Inside Makeway: North America’s First Women’s Dedicated Sneaker Store
Women’s agency to carve out their own space in the sneakersphere is stronger than ever – and all around the globe there are so many individuals who are doing this in their own right. To celebrate International Women’s Month this year, we’ve addressed this through the theme: how are women taking control of their narrative in 2023? Among the leaders is Canada’s Abby Albino and Shelby Weaver, co-founders of Makeway: North America’s very first and only women’s dedicated sneaker store. Check out our conversation below.
Makeway opened its doors during one of the most volatile times in recent history. How do you feel this has shaped Makeway?
Opening Makeway in the thick of the pandemic allowed us to focus on one area of the business at a time. For example, because Toronto was under lockdown for quite a while, we were able to focus and develop our digital and social business first and then once the city opened back up we were able to focus on our in-person business. This timing allowed us to have a phased approach to opening which ultimately gave us the opportunity to scale the business slowly and intentionally.
Opening during the pandemic also taught our business and team to be incredibly adaptable, resourceful, and resilient in the face of challenges. Thankfully as a team of women, we had plenty of experience being adaptable, resourceful and resilient.
Makeway is North America's first and only women’s sneaker store for women and is completely run and funded by women – at what point did you both realise this was the path you needed to be on?
As Canadian women, Shelby and I have had a love/hate relationship with sneakers. We grew up loving them but hated the process of actually purchasing them as securing a pair of quickstrike or colab sneakers was met with way too many barriers – not being available in our size, increased costs due to import duties, bullying/harassment from males in raffle lines, Canada not receiving allocations at all, or resellers buying them all up and inflating the cost.
We knew there was an opportunity to put women first and to try to solve these pain points of being a woman sneaker lover so that's what we set out to do. Initially, Shelby had come to me with the idea of a woman-focused sneaker shop and right away I was in.
You’re both among the leading women who have taken control of their narrative in the sneaker industry. Please talk about what this means to you.
It means the world to us. We truly love our business and our community and to see brands and our community consistently support and show up for us is incredibly rewarding. We always say, ’we might be the first but we certainly don't want to be the last’. Hopefully, Makeway proves that if women aren't invited to the table, they can and will build their own.
Women’s dedicated sneaker stores give us a much-needed platform and sense of community. For those new to the subject: why is it important that women have dedicated stores, both physical and online?
It's important for women to have dedicated spaces both physical and online because the female shopping experience is more complex. We know firsthand some of the challenges of being a female consumer and being able to fix those by creating a space both online and in person where women feel seen, heard, and taken care of is really important.
As the decision-makers on buying and curating product, being able to understand what different women want is also something that sets us apart. Many sneaker stores make the mistake of thinking all women want the same thing but we know that isn't true at all. Our needs and wants are not identical so we ensure to factor that in for all our decisions.
In relation to sneakers and streetwear, do you feel we are moving into the strongest era yet when it comes to women taking the reins and driving the culture on their own terms.
Absolutely, we are seeing more and more women working at various brands and we're seeing more and more women designers/celebrities collaborate with brands. Women are starting to take up space and it's great to see the industry seriously pay attention to such a huge and rapidly growing, share of the market.
Looking forward, how are you looking to keep evolving this space?
Physically growing is the next step in our evolution. We've grown so much so quickly and we are quickly outgrowing our current shop. Having a bigger space will also allow us to engage with our community more, do more programming, and ultimately have more space to celebrate women.
To visit Makeway’s online store now, head here.