Nike: From everyday object to high-end collectible: is the luxury sneaker bubble about to burst? | Culture

The Air Jordan Off-White, from Nike, are highly sought-after sneakers.Edward Berthelot (Getty Images)

In early August 2022, the Oregon District Attorney’s Office charged Michael Malekzadeh with orchestrating a scam of over $80 million. It looked like another (surely heavy) pyramid scheme if not for the nature of the fraud: for years, Malekzadeh had been the boss of Zadeh Kicks, a company dedicated to the resale of sneakers, which many bought without knowing that they were taking a bait.

Malekzadeh’s modus operandi was quite rudimentary; what makes his case special is the product he offered, one of the great obsessions of recent times, something for which teenagers have stood in endless queues and for which many today pay are unimaginable: sneakers. At Zadeh Kicks, you paid for a pair of highly sought-after, hard-to-get sneakers, and they arrived quickly. The satisfied customer came back, and that lasted until one fine day he placed a larger order: then the long-awaited shoes never reached their destination. A classic Ponzi scheme. Police caught the scammer and confiscated 60,000 pairs of different limited-edition sneakers from brands like Adidas and Nike. They will be auctioned off in an attempt to compensate the thousands of people affected, but experts have already warned that whatever amount raised will not be enough.

The world of basketball continues to make headlines for a booming business. Recently, Kanye West accused Adidas of copying the styles of Yeezy, the brand on which the rapper has collaborated since 2015 with the German manufacturer and which has transformed the market with its influential designs. It’s a real success story: Yeezy was valued between 3 and 5 billion dollars by UBS Group AG. But now West is threatening to open his own stores without the company. Meanwhile, in Oregon, Nike executives are watching the world go crazy over models designed by another rapper, Travis Scott, and other cult sneakers like the Jordan, the SB, or the stratospheric figures reached by limited editions of the evil- fatal Virgil Abloh shoes. Sneakers were once a common thing, until a group of collectors and wealthy customers decided to change that.

The future may not look so good. Firstly because of saturation, the very cyclical nature of fashion. “It is predicted that by 2030 the resale market for sneakers will reach $30 billion. But what if the perceived value of rare sneakers disappears?” asks Kieran Coyle, of Sole Supplier, l ‘one of the UK’s leading industry experts. Lois Sakany, a journalist for Business Insider magazine, warns of a loss of hype. “A sort of correction is happening in the resale market of sneakers. Hot sneakers aren’t increasing in value like they did a year ago. And there is a marked change in fashion trends – chunky loafers and boots are back,” she said.

Other industry leaders, like YouTuber JumperMan Kris, are predicting lower prices as the recession will mostly hit sneakers, which are already considered luxury items. Because this flourishing market also has an intrinsic problem: it is difficult to control who buys the shoes at their original price and then resells them several times what they paid for. Kieran Coyle warns that the moment big companies attack resale, the market will crash. In the meantime, “unless the big players do something about the resale market, like Nike is doing with the counterfeit market, it will continue to thrive.”

Just a few days ago, Patta, the legendary Amsterdam store, put on sale its white Air Max 1, the fifth model of its collaboration with Nike. As usual, the site crashed, and within minutes dozens of pairs appeared in the usual resale places, costing two or three times the asking price. For sneakerheads (i.e. serious collectors), the end of the agony of resale would be great news, as it would allow much easier access to the most sought-after models. Currently, the most impatient can take advantage of tools like the aforementioned Sole Savy, a paid application that notifies its subscribers of restockings, deadstocks (sneakers that are no longer produced but suddenly reappear somewhere) or unexpected offers. An app, initially designed for fans of the sneaker phenomenon; not for resale mafias.

Because, like any burgeoning trend, the sneaker trend may have reached its peak: bots designed to buy sneakers faster than humans; the frenzy created by each launch; the risk when there are physical lines involved (there have been riots in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles); the frenetic schedule of new releases and the arrival on the market of young people from all over Asia and the Middle East with fresh money and knowledge. A real bubble of sneakers.

For now, sneakers have become, for auction houses like Sotheby’s, categories like wines or Hermès bags: new niches in which to invest. But, for the everyday customer, the industry is practically a nightmare. It’s entirely possible to pick up a limited-edition handbag from a major luxury brand at an approved store, but if you want a pair of Jordan Off-Whites, prepare to suffer, hang on to your wallet and pray you don’t. don’t get scammed.


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