The exhibition Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street, which can be seen these days at the prestigious The Design Museum in London, until October 24, is a perfect introductory course to enter the world of sneakerheads. It is really complex, it has its own market codes and rules. And it is the verification of a mass phenomenon that has turned an everyday object such as sports shoes into art, into a cultural symbol, into the new pop icon and object of worship.
The London museum highlights the social and economic dimension of a booming sector that is expected to exceed 82.5 billion euros in 2025.
What was born as a movement for identity and belonging inspired by urban subcultures has challenged the design industry and is shaking the world of fashion, collecting and luxury. It’s now a lucrative market, especially via resale, currently valued at $ 10 billion, according to the latest StockX figures. It has penetrated the luxury sector and is reinventing haute couture based on streetwear basics, with iconic brands in the sector launched to create their own collections, such as Yohji Yamamoto with his Y-3 line for Adidas, Balenciaga, Comme de Garçons, Stella McCartney, Chanel, Prada or Dior and their custom creations.
The exclusivity that personalization provides is one of the keys to success. The Shoe Surgeon has been making custom shoes for athletes and celebrities like LeBron James, Drake and Justin Bieber for more than 15 years, from their Los Angeles studio. The price of one of his latest orders, a diamond-encrusted Air Jordan 1 for NBA player PJ Tucker, reached $ 250,000.
The collaborations that establish the heavyweights of the industry, such as Nike or Adidas, with celebrities to design collectibles, in limited editions, is another key. In addition, they have developed their own applications so that collectors can keep up to date with the launches of each model, and organize raffles with the most exclusive runs, the so-called raffles, a successful strategy to motivate, maintain expectations and generate desire. among the followers.
One of the first to bet on the model was the iconic Parisian store Colette, with sales of the Chanel x Pharrell x Adidas NMD Hu, a pair of sneakers that was born from the collaboration between Adidas, Chanel and the rapper and producer Pharrell Williams. They were sold through a raffle at a price of 1,000 euros. Today they are an icon.
For the prestigious Sotheby’s, which has entered the market squarely, “the surprising simplicity” of the sports car makes it a timeless staple and a “perfect canvas for coveted collaborations.”
Luxury private sales
The collaboration model between an iconic firm, an athlete or an artist and the release in limited editions is precisely the one that has unleashed the collector fever through the secondary resale market.
Sotheby’s and Christie’s already dedicate a preferential space to sneakers in their auctions and private luxury sales, along with handbags, jewelery and watches.
With a surrendered target audience, the market has developed its own buying and selling channels, such as StockX, the market’s leading online platform, which connects buyers and sellers through the dynamic price mechanics of the world’s stock markets. There are already specific investment agencies, such as RARE, an investment platform that allows users to buy and trade shares in limited edition sports shoes. And its own authenticity reporting and advisory firms, such as Suede One, which performs personalized comparisons to authentic peers, and collaborates with Sotheby’s to provide expert advisory service.
Without a doubt, few investments offer a return of between 2,000% and 4,000%, as is sometimes the case in this new market. One example is Nike’s limited-edition What The Dunk model, whose price has skyrocketed in the secondary market, and which the consultancy Cowen Equity Research already regards as an “emerging alternative asset type.”