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Is platform truly the only option to create womens sneakers?

New Balance's latest drop identifies a common situation

Is platform truly the only option to create womens sneakers? New Balance's latest drop identifies a common situation

The world of streetwear has always been seen as a purely masculine space, a so-called boys club, where feminine designs and sizes were originally hard to find, due to a question of the cultural origin of the pivotal garments of the uniform. Now that this universe is evolving, changing hype and drop mechanisms and moving into the Metaverse this status quo has changed especially since the pandemic. "More than one-third of StockX users are female (2022) and the growth of female users continues to outpace that of male users on StockX (2020 vs. 2021)," according to the resell platform's Big Facts Report: Brands Making Moves for categories such as accessories and apparel, a figure that would have been totally unexpected in 2018 and demonstrates a sea change. When, however, yet another launch emerges of a reimagining of a great classic such as the New Balance 574 in a women's key, reality comes knocking overwhelmingly back at the door. Despite the brand's claims about "archival research allowing the shoe to move forward" after "inspiration from the luxury collaboration with Miu Miu," we see that the only difference from the iconic men's model is the addition of a platform in the 574+. This shows that the platform is still the only creative option for women's models, and that the exploration of footwear design has yet to reach alternatives with commercial adherence to communicate to a female audience. 

Continuing to apply an afterthought platform to iconic models that are already well established in the market cannot be the only way to come up with a cutting-edge sneaker. If brands Nike, Puma, Ivy Park, and now even New Balance use the platform ploy to reach a female audience, especially after the success of the 550 and 530, it means that there is still no room for creativity in the footwear industry.  The industry stops at interpreting the physical need to "gain inches" and give support with women's footwear, instead of investigating the relationship between materials and forms, as is happening and has always happened in the male sphere of the same product category. To prove that the platform is the easy solution to a complex problem, one only has to think of the Puma x Dua Lipa collections with the Mayze model or the Air Jordan 1 Elevate Low, which along the lines of the success of the men's Air Jordans but especially the Nike Dunk decided to incorporate those extra centimeters to the sole giving it a rounded look, and therefore immediately "cute" and more palatable to the new female target. The problem is that women who love sneakers are not necessarily looking for the functionality of the heel, but they are looking for structure, design, research, quality materials, and above all, some creative ingenuity. The work of creatives such as Melody Ehsani, the first creative director of Footlocker Global, has made it clear that in order to have influence in the women's market, it takes more than just design; it takes an empowering message that can pierce the barrier between culture and commercial potential to make a pair of shoes a tool for self-determination instead of yet another pair of collectible sneakers. 

Whether it was all the fault of the success of Alexander McQueen's tastefully dubious platform sneakers that in 2014, with their rounded shape and 2 inches of platfom-and an uncanny resemblance to iconic models such as the Stan Smiths-showed even girls less interested in the world of streetwear that one could ditch the heel for a variant consistent with the golden age of hype and streetstyle breaking through in luxury? Certainly there is a good deal of accountability, but the design also made the visionary designer's brand find a strong market drop after the streetwear trend shifted to gorpcore and in luxury took on a new face, the market looking more and more transformed than how brands knew it when they first started investing in sneakers. Welcoming female shoe designers into the design departments who have the sensibility to interpret needs in an innovative way and convert them into practical proposals resulting in technically and aesthetically interesting products could be the solution, but it would mean stepping out of the comfort zone of the solution that gets everyone to agree, especially the mainstream sneaker audience today, which has a higher purchasing power than sneaker enthusiasts because they are precisely in the majority.