This piece appears as part of our initiative on Identity & Representation, a six-month-long project highlighting different facets of identity and how they shape the practices, conventions, and conversations happening in the Highsnobiety world. Head here for the full series.
The growth of sneaker stores for women is not only a sign that women are being given more of a voice in a field traditionally dominated by men, but it shows the increasing richness of the sneaker community worldwide. With brands shifting slowly from the outmoded “shrink it and pink it” approach to women’s kicks, they’re starting to connect with all of their customers in a much more authentic way.
This shift is thanks in no small part to those pioneering women’s sneaker stores blossoming across Europe and around the world, and, of course, every female sneakerhead out there. We spoke to some of the torchbearers behind our favorite women’s sneaker stores in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Melbourne, Berlin, and London about their ethos and how they’ve contributed to growing the women’s sneaker community.
Address: 358a Smith Street, Collingwood, Melbourne, Victoria 3066, Australia (map)
Store hours: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (Tuesday), 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (Wednesday-Friday), 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Saturday), 12 a.m.-4 p.m. (Sunday), closed Monday
Phone: +61 (0) 3 9942 1427
Australia is far removed from the sneaker and streetwear scenes of Europe and North America. How have you cultivated the local sneaker community?
Australian women’s love for sneakers and streetwear has been around just as long as anywhere else. Unfortunately, we haven’t had access to the same products as Europe and America, which has definitely set us back. Being the first women’s sneaker store here has come with its own challenges, but the support has been positive, which really reinforces the need for a strong women’s sneaker presence.
Do you think the emergence of dedicated women’s sneaker stores has resulted in brands taking the women’s sneaker industry more seriously?
Absolutely, and it’s about time. Over the years, I’ve noticed a much wider selection of products offered to us and more accessibility to unisex sizing, which has always been one of the biggest barriers for a lot of women. It has come a long way and I only see things getting better for us.
What do you think the future holds for women in the sneaker industry?
I would hope for more creative control when designing sneakers for women and marketing sneakers to women. Historically, it has been a male-dominated space, but women need to be recognized for what they have already achieved and, given the opportunity, I think they will make an even greater impact going forward.
Address: 129 Bethnal Green Road, London E2 7DG, UK (map)
Store hours: 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m. (Monday-Wednesday, Friday-Saturday), 11 a.m.-7 p.m. (Thursday), 12 p.m.-5 p.m. (Sunday)
Phone: +44 (0) 20 3601 7860
What made you decide to open a store and how difficult was it to establish yourselves?
There wasn’t a place for women to shop a curated selection of sneakers alongside clothing and lifestyle in the UK. Since opening, we have found a real increase in what is available for women, particularly in sneakers. We actually came along just at the right time. Women’s sneakers were a major focus for all the major brands — they just didn’t have a women’s-specific door to place their top-tier product.
What improvements have you noticed for women sneakerheads since you opened your store?
It really has come a long way since our very first season in the spring of 2015. The major brands have been making it their mission to increase their women’s business and we are definitely seeing the fruits of their labor. There is still a way to go as far as what colorways are available and releases just for women, but it’s been so positive seeing the growth. To note: unisex product is also on the rise, which is excellent, too.
How do you think female representation and involvement in the sneaker industry will evolve over the coming years?
As brands continue to release bigger ranges for women, we hope to see more women-specific marketing campaigns and collaborations. One thing to remember is that sometimes the sneaker world can be drowned out by all the hype releases. There are plenty of women wearing sneakers, but if it’s not hype, it sometimes feels like it goes unseen or doesn’t count. So the more the brands shout about women’s product, the more we’ll all notice the strong female representation in the sneaker industry.
How has opening a dedicated women’s sneaker store expanded and changed the way Overkill caters to the women’s market?
As part of the increased popularity of sneakers, the number of female sneaker lovers has also increased enormously in recent years. When we opened Overkill Women three years ago, it was also kind of a statement, both to consumers and to the brands. The women’s store also gave us the opportunity to tailor our communication and events to the target group of female sneaker enthusiasts during a time when special women’s drops and collabs were increasing.
So how are brands working toward understanding and catering more to women?
A lot of exclusive silhouettes, collabs, and specials came out in the past years and the Overkill Women store is a perfect place to put those releases in a nice and authentic spotlight. The brands are also aware of that and so they were always supportive when it came to events or any other in-store activations.
Where do you see the future of female representation in the industry?
Last year, brands started to focus on the women’s market with campaigns such as [Nike’s] “The Force is Female” or the “The 1 Reimagined” collection. I’m sure the industry will continue to involve creative women when it comes to designing shoes or telling authentic stories and try to build communities around them. The women’s market will continue to be relevant, so brands will continue to focus on it.
Address: Klosterstraede 10, 1157 Kopenhagen, Denmark (map)
Store hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. (Monday-Thursday), 11 a.m.-7 p.m. (Friday), 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Saturday), 12 p.m.-6 p.m. (first and last Sunday of the month)
Phone: +45 (0) 33 15 83 80
How do you keep your social media presence fresh when you’re catering to so many different types of women?
We tend to use pastel colors to invert the stereotype but keep our Instagram looking uniform. The aim is to steer clear of the super-dark, overly contrasted imagery that’s typically seen on male-focused accounts. We also have a franchise called “Friday Fit,” where we reshare our customers’ posts.
You’ve expanded to three locations. Have you noticed any differences or similarities between customers in different areas?
The two stores in Copenhagen tend to get a more diverse array of visitors, mainly because they’re situated in the city center. Teenage girls are probably our most loyal store customers across all three locations, so we’ve tried to create an ambiance that suits them, from the oversized mirrors to the floors coated in signature Naked pink.
How have customers reacted to your exclusive sneaker collaborations?
The Naked-exclusive Nike P-6000 in a “Volt/Black/Metallic Silver” colorway caused a lot of hype across all of our social channels. We endeavor to create impactful campaigns that resonate with our customers for every release, so it’s not just the product itself that generates intrigue.
Take our adidas Consortium collab, for instance. We recruited three highly talented female photographers to shoot three very different campaigns for the Magmur Runner silhouette. The assorted cast of models and varied imagery garnered a lot of positive attention.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned while running a women’s sneaker store?
That it’s an ever-evolving market, where on the one hand you’ve got your own vision and on the other, there’s the consumer. The challenge is to always listen to your customers while staying true to your vision and be as authentic as possible.
Have you noticed any changes in the buying habits of women since you opened?
Yes, 100 percent. The women’s market has grown immensely since we opened our doors three and a half years ago. There are so many new and different consumers buying sneakers and using sneakers as their main footwear type. When we started, girls lining up for shoes was considered crazy and only a handful of troopers knew the concept. Now there are multiple girls lining up almost on a weekly basis, as the girls now know that they have to be on time if they really want it.
How are expanded size runs impacting your store and its customers?
We don’t have to shop at the kids section anymore and we don’t only have “pink it and shrink it” versions of the shoes we want. By focusing on product and having the biggest offering in these styles and sizes, our store and webstore have grown from a small city local supplier to being able to cater to female sneakerheads all over the world.
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