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Sneakerness CEO: It's no longer just team Nike or Adidas

By Ole Spötter


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Fashion |CEO-Interview

Matthijs van der Meulen. Image: Dave Weij

This weekend, Sneakerness, an international sneaker fair for end consumers, stops in Amsterdam. The format, which also takes place in other European cities such as Cologne, London and Paris, brings together a community that is interested in art, sport, music and fashion in addition to the popular trainer. Big brands are always present as well. In Amsterdam, these include the German sporting goods companies Adidas and Puma, the US retailer Foot Locker and the local streetwear veteran Patta.

To kick off the streetwear spectacle, FashionUnited spoke to Sneakerness co-CEO Matthijs van der Meulen about the current developments and trends in the sneaker world. He also explains the opportunities that arise for small brands as a result of Nike's focus on a direct-to-consumer model.

What developments do you see in the sneaker segment right now?

For many many years there's been a big focus on Nike and especially on the Jordan One. This high definitely died very rapidly. Which was quite surprising. Nike oversaturated the market [with the model] and then there was a point where people just got bored of it. So they got interested in different brands and models like the Jordan four. We're also seeing that people are going away from the real big brands like Adidas and Nike. So smaller brands are making a nice return.

Air Jordan 4 Retro. Image: Nike

Which brand got a chance?

I'm looking at brands like Karhu. Obviously New Balances has done really, really well for the last two, three years and there, it seems like no one is stopping them at the moment.

Consumers now look more at brands and silhouettes more for the best possible style and shoe. People are not buying into a brand anymore. Like, I need everything from Nike or let’s buy everything which is related to Adidas. They're looking for the brand with the nicest basketball shoe or which tracking shoe is the best.

So it's not just Team Adidas or Nike anymore?

Yeah, exactly. Adidas for example is really strong with the basic styles. The samba and the gazelle are performing super well.

What trends are developing beyond these giants right now?

Outdoor brands are getting a lot of attention. That's still a niche, but brands like Salomon became fashionable all of a sudden. Which you couldn't have told me five years ago.

Sandy Liang x Salomon. Foto: Steven Yatsko

Adidas is still suffering from the end of the Kanye West partnership. Who would be a good alternative for the sporting goods company?

In the past they worked a lot with Pharrell, but on the collaboration front, it's difficult. Those are some big shoes to fill. Like who can fill the gap that Kanye left? I wouldn't have a definite answer.

Perhaps William's new position as creative director of menswear at Louis Vuitton could be the clincher....

Most definitely. He's a super professional guy, always has been and really knows the niches in streetwear. So if there would be one guy it could be him.

'AW22 Samba'-Kapsel by Pharrell Williams. Foto: Adidas

What other difficulties do you see in the sneaker world right now?

Nike as a corporation is putting all their energy into a B2C model and trying to sell their own product through their own website. They cut out the middleman, which are the big retail changes but also the small dedicated sneaker stores. This can also, or it's already starting to backfire in a way. Because you don't see that many really good Nike products in store anymore. They used to be everywhere. Even the dedicated sneaker stores – where a lot of the trends were born – don't have the good Nike accounts anymore.

Which brands have taken the spot?

New Balance, Diora and all the smaller brands. Nike is really good at playing the hype game and a lot of people got into it - trying to get all the limited edition sneakers. But obviously nine out of 10 times you miss out. And if you miss out for the 20th time with Nike you will get fed up with it and move to a different brand.

Saucony Originals ProGrid Omni 9. Foto: Saucony

Why are these small independent stores such a hotbed of Sneaker trends?

They really have an ear to the street – what's hot and happening. So a brand like Nike is missing out on that.

Who is ahead of the game when it comes to collaboration?

What New Balance is doing is really cool. They’re teaming up with fresh young designers, musicians and artists, like the one with US-rapper Action Bronson. And Nike is also always on point with the collaborations.

Action Bronson x New Balance 990v6 “Baklava”. Foto: New Balance

Which release are you particularly looking forward to right now?

Nowadays I've been really into New Balance and the funny thing is that they stopped my favourite silhouette, the 997. For this year they're bringing back the 998, which is my second favourite. So I'm really, really pleased about that. So hopefully next year they will also bring back the 997.