at in life. He has a sense of calm about himself that I can only imagine comes from a combination of being in love, having a child, and being given the opportunity to create with adidas, without the restrictions he’s been confined to in previous partnerships.
For most of us, the idea of designing our own signature sneaker is a dream. But the first thing that comes to your mind is what pieces of classic sneakers will be a part of your design, or where the Swoosh or Three Stripes would go. Those thoughts are limiting, because if you have to put someone else’s creations or brand logos on your design, you still don’t have true creative freedom.
Kanye West has changed sneakers and he does it with every new release. We now watch the Grammy Awards looking for a glimpse at upcoming releases but the way those new designs become publicly available is different every time. Sneaker raffles, random drops, and now an app that lets you reserve your pair. We could debate what method works best and we all have an opinion on “how it used to be,” but there is no denying the impact Kanye has had on this passion of ours. With that said, the one thing that should change because of Kanye West, is the way we look at signature sneakers.
The Yeezi, Yeezy 3, Yeezy Boost or whatever it will be called, is what a signature sneaker should be.
It’s a creative expression that has created buzz that hasn’t slowed since Kanye announced his partnership with adidas. No matter how incredible an athlete is, the energy around their signature product, ebbs and flows with the on court performance or seasonal aspect of sports. In 2015, the internet never shuts off, which means, the most creative people, someone like Kanye West, will be able to capture the attention of the masses, without the limits of a season or clock, and spread that buzz through different communities, like sneakers, fashion, music, television, and movies.
But it’s not like we don’t have a choice. As Kanye once reminded us when his fashion was criticized before, “Remember clothing is a choice. We were born naked!!! Fresh is an opinion, love is objective, taste is selective and expression is my favorite elective.”
I may not be fashionable enough to wear what he designs, but I’m on board for Kanye pushing the envelope and thinking outside the box, because that’s what he’s done so far, and it’s opened up a world of opportunities. The timeline for innovation and bold new designs is shorter than ever because our lives move at the speed of 140 characters. That means pushing farther than we’re comfortable with through every new release. That means that it’s time we reconsider what we know as a signature sneaker and the conformity we’ve all become comfortable with. And whether we like it or not, Kanye West is leading the way in creating change in the sneaker game.
Nick Engvall is a sneaker enthusiast with nearly 15 years of experience in the footwear business. He has written for publications such as Complex, Sole Collector and Sneaker News. Helped companies like Eastbay, Finish Line, Foot Locker, and StockX better connect with their consumers. He’s an avid San Francisco Giants fan, Allen Iverson fan, and owns way too many sneakers for his own good.