The Biggest Sneaker Stories Of 2022 (So Far)
We're at the halfway mark of 2022, and the first six months have been a wild whirlwind of sneaker drops, colab announcements, new trends and old friends. As we prepare to head into the second half of the year, we're taking a look back at six of the impactful moments, biggest partnerships and hottest trends that defined the world of sneakers from January to June.
Lawsuits, Lawsuits Everywhere!
Sneaker-related litigation has been huge in 2022. With the rise of the metaverse and the ever-increasing popularity of bootlegs, sneaker brands are fighting harder than ever before to protect their intellectual property.
Nike have always been fierce in guarding their IP, and two of their most noteworthy legal battles this year have been with StockX and John Geiger. The Nike vs. StockX lawsuit is centred around the latter's series of 'Vault' NFTs, a digital token of a sneaker that's backed up by a real pair in the StockX warehouse. Nike, ramping up their metaverse plans, weren't happy to see their shoes front and centre in StockX's NFT series, and their suit claims that these NFTs infringe on their trademarks. Nike have also expanded their claim to attack StockX for selling fake shoes, while StockX says that high-ranking Nike executives use their platform to flip rare pairs.
On the other hand, the Nike vs. John Geiger legal fracas has been running since the middle of last year but picked up significant steam in 2022. Nike originally sued Geiger because they felt that his GF-01 was a lookalike of the ubiquitous Air Force 1 and would create confusion in the market. Geiger, ever the marketing opportunist, wasted no time in hiring the SneakerLaw team as his defence firm and publicly sharing every step of his legal battle. Recently Geiger was granted a trademark for the GF-01's graphic design, so he might be gaining steam!
Elsewhere in the world of 'you copied my homework!' accusations, New Balance brought suit against noted copycat Steve Madden, claiming that Madden's new Chasen sneaker was a direct knockoff of the popular 327, namely the Concepts x New Balance 327 'Cape.' Vans sued MSCHF over the 'Wavy Baby' sneaker, a twisting and turning saga in which MSCHF said that Vans originally offered to collaborate and split the profits with them. Most recently, adidas took aim at Nike in a new lawsuit that both accuses the Swoosh of copying their slate of apps and of ripping off their adidas_1 technology with the self-lacing Adapt line of shoes.
If you like courtroom drama, you'll probably have plenty more to gorge yourself on over the next six months. You can also dig into the 10,000 word feature about copycats, bootlegs and lawsuits in Sneaker Freaker #46!
Aimé Leon Dore founder and frequent New Balance collaborator Teddy Santis is on a supernova-level hot streak. His brand recently opened a new store in London's Soho district, before which they sold a minority stake to LVMH — the luxury conglomerate that also controls brands like Louis Vuitton and Dior.
And man, the New Balance sneakers. Enough to make even the stiffest pair of Carhartt double-front pants fall into a hype-soaked heap. The bringback of the high-cut 650. More colourways of the ultra-popular 550. A duo of 991s to accompany the opening of the above-mentioned London store. A global release of their 993 'Taupe.' Those drops are bangers in their own right, but nothing has been more impressive than Santis' direct work with New Balance on the MADE in USA line.
Though there are plenty of ALD/NB colabs, Santis' personal partnership with New Balance is more in the vein of the collaborative relationship that Kiko Kostadinov and ASICS enjoy than it is, say, Kanye West's standalone Yeezy line with adidas. Santis has been tasked with bringing a fresh flair to New Balance's premium MADE in USA products, not reinventing the wheel so much as reinvigorating it. So far, he's done just that by giving tasteful makeovers to the 990 series' famed 990v1, 990v2 and 990v3, reinterpreting their famous grey colourways as well as whipping up new 'Rain Cloud,' 'Sea Salt' and 'Macadamia Nut' iterations.
Having a brand trust you to cook up a hot colab is one thing, but having a brand trust you enough to hand you the keys to their in-line products and let you bring your vision to them is a whole other level of trust, one that's (so far, at least) produced stunningly positive results.
Virgil Abloh's tragic passing in November 2021 rocked the world. He was a beloved figure who was both a teacher and a student – many young designers, artists and creators looked up to him, but despite his status at Louis Vuitton and Off-White, he still brought a childlike, pure, enthusiasm and willingness to learn to his projects.
After his passing, nobody knew what would become of those projects. Abloh was famously prolific – one of his most memorable tweets stated 'dreams come true when you don't sleep' – and he had several yet-to-release drops lined up, many of which were with Nike. With the blessing of his wife, Shannon, the releases were given the go-ahead to keep rolling on. Without Virgil to see them through, they hit a little different: the creative mind that conceptualised them had moved on, and they were, in a poignant way, his last tangible gifts to sneaker culture.
