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  • Writer's pictureOmar Powell

Sneaker Storylines for 2023

Coming off a dynamic 2022 ...

Happy New Year – as we turn the page on 2022 and make room for 2023, the sneaker industry is in a transcendent time. We're seeing Nike's push to direct to consumer continue; Reebok was purchased from adidas in March 2022, New Balance is on a run the brand has not enjoyed in some time – thanks to Teddy Santis and Joe Freshgoods. adidas is poised to have an interesting upcoming 12 months to say the lease (we'll get into that later). And along the way, there is still more drops of your favorite silhouettes and sure to be new product entering the marketplace.

So, just as we did for 2022 – let's take a look at what storylines will be more prevalent in 2023.

adidas Releasing Yeezys without Ye

"You ain't got no Yeezy..."

When adidas effectively terminated its contract and working relationship with Ye in late-October 2022, the decision sent a ripple effect throughout the footwear industry and especially within the company. Albeit the reasoning was justifiable; the brand stated via press release: "adidas does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech. Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness."

Ye embarked on a media tour both official and via guerrilla tactics where his comments resulted in adidas moving on from him, but within the press release also rested adidas' plans for the Yeezy x adidas Originals product: "adidas is the sole owner of all design rights to existing products as well as previous and new colorways under the partnership."

It is that technicality that adidas is utilizing to release Yeezy silhouettes without Ye's name and involvement attached. At one point in time, it was Ye who contended that the Three Stripes was creating and releasing "unofficial" colorways and using the Yeezy DNA to create in-line product. While there was clearly a halo effect at play between the brand, West did not take kindly to this and it served as a point of contention amongst a reported myriad of tension points between West and the German footwear and apparel titan.

The relationship between Ye and adidas did hit other rocky spots in the nine year partnership, a portion of that included adidas manufacturing Yeezy Season apparel in the early days of the partnership – which eventually fell by the waste side, to which Ye had to go at it alone. While the last days of the West x adidas partnership ended in an ugly, public and appalling fashion; given the language used by Ye, the question looms in 2023: can adidas sustain not having Ye's involvement in the business model? And furthermore, when adidas' unbranded Yeezys enter the marketplace, what will be the reception from consumers?

Can you have Yeezy without Yeezy? Only time will tell.

Fear of God x adidas: The Sequel

Sticking with the Three Stripes – another chapter in the seemingly everlasting saga between Fear of God and adidas is upon us. Shrouded in mystery and wonderment, the partnership which was announced in December 2020 has yet to produce any fruit. It seems interesting that we looked to 2022 to be the year we finally see the collaborative efforts come to fruition, but in fact we got the complete opposite. It was December 2022 – two years after the initial announcement, that Fear of God issued a statement on adidas Basketball's "Remember The Why" campaign which featured aesthetics and design language eerily similar to Jerry Lorenzo and Fear of God.

"The partnership between adidas and Jerry Lorenzo has evolved over the past two years to a concentrated focus on the creation and development of Fear of God Athletics."

As Fear of God issued the statement above, the endeavor seems to have shifted its focus to FOG, rather than adidas. Which is an interesting development to say the least, considering the byline from the press release from 2020 stated: "adidas and Fear of God reimagine the future of adidas Basketball".

As for now, the collaboration is coming in 2023, according to Fear of God. Barring any hiccups. However, it is another storyline with the Three Stripes to watch.

The future of the Nike Kobe Signature Line

2023 marks three years since the untimely passing of Kobe Bryant – which has undoubtedly left a void in the world and in the hearts of fans across the globe. Since then, Nike and Bryant's estate led by his wife, Vanessa has seen minimal product released. But there was a decree from Vanessa to put Kobes in the hands of his fans. The point of contention has been those who seek Kobe's product for resale gain and also the omnipresent battle of supply-and-demand.

In 2021, Vanessa Bryant and Nike reached a new agreement as it relates to Nike Kobe product and from it came the release of 'Mambacita' (Sweet Sixteen) Nike Zoom Kobe VI to honor and celebrate what would be their daughter, Gianna's 16th birthday. "We’re excited to announce our partnership with Nike is going to continue! ... With this new partnership, fans will soon be able to have access to Kobe and Gigi Nike product for years to come." Vanessa proudly proclaimed in March 2022 via her Instagram account.

