Power and Purpose: 2023’s Leading Women’s Sneakers
The sneaker world has undeniably seen rapid change in recent years, allowing for more inclusivity and representation than ever before. It’s a pivotal time to be a woman in the sneakerspace, and as International Women’s Day approaches, we’ll be documenting how women are taking control of their narrative in 2023 and as always – diving deep into how releases, collaborations, and individuals are driving the culture forward. Let’s get stuck into the month ahead by looking at some of the year’s top women’s sneaker moments so far.
The year is already off to a strong start, with Premium Goods – founded by Jennifer Ford in 2002 – locking down their very own Air Force 1 collaboration. The colab is a huge moment for Ford and the industry as a whole, as she’s currently the only Black female who holds a Nike and Jordan Brand boutique account. Not only did Ford win by executing a duo of beautifully detailed AF-1s, but she’s been an advocate for women’s inclusivity from the beginning.
And there’s more to come. Let’s start with Yoon Ahn’s AMBUSH. Ahn is a creative director leading the charge in the industry, bringing women to the forefront of her Nike collaborations through drops like Dunks, Air Adjust Forces and most recently, the Air Force 1. While it’s great to have mainstays in the game (shoutout to Billie Eilish and her upcoming Nike Alpha Force Low!), it’s exciting to see newcomers step up to the plate, offering fresh takes on fan favourites. Among them are some of fashion’s hottest women’s labels of the moment, including Sandy Liang, the New York-based designer in the midst of receiving her very own Salomon XT-6 and RX Moc. Fellow New York-based New Jersey native Danielle Guizio has also been tapped by Reebok to rework the Club C 85 and Cleat. And there’s more to look forward to in the coming year, with Paperboy Paris’ recently teased Papergirl x Clarks Wallabee collaboration.
In January, Concepts hooked up with New Balance for a different type of collaboration, delivering a campaign titled ‘Women and their Collections’ to launch the NB1906R ‘Protection Pack’. The aim was to highlight women at the top of their respective fields, showcasing the items they collect through their work and pursuits. Interviewing New York athlete Angie Chavez and linking up with Christine Espinal, the project championed women not by dropping a dedicated release but by celebrating their strength in a creative way.
Keep the Jordans Coming
Last year, Sneaker Freaker’s best women’s sneakers of the year recap included a healthy number of women’s Jordans like the Air Jordan 5 GORE-TEX ‘Off-Noir’ and the Air Jordan 1 ‘Starfish’. The latter nodded to the classic hooper colourway, the ‘Shattered Backboard’, while the AJ5s employed the famous waterproof membrane traditionally reserved for men’s releases. Both are prime examples of women’s-specific releases that don’t subscribe to the ‘pink it and shrink it’ approach. Their existence meant that not only were women brought to the forefront, but they were also more inclusive due to their size runs. So far, we’ve seen a handful of women’s Air Jordan releases, including reverse colourways and Spring 2023 retros. Most recently, the Air Jordan 14 ‘Metallic Silver’ and the AJ1 ‘Reverse Laney’, the latter of which flipped the script on the 2013 homage to Michael Jordan’s alma mater.
As one of the first Jordan Brand collaborations of the year, James Whitner’s A Ma Maniére delivered two renditions of their long-awaited Air Jordan 12s in black, white and burgundy. In addition to coming through with the same crisp construction the brand are known and loved for, they also delivered on their penchant for rich storytelling, unveiling their ‘She Is The Blueprint’ campaign with the intention of continuing to create space for Black women. And as one of the leading global communities striving to champion women, AMM gave women early access to the pairs ahead of the first drop, ensuring those who wanted a pair were given a greater chance.
More Inclusive Size Runs
In addition to the all-important hype-inducing collaborations led by the industry’s heavyweights, it’s imperative that day-to-day General Releases are also hitting the shelves to ensure women are catered to every day. In recent months, there have been multiple occasions of this across not only inline pairs but also hyped models like the Nike Zoom Vomero 5 and the undefeatable ASICS GEL-Kayano 14. The Vomero has received a stack of colourways since its revival last year, and women’s-specific drops, like the ‘Black Sesame’ and ‘Photon Dust’, have been among the most popular. Women’s iterations of the GEL-Kayano 14 are no new order of business, but they must be acknowledged, including these JJJJound-esque pairs. All these pairs tick the boxes of being a solid women’s release, while also not being unnecessarily skewed towards women purely for the sake of it.
Serena Williams Design Crew Creations
Serena Williams’ retirement was certainly one of the biggest upsets in tennis history, but her impressive career was also intertwined with the fashion and design realms. Those following her trajectory closely would be aware that she had a passion for both, which led her to be directly involved in designing several of her kits over the years. As a result, Williams rocked some of the most iconic on-court looks we’ve seen, dating back to when she first signed with PUMA to her denim Nike set and onwards.
Now, the Serena Williams Design Crew – a collective of creators, designers and innovators tasked with creating special products for the Williams-centric line – carries on her Nike legacy. Each year, a group of apprentices are selected to be a part of the crew, and in addition to designing product, they’re tasked with inspiring the next generations with a brighter future through design. This year, the Serena Williams Design Crew tapped Nike’s Air More Uptempo, dressing it in denim uppers as a nod to Williams’ iconic 2004 US Open outfit. Not only does this design crew offer the sneakersphere new, dedicated women’s product, but they’re also giving up-and-comers a seat at the table.
For a collection of in-depth interviews and features, head over to <Platform> – an inclusive space created by Sneaker Freaker that aims to champion women breaking barriers and helping shape the sneaker and streetwear industry for the better.