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Why Customers Gave Madewell’s Reebok Collab Just 2.4 Stars

The online reviews for Madewell‘s limited-edition sneaker collab with Reebok can’t be quite what the partners were hoping for.

The normcore shoe has racked up an average of just 2.4 stars since it dropped, and quickly sold out, on four days before Valentine’s Day.

Some customers aren’t happy with their experience shopping the unisex sneaker reflecting Madewell’s trademark normcore spin on the the Club C Revenge, Reebok’s best-selling silhouette.

Many took issue with how the sneaker was promoted and described.

“I made sure they were listed as womens [sic] shoes because of the sizing. I had the same issue when I received them today they are labeled as men’s sizing,” reviewer Carl0158 wrote in a four-star review. “The women’s version is already sold out and I just had to order a size smaller in the men’s which is still a half size too big in men’s for me. I love the shoes but I am upset over the wrong description. Hopefully these get restocked. I usually wear a women’s 9 and a men’s 7.5. Madewell please fix this and restock!!

More than one shopper blamed the “misleading” description for sending purchasers astray.

“The title of the item should not begin with ‘womens’. So misleading!” Chelseaelyse wrote in a two-star review. “These are men’s sizing, read the description. So disappointed.”

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It isn’t clear if Madewell tweaked the product page after the sneakers dropped to clarify how the shoes are sized. But the details specifying that the sneakers are listed in men’s sizing are buried in fine print that requires users to scroll down “below the fold,” and one reviewer suggests Madewell made the fix in response to customer backlash to the now-restocked shoe.

“As others mentioned, these come in unisex sizes which was not originally listed on the product when I bought them the day they were released,” LindseyLA wrote in a two-star review. “The size chart link is also for women’s sizing. I ordered my usual Reebok 7.5 and they are size EU 40 when I typically wear a 38. Unfortunately they were sold out in size 6 by the time mine arrived so I will have to just return because they are HUGE. I’m extremely disappointed as they are so pretty and feel very comfortable.”

All sizing controversy aside, Joyce Lee, head of design at Madewell, said she and her colleagues are often seen wearing Reebok sneakers, a natural affinity that led the two brands to unite.

“I’m personally drawn to the heritage of their brand and think the C 85 is a true classic,” she said. “We picked it as the focus for this collaboration, creating an exclusive that combines one of their best sellers with a color in our signature neutral palette.”

Madewell app users were given exclusive access to purchase the soft ecru/chalk sneakers before they officially dropped online and in-stores. In development for almost a year, the Women’s Madewell x Reebok Club C 85 sneakers are available now for $80. Madewell declined to comment on why the sneaker is not available via Reebok as well.

The Women’s Madewell x Reebok Club C 85 Courtesy

Madewell made its first foray into the sneaker world in 2019 with a nine-piece collection of unisex skatewear-inspired sneakers designed in-house. Since that offering, the J. Crew Group-owned label has launched its own trainers and court sneakers line. It further expanded its reach to include offerings from brands including VejaNew Balance and On.

Paris Fashion Week recently provided the opportunity for Reebok, in partnership with HP, sneaker designer New Guards Group and luxury brand Botter on a 3D-printed concept shoe designed to resemble a Murex seashell. And in May of last year, Reebok released its first adaptive footwear collection made in collaboration with Zappos Adaptive.

For Reebok, which joined the Authentic Brands Group (ABG) portfolio in March, the acquisition from Adidas led to an “exciting opportunity to reclaim our place in the market and take Reebok to even greater heights,” Reebok president Matt O’Toole said at the time. Since the deal was announced in August 2021, ABG amassed an operating roadmap for the brand with strategic partnerships with JD Sports Fashion and a deal with Foot Locker. Collaborations like this one with Madewell make sense for the brand’s reinvigoration plan, as ABG lined up New Guards Group to helm luxury collabs for Reebok.

But are collaborations—often done to grab consumers’ attention (and wallets) in an over-saturated market—pulling the same weight they used to? A report from retail intelligence firm Edited last year found that the abundance of these partnerships has diluted their appeal, effectiveness and value both now and in the future.

“Though products can accumulate value over time, the evolution of AI and bots allow consumers to buy products faster, speeding up demand for collaborations, which have now reached saturation point,” the report said. “While there will still be interest in new drops, 2022 and beyond will see an increased pressure on brand partnerships to create something special in order to cut through the noise and avoid becoming ‘just another collaboration.’”