The details are scarce, however we know that there is a long-term partnership in place between the Bryant estate and the Swoosh; and with rumors of the Zoom Kobe VIII returning along with the Zoom Kobe IV, we'll have to see. What new product could be released, what retros might we see – and how will the Mamba and Mambacita Foundation factor into the equation?

Our prediction: There will be a soft run in 2023 to reintroduce Nike Kobe product to the market with varying availability and the double down will occur in 2024 as the "Year of the Mamba".

Will Jordan Brand Expand Retros Past the AJ14?

This is a question that Jordan Brand has yet to answer in a consistent fashion. Since Tinker Hatfield gave up the reins beginning with 2001's Air Jordan 16, the models that followed MJ's Chicago Bulls stanza have garnered a bit of a back-and-forth with sneakerheads. For some, they're appreciative of the stories the brand told beginning with the Air Jordan 15, through MJ's Wizards era and into the present day. But there are some who are content with Air Jordans 1-14.

Jordan Brand has technically released every Air Jordan in retro form between 1-XX3 (23), if you include the Countdown Packs from 2008. The Air Jordan XX3 is making a surprise appearance in this year's Year of the Rabbit collection for the brand. The Air Jordan 16 saw its 'Midnight Navy' colorway return in 2016 but to the tune of $250. The 'Copper' Air Jordan 17+ returned in 2016 to a lofty price tag as well – and as for the Air Jordan 15, 18, 19 and 20 ... each have returned during the 2010s. But yet, nothing has been sustainable from the run. A couple one-offs here and there, an OG colorway sprinkled in and new schemes; but Jordan Brand continues to stick to the SKUs that are the most sought after. And that is absolutely okay. After all, this is a business.

But there are some who may be looking for Jordan Brand to bring back those 15+ models in other unreleased colorways. And with the 20th anniversary of MJ's final retirement looming in 2023 – we know that the 'Black/Sport Royal' AJ 18 is out of the mix, given that it was re-released in 2018. If not this year, when might we see a sustained run of Air Jordans that helped shape the early years of the new millennium.

New Balance Primed for a Bigger 2023?

Arguably no brand had a bigger 2022 than New Balance. Thanks in part to Creative Director, Teddy Santis. Additionally, Joe Freshgoods was named Creative Director at the Massachusetts footwear conglomerate in 2022. The brand had their bases covered from the in-line product to collaborative, limited edition drops from Freshgoods, Salehe Bembury, Aimé Leon Dore and KITH – to name a few. From the debut of the New Balance 9060 silhouette in the spring, to the Made In USA project getting a push; it seemed that no matter what happened from January to December, New Balance kept pushing the correct buttons.

And the appointment of the Creative Directors paid dividends in detailing rich stories that not only resonated but were visually stunning as well. The brand certainly is looking to keep the momentum that was built in 2022 rolling into the new year and help carry them throughout the next 12 months. Along with the era of fashion we're currently in, it plays perfectly to New Balance's strengths, how will New Balance follow up a white-hot 2022?

The Metaverse: Round 2

The metaverse was all the rave in 2021 entering 2022. Whether it was NFTs, Nike and adidas' ventures into the great digital unknown ... the metaverse and Web 3.0 is certainly where the next sneaker battle will live. While still in its infancy, we see that Nike has already put their non-fungible funds where RTFKT is. From the partnership, the duo put forth the Cryptokicks iRL silhouette. But there are concerns among those in the finance sector that the race to win the metaverse and cryptocurrency is losing steam.

Nike doubled down its involvement in Web3 with the launch of .Swoosh. The brand's virtual platform where members form a larger community and within it are drops exclusive for members; the first of which will launch this year. But additionally, members will be able to participate in community challenges to win the opportunity to co-create virtual product with Nike. And those winners can earn a royalty on the virtual product they help co-create.

As for adidas' evolution into the metaverse, it has been quiet, outside of the adidas for Prada re-source NFT project in January 2022. Both brands have much to show if the metaverse is going to be a viable place for product to thrive and community to live and extend beyond what we see in reality.

The next 12 months is sure to be one that will draw much intrigue, anticipation, excitement and help shape the decade moving forward. For each brand, there is positioning at stake, along with the protection of investments whether it be in the form of person, product or idea. And furthermore – the events of 2023 within the sneaker industry might be ones we look back on come December 31, 2023 and see exactly how each brand capitalized and won in their own right.

Let's circle back in December and see just how it all plays out.


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