By Arjun (first featured on Brandchannel)
How the Next 'It' Shoe of the Decade Will Be Determined
Luxury's pivot to sportswear has to do with the increasingly more health-conscious mindset of society says Arjun Chawla, Associate Director, Interbrand.
It's official — Balenciaga has shut the door on its famous "dad shoes" in exchange for something sleeker, slimmer, and more, well, bowling in its appearance.
The release of the brand's spring-summer 2020 collection, called "ZEN," marks a transition toward the sportswear market that is beginning to pick up steam in the luxury sector. But will luxury sports shoes become the decade's first "it" item?
If anything, Gen Z is going to have the final say. The generation — which has a spending power of over $140 billion and will make up 40% of the consumer market — is on track to become the largest consumer of goods this year. If a bowling, golf, or athletic-inspired anything is hoping to take flight this next decade, it's going to be up to Gen Z to let it land.
"Consumers started to feel consumed."
Luxury streetwear is dying, according to Louis Vuitton's menswear creative director Virgil Abloh — and with it will go the puffer jackets, logos, and chunky shoes that helped define it. However, though many in the fashion industry have said that the overall genre of luxury streetwear was ending thanks to consumers seeking to pivot more toward vintage apparel, the reason consumers have stopped buying chunky shoes is somewhat different.
"Today, people are considering whether less is more. It's visible in societal shifts toward people eating less meat, striving for less screen time, and prioritizing brands with smaller carbon footprints," Arjun Chawla, Associate Director at the global brand consulting firm Interbrand, told Business Insider. "Toward the latter part of the decade, more and more consumers started to feel consumed."
As Puma and Balmain team up for a boxing-inspired collection and designer Raf Simons seeks to launch an athletics-inspired shoe that will serve as "an investigation of form and function," Chawla says that increased interest in athleisure has to do with a change in consumer mindset. Many people, now more than ever, are taking wellness into the consideration of their daily lives. Mental health is now mentioned more frequently, especially on social media, while sustainability and the environment have become important topics for Gen Z.
"It's fitting for Balenciaga to produce a sports-inspired sneaker with the name Zen, considering how Zen principles include mindfulness, minimalism, and achieving awakening from looking within," Chawla said. "While such a sneaker makes sense considering the booming athleisure market, perhaps with the Zen branding, Balenciaga is also recognizing that for many consumers today, aspiration is as much about mindfulness as it is about material success."
"Gen Z's taste in sneakers reflects the fluidity that defines their generation."
Brands looking to get a head start in "it" shoe courtship must note that a number of factors will determine their success, according to those who have studied Gen Z's shopping and market behavior. This generation supports brands that appear authentic; ones that create products with meaning; and ones that come across as relevant. Resale, for example, has become a booming market, with many members of the younger generation touting it as a more sustainable form of retail.
"The idea of brands standing for deeper meanings is particularly important for Gen Z — a fluid generation, comfortable with identities that converge, toggle between, or are inspired by many different circles,"
Chawla continued. "[They have] a propensity to look for brands whose values or product designs resonate with what drives these circles."
That said, right now it's anyone's guess as to what style will attract the TikTok generation — especially as their wants and needs differ vastly even from millennials. As Vogue Business' Lucy Maguire points out, Gen Z is a generation that didn't necessarily need to be taught about diversity and inclusion. They seek exclusivity through uniqueness rather than price point. This means high-brow brands such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci, or more accessible ones such as Adidas and Nike, could all be in the running to determine which "it" shoe takes flight.
"Gen Z's taste in sneakers reflects the fluidity that defines their generation more broadly," Chawla said. "Sneaker brands need to be especially mindful of the fact that for Gen Z, whether we're talking about sneakers or beyond, it's not a 'one size fits all' equation."