This article is intended to present an overview around the origins and motivations of the culture and design of sport shoe as contemporary global phenomena by examining the relationship between fashion designers and sportswear companies. The theoretical critique also, unravels some of the intertwining influences that the fashion and sport industries have had on each other by exploring the reciprocal nature of their relationship in the recent years.
Key words: sport apparel, branding, sneaker, trainer, aesthetic, culture.
As fashion design becomes increasingly relevant, executives are looking for ways to improve their capability to manage design resources. A major challenge is how to identify the right talent to participate in design projects. Many manufacturer (like sportswear industries) collaborate with external designers, to source creativity, new look and fresh insights [1, 2].
Frequently seen as diametrically opposed ends of cultural production, “fashion” and “sports” have recently collaborated increasingly closely in the design and marketing of sport shoes. Most of these collaborations were formed during the last 10 years: Yasuhiro Mihara and Puma officially launched in 2000, and Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas”s Y-3 in 2002 to name just a few; but rather than signaling the beginning of a relationship between these two paradigms, they signal the culmination of a long-standing interaction.
While the direct engagement of sports brands with fashion designers is a relatively new phenomenon, the influence of sporting tradition and innovation on the development of fashion has many historical precedents that have made sport, as fashion historian Elizabeth Wilson proclaims, “possibly the most important twentieth-century influence on fashion” [3, p. 166]
Although sports shoe and apparel is a global phenomenon, it is often seen as inherently American. Historically, as more hierarchical and formal traditions of dressing remained engrained in Europe, designers in the US were able to introduce a more democratic approach to dressing. As curator Richard Martin states in the catalogue to his 1998 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of. Art in New York, aptly titled American Ingenuity:
“Fashion in America was logical and answerable to the will of the women who wore it. Implicitly or explicitly, American fashion addressed a democracy, whereas traditional Paris-based fashion was authoritarian and imposed on women, willing or not” [4, p. 13].
It is this tendency to welcome a more “democratic” fashion that, in terms of footwear design, facilitated the life of the consumer, since the shoes became more and more practical and informal. The rationality in their design and the simplicity of their construction also suited mass-production techniques. Eventually clothes design became simple to the extent that it was necessary to develop modern marketing and branding as garments had become supposedly indistinguishable. As fashion historian Jennifer Craik concludes, “Sportswear is, then, an intrinsically American phenomenon, albeit one that has travelled globally, including back to Europe.” [5, p. 141]
It is the globalization of this supposedly American style of dressing that plays a particularly pertinent role in the perceived proximity of the fashion and sportswear industries. When one considers American sports brands such as Nike — described by anthropologist Ian Skoggard as a “marketing firm which owns no factories to speak of and instead concentrates solely on design and marketing” [6, p. 59] — which until recently dominated the athletic shoe market worldwide, it is natural to assume that the relationship between fashion design and sport industry is global.
However, recent developments within the retailing practice of sportswear, and sport/ fashion collaborations in particular, seem to suggest otherwise. When Nike opened its first flagship store close to its headquarters in Portland, Oregon back in 1990, the imposing architecture and the mere fact it was called “Niketown” declared the brand’s intention and purpose: a super brand dedicated to performance sports apparel and shoes, its retail outlet a “town”, leaving no need for the consumer to go anywhere else to buy the best sports-related goods. Skoggard described the New York flagship store as a “shrine for athletes and athleticism”, including a terracotta inlaid floor depicting “a map of the world with a Nike Town «swoosh» anagram superimposed over it”, a clear indication of what it intended the future to hold for Nike. Yet, in the intervening years, something changed. This was not merely as a consequence of Naomi Klein’s influential book No Logo, published in 2000, which laid bare the “unethical” production practices of super-brands such as Nike and other global corporations [7, p. 22]; nor was it just that, as journalist Geraldine Bedell found, customers were “involved in much more of a dialogue with brands than was realized a few years ago” . Instead it was a combination of factors that evidently led to a shift in how sports brands were perceived, which meant that they had to react and adapt their retail and marketing practices.