Through Off-White, we saw Blazer Lows and a long-delayed Air Force 1 Mid collection. We're also awaiting an Air Force 1 Low that may be released to accompany Abloh's upcoming 'FIGURES OF SPEECH' exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. There was also a beautiful final Louis Vuitton show. However, these projects are dwarfed by what may well be Abloh's pièce de résistance: the Louis Vuitton x Nike Air Force 1 collection.
Made up of 47 styles in total, the collection was a nod to Abloh's melange of inspirations and a fusing of worlds, accompanied by a stunning exhibit in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighbourhood. Saluting Canal Street bootleg culture, Dapper Dan's legendary Harlem atelier, hip-hop's love of sneakers and high fashion and the craftsmanship of Louis Vuitton, the collection's Forces immediately became the most talked-about shoes of the year and served as a final stamp on the fusion of the streets and the runways.
When the partnership between Kobe Bryant's estate and Nike came to an end in April of 2021, legions of loyal Black Mamba fans couldn't help but wonder what would happen next. There was talk that Bryant's estate would launch their own brand, a leak of the Kobe 6 Protro 'Mambacita Sweet 16' that upset Vanessa Bryant and adidas beginning to roll out some of their earliest Kobe retros (under different names of course). A lot was going on, but one thing was in short supply: certainty.
2022 answered those questions. In March, it was announced that his estate would be resuming their partnership with Nike – to the abject delight of his fans – and the Kobe 6 Protro 'Mambacita Sweet 16,' a shoe that had leaked over a year beforehand but never released, finally touched down.
‘Kobe Bryant means so much to so many of us, not just NBA fans but globally beyond the game,’ said Nike CEO John Donahoe after the resumed partnership was officially announced. ‘His impact in growing the sport, particularly encouraging women and young people to pick it up, endures as one of his deepest, lasting legacies. Together with Vanessa, we hope to honour Kobe and Gigi by championing a new generation for many years to come.’
After the partnership was reinvigorated and the 'Mambacita Sweet 16' sold out rapidly, the discussion shifted. The new question at its core was a simple (yet complex) one – how accessible would Kobes be? Many fans, us included, are keen on Bryant's Nikes being made as widely available as possible. Anyone who wants a pair should be able to get a pair. Will Nike oblige? It's a storyline worth watching into the second half of 2022 and beyond.
Crazy for (Salehe) Crocs
Crocs' organic infiltration of sneaker culture has been a sight to behold. Some sneakerheads – usually of the older, stiffer persuasion – are still wrapping their heads around it, but the cushy foam clogs are here to stay. They're not just part of the culture either: in many ways they're leading it, and that's thanks in large part to Salehe Bembury.
Bembury is one of many A-list Crocs collaborative partners (Staple, SZA, Awake and Palace are a few others) but what sets him apart from his counterparts is that the Pollex, his Crocs clog, is a totally reimagined design, not just a new colourway of an existing model. It's tasteful, considered, and unique, and with its thumbprint-inspired design it's quickly become one of 2022's must-have styles.
Yes, Bembury and Crocs dropped their first batch of colabs in December 2021, and yes, those appeared on a special cover of Sneaker Freaker #46. However, their partnership has really taken off in 2022. Bembury's Crocs are everywhere you look on Instagram, and followed up their December drop with another release in May, which sold out instantly as well. Rumour has it that the two partners have more than a half-dozen new colourways on the way this fall, and the Salehe Bembury x Crocs pop-up at Paris Fashion Week was so hyped it shut down an entire Parisian block ... even though it was raining!
When it's all said and done, there's a good chance that the Salehe Bembury x Crocs Pollex Clog will be one of the silhouettes that defines 2022 in sneakers, even though it's not really a sneaker!
Zayonara, Zadeh Kicks
Lawsuits aren't the only legal matter garnering attention in sneakers this year. Bankruptcies are too, and the fall of Zadeh Kicks, a once-booming aftermarket sneaker business, exposed the underbelly of the often-guarded aftermarket world of sneakers.
Founded by former Nike employee Michael Malekzadeh, Zadeh Kicks offered pre-orders on hyped sneakers months in advance. That's not uncommon in the aftermarket business, but what was uncommon was the prices: Zadeh Kicks charged far less than other companies like StockX or GOAT, and let you buy in much greater quantities. Sometimes this meant waiting months for your shoes to get delivered or accepting your bulk order in small batches, but more often than not, Zadeh Kicks customers were getting all the shoes they ordered.
In 2022, that changed.
The company, which had long been loath to offer refunds, started sending out more and more 'store credit' gift cards to its customers whose orders they couldn't fulfil, some of which were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. They then filed for bankruptcy due to an inability to keep up with demand, leaving these same customers stunned, shoeless and with worthless store credit instead of their cold, hard cash. If you want to read the full story, it can be seen here.
Currently, a court-appointed receiver is managing what's left of the company – and has been tasked with investigating any claims against Malekzadeh made by his former customers. It's unsure if these customers will get their money back, but what is sure is that the greed and excess of the sneaker aftermarket reared its ugly head in a major way.