It may no longer be the second biggest sportswear brand in the USA anymore (that title has gone to Under Armour), but adidas is doing an undeniably great job of keeping its name on the tips of everyone's tongues this year.
At the intersection of streetwear, sneakers and high fashion that defines the Highsnobiety universe, the Three Stripes has made vast gains, recapturing the imaginations of style-conscious people the world over. Thanks to its headline-grabbing YEEZY project, popular designer collaborations and innovative new concepts, the brand has made itself a permanent fixture in the world's street style galleries, sneaker conventions and fashion parties. Even high-brow financial publications are predicting a huge comeback for the German sportswear giant.
adidas has a long, long way to go if it wants to usurp Nike at the top of the sportswear game, but its recent moves have made it one of the brands - if not the brand - to watch this year. What makes the German brand so exciting right now is the two opposing directions it's moving in - honoring its illustrious past, while looking ahead with avant-garde designer collaborations and innovative new concepts.
With ’90s fever gripping the world, playing off its heritage has been a smart move for adidas, which has wooed fickle fashionistas with its striking three-striped basics and understated, classic footwear. The Stan Smith was undeniably huge in 2014 - a shoe that, much like the faithfully-reissued Superstar, looked just as good with a suit as it did with sweatpants. The resurrected EQT line is jam-packed with real sneakerhead sneakers, while the brand's ongoing Palace Skateboards and NEIGHBORHOOD collaborations both use sportswear nostalgia to striking effect, too.
Breaking new ground has produced similarly positive results, creating tons of buzz and some real standout pieces. Raf Simons, Rick Owens and Jeremy Scott's collaborations continue to deliver some of the most unusual sneakers in the game - when was the last time you saw bulbous, robotic runners, hairy knee-high sneaker-boot hybrids and high-tops that look like Cadillacs?
It would be impossible to write this story without mentioning adidas's partnership with Kanye West. While it appears that the brand will no longer be involved in YEEZY's ready-to-wear line, the 350 Boost and 750 Boost sneakers have been some of the biggest releases of the year and routinely fetch way over their retail on the resell market. Kanye's footwear line has grossed nearly $5 million on the resell market in 2015 thus far.
While it's unlikely the YEEZY project will solve adidas's problems in the broader sportswear battleground, West's absolutely vast fashion influence certainly hasn't hurt the brand. The high-performance Ultra Boost - supposedly "the greatest running shoe ever" - only needed to be donned by Yeezy for it to be an instant success with people who care more about fashion weeks than marathons.
It seems the Three Stripes is targeting the top in order to attract the bottom - delivering undeniably great products, collections and innovations to win over influencers (and Kardashian-affiliated rap megastars) in order to trickle down into the hearts (and wallets) of the mainstream. At the end of the day, the sneakerhead, streetwear and fashion demographic is only 5-10% of the overall sportswear market, according to industry experts - so the brand still has a long way to go if it wants to unseat Nike at the top of the sneaker game.
"In the USA, Nike is more than 10 times the size of adidas," industry analyst Matt Powell told us. Indeed, the German brand's 9% share of the American sports apparel market has declined every year since 2011 - while its arch rival has swallowed up nearly 50%. “adidas has made a lot of right moves and, if patient, can gain back some of its lost share,” Powell summed up for us, before warning “no one is a threat to Nike right now.”
It looks like adidas is making all the right moves but only time will tell if they're enough to reclaim lost ground. Regardless of what happens, the end consumer will no doubt benefit as the biggest players, alongside newcomers, put forward their best products for your hard-earned dollar.
For more sportswear-related food for thought, check out Do ’90s Revival Brands Actually Stand a Chance in 2015? as well as Nike vs adidas: Who Owns the Market?
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