August 19, 2016

Shoes and Apparel - Athletic Brand Shoe Diversity a Leading Trend at Vegas Trade Shows

By Lois Sakany
Athletic footwear was more dominant than ever at the Las Vegas shoe and apparel shows, with a growing number of brands pushing for their piece of the action, and interest in denim is expanding as the jogger trend declines.
  • Athletic footwear more dominant than ever with trend-conscious attendees focused on adding new brands, limited-edition offerings to their closets
  • Denim exploding as a trend as fashion-forward customer begins to back off sport jogger trend
  • Women’s category seeing newness with arrival of mod ankle boot and Gucci-influenced ruffle trend

Athletic Footwear Extremely Dominant
Judging by attendees, if there was one very clear trend at the Las Vegas apparel and footwear trade show events this past week, it is that sneakers more so than ever have a choke hold on the footwear category. It’s a trend that has reached a level of popularity that even women’s fashion brands like Steve Madden Ltd.’s Dolce Vita were spotted with big sections of their offerings turned over to their version of athletic footwear. And though boot and shoe brands have done their best to capture some of the craze for sneakers, the trend remains a headwind for brown shoe brands with most trend-conscious shoppers choosing to go with authentic sport brands. One sporting goods buyer said, “[Wolverine World Wide Inc.'s] Sperry, who never sold to us previously, is finally opening our chain because it needs the business.”

Sneakers Dominate 

While many attendees were wearing Adidas AG's Adidas Originals Stan Smith and Superstar, one of the big shifts from the February shows was seeing an uptick in people wearing new Adidas silhouettes -- particularly its NMD, Ultra Boost and the Yeezy Boost. Among the most dedicated sneaker aficionados, however, the bigger trend seems to be a race to wear a shoe that everyone else isn’t wearing, whether a more obscure brand like Diadora Sport S.r.l. or, in the case of well-known brands like Kering S.A.'s Puma, VF Corp.'s Vans and Asics Corp. (7936 JP), discerning shoppers are seeking classic silhouettes offered in unusual colorways and sold in limited quantities. Not surprisingly, after all the bad press following Under Armour Inc.’s Curry “Chef” 2.0, shoes by the Baltimore-based brand as worn by show attendees were nowhere to be found.

Athletic Brand Diversity

And while plenty of attendees (and even more so Vegas tourists) were still wearing Nike Inc. and Jordan -- in particular at Reed Exhibitions, Inc.'s Agenda Show, a trade show dedicated to the skate and urban retailer -- it was clear the brand had lost a step in terms of popularity. One buyer for a sporting goods chain said, “When you have 80% market share, it’s hard to hold on to -- much less grow -- that.”

As big as athletic is, ankle boots are still a relevant trend for women, and the category is seeing some newness through a mod silhouette that is showing signs that it could finally topple the extremely popular lace-up and Western-inspired ankle boot. As evidence, a mod sparkle Industria de Diseño Textil S.A.'s Zara boot (that sold out upon arrival in July) was spotted on multiple attendees, as were various iterations of it offered by multiple footwear brands.

One Day You’re In, and the Next You’re Out
In addition to shifts in share among athletic footwear brands, one of the most striking trends at the shows was the move away from sport joggers to denim bottoms. While denim is hardly a new trend (OTR Global first reported on the trend bubbling up in a 2015 note), the number of attendees wearing the all-American textile -- as well as booths selling it -- definitely increased compared with the February shows. Khaki and twill bottoms also were a trend, and while joggers may have left the building, the silhouette remains a triangular one as marked by a slightly baggier bottom and a tapered leg.

While denim should be even bigger for spring, simple crew-neck sweatshirts and T-shirts remain as popular as ever, especially as offered in vintage washes and earthy color palettes, including washed-out shades of beige, brown, gray and mauve. (Get ready for lots of women and men wearing pink in 2017.) In a nod to the '70s, garments with handmade touches like embroidery, sewn-on patches and tie dye were also a big push for spring among more forward brands.   

Big Spring Trends: Washed Colors, Denim & Hand Made Details

Something Other Than Athletic
In the midst of all things athletic-inspired, there are signs that fashion is ready to push forward to something new, a change that has been fueled partly by Kering's Gucci's wildly popular runway presentations during the past year, which have been marked by sporty looks, but also feminine frills like ruffles and bow ties, as well as embroidered graphics including flowers and bees. Once again, fast-fashion retailers like Hennes & Mauritz AB's H&M and Arcadia Group Ltd.'s Topshop were the first to show the trend this past summer, but the look was also shown by some of the more fashion-forward women's brands in Vegas. While not likely to greatly impact the popularity of athletic-inspired looks in the near term, the frillier look at least has the potential to freshen women's fashion offerings, which has been riding on the BoHo trend, seemingly forever. 

Gucci-Influenced Frilly Top & Zara Mod Boots