CollaBrands: Best Foot Forward

With all the recent hype about non-fungible tokens (NFTs), it seems apropos to look at the larger trend towards collecting fungible items, and how sneakerheads pioneered what has become the hottest fashion category for collaborations. Sneaker collecting involves the acquisition and trading of sneakers as a hobby, with limited editions of shoes made for certain sports, particularly basketball and skateboarding, among the most prized. 

A recent study published in the journal Fashion and Textiles offers insights into the characteristics, motivations, and brand preferences of sneakerheads, from the origins of sneaker collecting dating back to the 1980s. As the custom shoe trend has taken off over the years, many footwear brands have realized that the creativity of shoe collaborations excites consumers, fueling greater demand. Thus, what was once a niche area of focus for collectors has gone mainstream via the growth of jointly branded efforts. The following examples represent some of the latest footwear collaborations, both in sneakers and beyond.

Supreme x Dr. Martens

Image: Courtesy of Supreme

The iconic New York streetwear brand Supreme has been working with Dr. Martens for many years, and this season’s effort is just the latest collab the two have dropped. The Spring / Summer 2021 launch includes three premium iterations of the 5-Eye Shoe, revamping the style with zebra print, brick orange and classic black colorways. 

Dr. Martens x Keith Haring

Image: Courtesy of Dr. Martens

Earlier this year Dr. Martens also released a footwear collaboration with the estate of artist Keith Haring, in which the footwear can be likened to a blank canvas waiting for an artist’s brush (or spray paint), an apparent nod to the custom sneaker trend. This resulting collection includes the 1460 boot and two different 1461 Oxfords, and follows another artist partnership by Dr. Martens and the estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat from July 2020. 

Adidas and Lego Tie Up Another Shoe Deal

Image: Courtesy of Adidas

In October 2020, Adidas and Lego Group announced a creative partnership, and now we are seeing the results. The newly released ZX 8000 Bricks collection brings Lego’s aesthetics Adidas’ low-top with a collection of six sneakers in the primary Lego colors of red, green, yellow, blue, black, and gray. Adidas also announced the release of a Lego-enabled version of its high-end Ultraboost DNA shoe that allows wearers to customize the brand’s signature three stripes with their choice of Lego pieces. 

Kids at Play: Native Shoes x Crayola

Image: Courtesy of Native Shoes

The kid-friendly brand Native Shoes has become hugely popular for its lightweight, easy-to-clean footwear made from EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), a rubbery and water-repellent material. Just in time for summer, it partnered with another beloved children’s brand with Crayola, to cover 11 styles for both kids and adults in either crayon scribbles or colorblock designs.   

Adidas Originals x Star Wars

Image: Courtesy of Adidas

On May 4 (aka “Star Wars Day”) Adidas Originals revealed the latest sustainable take on its Stan Smith shoe as part of the brand’s larger initiative to end plastic waste. The shoe’s design is inspired by Yoda from the Star Wars universe and features embossed quotes and graphic tongue and heel tabs.

Building on its collection of Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars characters, the new iteration of the sustainable Stan Smith Forever galactic model features an eco-friendly upper composed of a series of recycled material technology. The custom design reimagines the footwear with Jedi master Yoda and tennis player Stan Smith-inspired graphics on the tongue. The sneaker also has a recycled rubber outsole and features Yoda’s words of wisdom, “Do or do not. There is no try,” alongside the figure’s face on the heel tabs.

 Hush Puppies x Loud Lacquer

Image: Courtesy of Hush Puppies

Casual shoe brand Hush Puppies teamed up with nail polish brand Loud Lacquer for a collection that includes both co-branded shoes and nail polish. The partnership pairs two styles from Hush Puppies’ Brite Jells line of sandals with four new colors from Loud Lacquer, called Brite Shades: Lawn Flamingo (red), Soft Swap (yellow), PHC (Caribbean blue) and Go To (black).

“We loved that jellies were making a comeback, but we wanted to put our ultra-colorful and comfortable Hush Puppies spin on the style,” said Kate Pinkham, general manager and vice president of Hush Puppies. “This Loud Lacquer partnership to launch the Brite Jells and Brite Shades collection has been a great collaboration – they are really optimistic, colorful and fun, just like the Hush Puppies brand. We are excited about the opportunity to introduce new consumers to both like-minded brands.”

Steven Ekstract is Managing Director of Global Licensing Advisors, a consultancy that provides companies with insight and strategic direction to succeed in the $300 billion a year licensing business. Ekstract is the founder and former Publisher of License Global magazine, the leading information source for the consumer licensing business. He can be reached at


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