By Lucy Thorpe
At the end of 2020, Titi Finlay, social media manager at Laced and Nike Air Max 90 guest-designer, posted a tile on Instagram to her 7,700 followers with a simple message: “We don’t want women’s exclusives. We want inclusive sizing.” In just over 24 hours, the post had been shared over 2,000 times.
Women have fought long and hard to be treated equally in the sneaker industry but being a female sneaker fan continues to be a bittersweet experience. Lack of inclusive sizing is still too common and women’s-exclusive models, like the recent Dunk Disrupt, often miss the mark and are chunky, slimmed down, or fashion-ized versions of a great sneaker that women really just wanted in their own size.
Unsurprisingly, women are fed up, but there is a positive upshot: the female sneaker community is stronger than ever. From designers to collectors, marketers to editors, female sneaker fans are uniting over their shared frustration and taking things into their own hands.
Helen Kirkum, one of the most-watched rising sneaker designers, has worked in the sneaker industry for four years and has witnessed it evolve. “Two amazing things are happening at the moment,” she points out. “One is that many women within the industry are supporting their peers, shouting each other out, which builds an incredibly strong community. Secondly, you can feel that this same network is aware that they have a responsibility to share the knowledge with the younger generation through mentorships, teaching, and inspiration. Showing that we believe that there are so many diverse and powerful female voices to be heard, that we respect and admire each other’s work, and that we want to share our experience with a younger generation is a winning combination.”
As Kirkum notes, there is a growing sense of solidarity among the community at a time when action has never felt so urgent. Women are empowering women.
Copenhagen’s women’s sneaker boutique NAKED donated $5,000 to the Malala fund, a non-profit organization that envisions “a world where every girl can learn and lead,” to celebrate the release of the first women’s Dunk High colorway.
Across the community, there has been a surge in women-led platforms, podcasts, and feeds dedicated to connecting and amplifying women’s voices in sneaker culture. Steph Hulbert-Thomas, global lifestyle marketing manager for On, started _Womeninsneakers, a podcast to celebrate women in the sneaker industry. She has spoken to an impressive lineup of women including Kirkum, Titi Finlay, Sneaker Freaker’s managing editor Audrey Bugeja, and Footpatrol creative lead Asheeba Charles.
“I started it for several reasons: underrepresentation, sexism, and lack of recognition — not just in my work, but for the amazing women I’ve had the pleasure of working with. _Womeninsneakers was born as a way to give teams behind the scenes a voice,” Hulbert-Thomas explains.