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What’s Next for Women’s Fashion Sneakers

There’s no doubt that sneakers are a hot commodity in women’s footwear. Sneaker sales are outpacing heels and luxury retailers are investing in shop-in-shops dedicated to female sneakerheads. Meanwhile, recent runway shows will lead you to believe women will be pounding the pavement in ugly trainers and dad sneakers come Fall ’18.

Brands at Sole Commerce in New York City, however, presented collections with on-trend, fashionable sneakers that fit seamlessly with the rest of their smart casual and dress assortments for fall.

For many brands, adding sneakers isn’t about filling a niche for kicks. It’s about offering another casual silhouette to wear with jeans.

“I don’t think retailers are looking at our sneakers as sneakers,” said Seychelles sales rep Claudia Remijio. Rather, Remijio said buyers view Seychelles’ range of sneakers as playful, tomboy styles that can be worn for various occasions.

For Fall ’18, Seychelles is betting on slip-on sneakers with feminine suede ruffle uppers and hybrid silhouettes like penny loafers with sneaker bottoms. Meanwhile, the company’s edgier line, Sey Collection, offers monochromatic sneaker boots with stretchy uppers and trainers with mixed materials.

Fashion sneakers are stronger than ever, according to All Black agent and distributor Marty Rose. “They’re selling because people who like edgy footwear treat sneakers like any other cool shoe,” he said.

In fact, apparel boutiques are showing the most interest. Rose said they are “feeling encouraged” and are filling in the gaps left behind from footwear store closures.

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Slimmer profiles and fashion uppers remain best-sellers for All Black. The brand is also introducing an elevated line of lace-up sneakers and sneaker slides made with printed Italian leather for fall. The sneakers sit alongside pumps and booties made with the same leather.

Nannette Nanette Lepore is pulling elements from its dress collection to jazz up its growing range of sneakers.

“There’s more ways to wear a brand you love,” Patricia Jasmin, national sales manager, said about the addition of sneakers.

Nannette Nanette Lepore introduced a low-top sneaker last spring. The shoe, which retailed for $59, was one of the brand’s biggest sellers. The brand followed up the success of that shoe this spring with sneakers embellished with laser-cuts, metallic uppers and printed outsoles.

For Fall ’18, Jasmin said jogger constructions are picking up steam. Standout styles include a knit sneaker with a crystal-embellished leather band and sneakers with Swiss dot mesh underlays and floral embroidery.

It’s still all about heritage and nostalgia for British sneaker brand Gola. Company president Steven Weinreb said retro models that date back to the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s continue to resonate with its global female clientele.

Small updates, like the addition of novelty fabrics like velvet or Liberty’s ditsy florals, refresh the collection season to season. Gola’s classic Coaster silhouette with rainbow details speak to consumers seeking true retro designs, but Weinreb reported that the back-to-basics Mark Cox trainer from 1975 is gangbusters at the moment. The plimsoll-inspired tennis shoe features an off-white upper with contrasting pops of vintage blue, dark green or deep red.

“That’s the beauty of a simple shoe,” Weinreb said. “It can resonate for decades, but it’s not easy to design a simple shoe.”

It took one successful style, the Scout, for sandal brand Dr. Scholl’s to invest deeper into the casual sneaker category. The double gore slip-on set the foundation for many more silhouettes, including sneakers with higher sidewalls and slip-ons with trendy details like ruffled top lines, knotted bows and pointed toes.

For Fall ’18, the brand is exploring metallic uppers with subtle camouflage prints, knit sneakers with leather trims and sneaker boot with padded goring. In fact, sneakers made up most of Dr. Scholl’s assortment at Sole Commerce.

Likewise, traditional sandal brand Jack Rogers is dabbling in sneakers, too. The brand introduced casual canvas sneakers two years ago and has expanded into water-resistant suede and canvas kicks for Spring ’18, followed by sparkle, tweed and some flannel plaids for Fall ’18. Sneakers retail for $55-$70.

Jack Rogers account executive Michael Burton said the brand is mindful of incorporating signature brand details like whip-stitching trims and leather rondelles into the sneaker range. As a result, the collection appeals to its core sandal clientele and new customers.

Now that retailers and consumers are acclimated to sporty outsoles and unisex silhouettes, it may be a good time to introduce new shapes and constructions.

Just look at the trajectory of All Black’s Fall ’18 assortment. The boutique brand’s sneaker evolution began a couple of seasons ago with single sole slip-on in novelty fabrics like denim. The brand’s casual sneaker range now spans metallic slip-ons with zipper embellishment, stretchy sneaker boots and joggers made with metallic uppers and floral flourishes.

For fall, Rose said the same retailers that are ordering sneakers are now also gravitating to man-tailored shapes with deceptively lightweight tread soles. Plaid and shearling loafers, tweed and metallic monk straps and black combat boots are among some of the favorites.

The more aggressive looks balance the wider bottom silhouettes happening in women’s wear, while diversifying retailers’ casual footwear assortment.

And then there is sneakers’ even more laidback cousin—the sport slide. From Keds’ new range of logo-driven slides, to BC Footwear’s translucent uppers, nearly every brand offers their version of the elevated flip-flop.

Dr. Scholl’s taps into the trend this spring with a creative, on-brand solution, the OG Poolslide sandal. Modeled after the heritage brand’s iconic exercise sandal, the playful sandal marries a neoprene upper with an oversized signature buck with a contoured EVA footbed. The slide is offered in retro colorway like cactus, periwinkle and orange.