New year, new season, new sneakers. There's no denying that sneakers are absolutely huge these days - the global market for athletic footwear is bigger than it's ever been, and shows no sign of slowing down.
As Spring/Summer 2016 kicks off, we hit up some industry experts - namely the footwear buyers for size?, Concepts and MR PORTER - to get some insider tips on what we can expect from the sneaker game in the coming season.
Without further ado, let's see what the next six months have in store for us.
What's the overall vibe like for the SS16 season?
James Trivunovic, Senior Footwear Buyer, size?: We are seeing a lot more width and expansion of categories going into 2016. Brands are looking to push outside their normal categories and delve into areas of lifestyle, like tennis, football, and running. Nike is re-releasing some early 2000’s runners - the Presto, Sock Dart and Mayfly - which will have a huge impact.
Tennis shoes and cleaner, more classic silhouettes are becoming more prominent as well. adidas Originals, Reebok and PUMA are all investing in "anti-tech" areas, and the more savvy consumers are picking up on this. Reebok's Club C, adidas Originals' Munchen and the Converse One Star are all styles that look relevant and fresh again. Overall we think there will be a lot more choice for consumers at the start of 2016 than in recent years.
Deon Point, Buyer, Concepts: Monotone has been, and always will be, a constant. Expect to see more of that with veg tan still in heavy circulation. Although it's become a bit redundant, it challenges the consumer to grow with the product as opposed to the throwaway, "One and Done" mentality.
Sam Lobban, Buying Manager, MR PORTER: What we noticed, from all the product we saw, was that sneakers were cleaner, in monochromatic and tonal colorways and with technical styling, construction and fabrications.
Which models in particular do you think will be big?
James Trivunovic, Senior Footwear Buyer, size?: Nike is still very strong for spring (and even stronger in summer). As mentioned, the Sock Dart, Mayfly and Presto are all very relevant - the dominance of running shoes will continue. adidas Originals' NMD franchise has some great variations on BOOST soles throughout SS16, too.
With regards to a more casual, archive category, adidas Originals has some strong styles with size? being the exclusive global partner - key models to look out for are the Albrecht Mid Leather, Munchen and Kegler Super.
Deon Point, Buyer, Concepts: Boost will undoubtedly have an extraordinary season, as well as Jordan - especially with the IV. On our side, we love what Reebok is doing with the Club C. While numbers are growing, the market has become stale to an extent. I can't see many new models creating the waves that Retro releases do so effortlessly. Most companies play it safe, although New Balance will be introducing some models out of its comfort zone that look exceptional.
Sam Lobban, Buying Manager, MR PORTER: Nike’s upcoming season is going to be pretty special, with more Sock Dart, Presto and Mayfly releases. The mainline designs all had good developments, too - specifically a new Balenciaga-inspired running model. Hender Scheme are also producing the MIP-10 in all black for the first time, which I’m personally very excited about!
For SS16 we’re working with FEIT for the first time, which we’re really looking forward to. There seems to be a small-scale trend towards handmade and natural leathers, and I think the brand's aesthetic is very cool. We’re also working with some of our designer brands on their first proper forays into sneakers; we launched exclusive capsules with Christopher Kane and Neil Barrett towards the end of 2015 and there will be further developments from both of these in 2016.
What about new technologies, materials and fabrics? What new innovations can we expect?
James Trivunovic, Senior Footwear Buyer, size?: The giants are still pushing hard with new innovations and materials in 2016. For Nike, Flyknit will be expanded across more iconic models, and ultra-breathable, lightweight fabrics will be massive in the summer months. adidas has capitalized on the amazingly successful BOOST technology, which will be paired with Primeknit uppers on various models. This will make the Ultra Boost a lot more visible in the market from 2016 - so it will really be competing with the Flyknit.
Deon Point, Buyer, Concepts: Companies are continuing to create options for breathability, and the foam sole craze won't slow down - it's one of the most comfortable yet. They'll be the foundation for flexible, less restricting uppers. Oh, and everyone is waiting to see if self-lacing is more than just a rumor!
Sam Lobban, Buying Manager, MR PORTER: Filling Pieces has some very strong sole unit developments coming through, inspired by old-school ’90s sneakers. Designer brands have been looking towards more technical detailing with neoprene sock liners, and there is still a smaller trend for handmade and natural, high quality leather sneakers.
What It All Means
It seems the sneaker market is moving in two different directions at once. Both Nike and adidas are investing heavily in lifestyle variations of their high-performance running shoes - that means we'll be seeing lots of Flyknit, Boost and Primeknit technology - while simpler, classic models will enjoy popularity among more low-key dressers.
Nike and adidas's rivalry is well documented, and while the Swoosh vastly outperforms the Three Stripes in the global footwear market, it's been interesting to see how sneakerheads and streetwear fans have been wooed by the German sportswear giant's latest innovations. The BOOST, Stan Smith, Superstar and YEEZY (of course) shoes have all been undeniably huge in the past few seasons, and it looks like the brand's successes will only continue.
At the luxury end of the market, the big designer names are picking up on the sportswear trend by releasing their own high-end interpretations of athletic footwear (although we'd never recommend actually exercising in them), while smaller (although no less expensive) labels like Hender Scheme and FEIT continue to push on with their expertly crafted, heritage models.
Be sure to get a heads up on SS16's forthcoming fashion trends while you're at it.