Today is International Women’s Day, a global holiday commemorating the women’s rights movement. For this occasion, we want to highlight amazing women, that are making a difference in the sneaker and fashion industry.
Angelee Kholia is the woman behind Sheaker Mag, a magazine tailored to female sneakerheads and others overlooked in the industry. She is also a creative editor for Hypebeast and their female-focused subsidiary Hypebae.
She discovered her love for sneakers while studying fashion journalism in London, obsessing over trends and subcultures during a time when hype culture was huge and sneaker brands were introducing new collaborations on an unprecedented scale.
Having always been passionate about magazines and books, she wanted to create a magazine for her final project for university. “It made sense that I would create a magazine for those like me: females who were interested in sneakers. Though the sneaker industry exists heavily online, almost everyone loves to read print still.”
Since then, Angelee has noticed a change in the perception of female sneakerheads by the big brands. “Overall, sneaker brands have moved away from the typical “pink it and shrink it” approach to female-focused sneaker design, which is great. But I’ve found that companies – including brands and shops – only highlight female sneakerheads in waves, like its trend they can dip in and out of. It would be great to see their dedication to females all year round.“
Her fascination for sneakers is rooted in her shyness as kid growing up, always making “shoe contact before eye contact”. She bought her first pair of Nikes from her first job as a swim teaching assistant. “I just loved how the sneakers expressed my personality without having to say anything, and I became obsessed from there!”
Julia’s ultimate goal is to work in the sneaker industry but when looking for women role models in the field, she was shocked by the lack of female representation and decided to do something about it. “It was the 2020 lockdown at the time, so I thought I’d use my free time at home to highlight these unsung heroes. So girls like me know that there are many inspiring women in sneakers and that they, too, have a place in the sneaker world.”
Women of color often face more barriers to education but that is something that is slowly changing with programs like Pensole, Adidas S.E.E.D. and the Black Footwear Forum creating safe and welcoming spaces for women of color to succeed in the footwear industry. Telling these stories is something that Julia finds incredibly rewarding. “For me, it’s the ability to give someone flowers they didn’t think they deserved […] Spreading love and letting all these women know they are incredible is without a doubt my favorite and most important part.”
Agata Panucci is an Italian footwear designer and a member of RAL7000STUDIO. Officially founded in June 2021, the collective of designers and experts is based out of Italy, with each member bringing in their unique skill set and ideas to the table. Agata is the only female member of the otherwise all-male collective.
She studied fashion design for women’s apparel at the Marangoni Institute in Milan. Her first internship was with a shoe company in Marche, a region known for its shoemakers. Being surrounded by factories, sole and fabric suppliers, she fell in love with the shoe industry.
Inspired by the work of Kiko Kostadinov and Laura & Deanna Fanning, her design philosophy creates a fairy world with nostalgia. “I am a vintage lover and I like to transport people into my fairy world full of elements that I love such as Sex and the City, The Bratz and The Nanny!”
But Agata doesn’t have a preference of designing for women or men. “I believe there is still so much to experiment in the streetwear design for women. But I also love unisex designing because it’s really challenging to create the perfect balance. I would like to see more unisex design in the market.”
Artist, Designer & Art Director
Titi Finlay is a passionate sneakerhead and freelance creative all-rounder based in London. She has been putting her mark on the industry, working for ASOS and Laced, eventually even designing her own sneaker with Nike. With her platform, she has been campaigning for the big sneaker brands to “Make Sneakers Gender Neutral”.
She first got into sneakers when she moved to London from a small village in Scotland. Being exposed to the local streetwear and sneaker culture, she quickly became obsessed and eventually built her full career around it.
As a freelancer in the industry, she gets to do many different things every day. From art directing on photo shoots, designing or building creative strategies to focusing on her art, print making and painting. “Every day I’m doing what I love, it’s awesome. And being able to center it all around my passion for sneakers is the cherry on top.”
Titi’s fight for making sneakers gender neutral is still ongoing. While the big brands are starting to pay attention, important retro releases are still not being released in smaller sizes. She is convinced that all sneakers should ideally release in unisex sizing. “Sneakerheads come in all shapes and sizes and that should be a consideration for every single pair released.”
She nurtured her love for sneakers with trips to the local sneaker store with her dad on weekends, even though her feet were too small to fit any of the kicks, even in the small women’s section.
After working in the sneaker industry for more than six years, she created _Women In Sneakers when she noticed a lack of representation of the amazing women that worked behind the scenes. “I was creating marketing campaigns around ‘talent’ & ‘influencers’ but rarely did I see the people behind the brand being championed in the same way.”
And there are many women in the industry to look up to, citing Grace Wales Bonner and Yoon Ambush as some of her favorites right now. But she also highlights the community of women in the industry that supports, follows and engages with her platform. “It’s a shared connectivity and experience for us all that has enabled not only myself but others to network, grow and thrive.”
Natasha Bains is a digital creator based in London and the female half behind SNKRS ‘N’ HOUSEPLANTS. With her ever-growing collection of zines and photobooks, she was always drawn to sneaker design adverts.
She remembers a pair of Nike Air Max 97 “Corduroy” Sail/Volt/Glow/Arctic Pink with its unique colors and materials changing how she appreciated the sneakers in her collection. “I began considering the craftsmanship and story behind every sneaker I collect. I want each sneaker in my collection to remind me of a significant time in my life.”
Tasha feels that the industry is churning out too many shoes, that are lacking quality or storytelling, that excites the consumer. “Innovative design is the way forward – the scene needs something exciting, future-thinking and planet-friendly. This could include eco-conscious materials such as Pinatex or grape leather, which uses the byproduct of grapes used in the wine industry – sneakers, which are created to solve a problem.”
The impact of sneakers should be elementary in its design process. Rather than releasing the same model in different colors over and over again, iconic designs could be used as drivers for planet-friendly materials. “Imagine how many Air Force 1s people purchase, but reimagine these in eco-friendly materials such as grape or apple leather.”
Haromi Lee is a digital creator from Seoul with a passion for customizing accessories to match her sneakers. She first got into sneaker culture through her love of hip hop music, inspired by the likes of 50 Cent, Jay-Z and Nelly wearing clean Air Force 1s.
To Haromi, upcycling is more meaningful than just making socks to match her sneakers, since it adds environmental values too. Making eco-friendly products that appeal to consumers will improve things a little faster. “We all know that the environment is important to us, and it is really time to act before it gets worse.”
While more brands are working on offering more eco-friendly products, she wants to do her part in changing how we consume fashion by inspiring others to upcycle too. “Someday, I want to create a space where people can bring clothes or things and upcycle themselves.”