Puma was one of the first to acknowledge that, as Antonio Bertone, their global director of brand management, stated, “People become desensitized if the only message you give them is that your trainers are the latest and greatest”. He continued: The current generation has grown up with trainers: they already know they’re supposed to make you run faster and jump higher. ” Now frequently listed as one of the major sports brands, Puma was also the first to embrace the status and practices of a fashion brand fully.
One of the key forces in the evolution of the culture of trainers is the enhanced recognition beyond the enthusiast of the trainer as a part of style sets. Its performance on and off the track, field and court in the mid to late 1980s was so excited. From the performance point of view, trainer was taken up for everyday life sometime in the 1990s, the onetime more significant gap between sportswear and fashion — once defined in opposition as functional equipment vs fashionable costume — had been closing. This cross-influence has been achieved both by particular highly publicized collaborations between fashion designers and sports companies such as Stella McCartney and Yohji Yamamoto with Adidas by more general trends that have seen many particular collections include more cuts and textiles from sportswear apparels [9, p. 41]. Firstly being used the trainers by Vivienne Westwood was on the catwalk in 1983 [10, p. 347, 11, p. 172], also, it has been identified as the earliest collaboration, the act of the German fashion designer Jil Sander with Puma in 1998 . In the recent years such these collaborations are expanding wider. Some of top-fashion designers, such as Hussein Chalayan and Jeremy Scott, which have individual style currently have entered to the field of sport shoe design.
One may declare that the most successful collaboration is the partnership between Yohji Yamamoto and Adidas (under the brand “Y-3”). When Yamamoto contacted Adidas to ask if he could produce a customized a version of the brand”s classic sports shoe, the collaboration began.
Yamamoto’s signature design aesthetic is combined with “traditional Japanese tailoring” in each collection [13, p. 95]. Also, the works reflect strongly the sconce of minimalism.
These collections by fashion designers in Adidas not only run to trainers, but to apparels, and even accessories. Many of the items utilize the three-stripe logo. Global creative director of Adidas, points that this act is a “win — win” situation . A sportswear brand that forms this kind of partnership gets the kudos of working with a major design talent, while the designer gains a layer of credibility. Adidas is clearly pleased with the financial result, because it has since teamed up with a second well-known designer, Stella McCartney, to create a functional sport range for women consumers.
In 2010, it was launched the first collection between Giorgio Armani and Reebok. The global style credentials of the “Emporio” and “EA7” — labels of Armani — combined with Reebok’s fitness heritage and technologies fit together to create a new concept and perspective in the sports style marketplace in global scale [13, p. 91].
Puma as an avant-garde sportswear company has embarked on a partnership with French designer Philippe Starck, taking a slightly different tack. Starck — minimalist designer debuts known for architectural and interior design, although he is branching increasingly out into other areas. Antonio Bertone — Puma’s director of global brand management — in a press release announcing the alliance, explained the strategic basis of the collaboration that the objective of Puma’s cooperating projects is to share a different perspective so that we can learn from one another. He summarized that the project was all about “pushing the boundaries of design”. But the venture also adds sheen to the brand’s image .
As the sports industry always searches for the new and develops innovative styles, these have been increasingly incorporated into fashion. Classic and organic design are still popular, but consumers will soon demand the opportunities new materials offer.
The present study basically concludes that:
- In the last decade, the global athletic shoe market has experienced considerable changes as demand for strong fashion orientation and for lifestyle brands grew among teenagers. Increasing demand for fashion and function forces global sport companies to invest in research and development of new brands including special sneakers lines for casual consumers.
- The major sports shoe brands in the collaboration trends recognized that the view of trainers had changed significantly from sports apparel that had globally been appropriated by various types of youth cultures such as the skate, hip hop, break-dancing scenes, etc., to an everyday item for all ages and classes and settings.
- The success of sport shoe design seems not to be necessarily related to the choice of a specific designer, but rather to the capability to manage and identify an articulated portfolio of designers and especially his/her exclusive style and artistic direction. There is no doubt that, sport shoes have great potential to create communicative values in a non-verbal communication act, just like signals, signs and symbols. So, in this condition, the role of designer is become central and more vital for branding.
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