Top 3 +/- | Designing Footwear for Celebrities vs Athletes

As Nike, Adidas, Reebok and now Puma duel to deliver us incredibly innovative and stylish footwear, it’s interesting to see how each brand is starting to separate themselves by who they chose to endorse. Nike is opting to stick with the athlete endorsement route, stating that they want to concentrate on creating functional innovations. Adidas, Reebok & Puma have however opted to go all in on endorsing celebrities. With Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, Kanye, Pharrell, Big Sean, Pusha-T, Rita Ora & Justin Beiber inking lucrative deals.

Is this a good strategic move? Financially I imagine it will be, and I actually think it could also be be pretty good for pushing design forward if handled correctly.

These are the top 3 positives & negatives of designing footwear for celebrities vs athletes.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, & The Miami Heat celebrate NBA Championship at STORY Night Club

1. Seasonal vs Non-seasonal


Celebrities, unlike athletes, don’t have seasons (except Kanye of course). Non-seasonal means constant spotlight and constant media coverage. Which means constant demand. Which means constant $$$.


Non-seasonal can also get really annoying. There’s nothing like an over saturated product that’s constantly in the lime light to really get on your tits. Think of your mate that constantly plays that one song on repeat, all day, everyday, or Kevin Hart when he’s promoting a movie.

Anticipation of a new product (though too drawn out sometimes) can be what makes it so special in the first place. During the off-season you know your favorite brands are feverously working on creating the next signature model ready for the start of next season. It’s rhythmic, so you know when to expect new drops. With celebrities however, it doesn’t work quite the same and often brands will seriously stretch the sh*t out of a release.


2. Fashion Styling vs Technical Innovation


Innovation is innovation, even when it’s just effects aesthetics. We all know the general consumer is not really big into taking fashion risks. With that comes a lot of shoes that look very similar. It stagnates the market and creates brands that are unwilling to spend big money to create something different with the risk of no-one actually buying them. However, with celebrity backed designs we may be able to see a push in more daring aesthetics. As fickle as consumers can be, if their beloved celeb is wearing something, no matter how wild, chances are they’ll be more inclined to give it a chance. Think Jeremy Scott, love him or hate him, at least he’s got people taking risks. Of course, not all the design features need to be quite as extravagant as his.

Honestly, outside most of what Nike/Adi’s been up to lately, a lot of ‘technical’ advances from most brands these days are mostly BS. They’re completely marketing tools. How many ways can there possibly be to cushion your foot? Of course, things like Flyknit/Primeknit, HF Welding and the potential of 3D printing are game changers. More often then not however, it’s really more of an aesthetic innovation dressed up as a functional one. The difference between the two here isn’t as dramatic as they’d like you to believe a lot of the time.


Of course, this could just lead to a bunch of signature styles created in ‘special’ celebrity exclusive colour ways. Which wouldn’t advance footwear design at all and essentially flood the market with more of the same sameness.


3. Performing vs Performance


Ultimately, when designing for an athlete, performance comes first, aesthetics second. If they don’t perform, it’s not a good look (Case and point, the LeBron 11 fiasco…if it can happen to Nike, it can happen to anyone). The development of athletic footwear is of course almost always a lot more intensive then casual footwear. There’s not too much to risk other than perhaps an occasional sprained ankle while doing some wildly athletic stage jump or dash from the paparazzi that celebs will really have to worry about. Essentially you’re going to have to worry a lot more about the aesthetics than the function, which makes your life somewhat easier. That can’t be said about athletic footwear.


Designing for anyone means catering to their particular tastes and ego, but none will need catering to more then certain diva’ish celebrities. Trying to satisfy their high expectations may be tricky and end up costing more than the usual cost of developing an athletic shoe. Besides, who work with someone that’s a total penis? Of course not all celebs are like that, and I’m more than certain that occasionally there are diva athletes as well.



Mr. Bailey

Product Designer + Footwear Architect | Founder of @ConceptKicks |

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