SNEAKERS VAULT INTO THE LUXURY MARKET
By Barbara Tunick
In gyms and locker rooms. On city sidewalks and in the subway. In grocery stores and fitting rooms. Restaurants. Boardrooms. The Oscars. And, beginning this month, starring in Heritage Auctions’ Winter Luxury Accessories Spotlight Auction: sneakers. Once allocated to athletes and suburban commuters, sneakers have solidified their rightful place on the runway or perfectly paired with your favorite Birkin.
Indeed, sneakers have transcended their original path and taken a stronghold of the luxury market. According to a recent Cowen Research Equity study, the U.S. sneaker resale market generated $2 billion in 2019 and is expected to top $30 billion globally by 2030.
“Sneakers are the perfect transition for the luxury market,” says Diane D’Amato, Heritage Auctions’ Director of Luxury Accessories, Private Sales. “The February auction is our first dip into the world of sneakers. We’re thrilled to offer both men’s and women’s sneakers in store-fresh condition from a variety of designers, including Balenciaga, Hermès and Dior.”
The Feb. 13 sale offers two pairs of sought-after Dior sneakers: a pair created in collaboration with contemporary artist Daniel Arsham, as well as a high-top pair of the brand’s iconic B23 sneakers in black-and-white Dior Oblique canvas. There is also a pair of Hermès Avantage sneakers in white leather, two pairs of Balenciagas – both in shades of eye-popping pink – and several pairs of sneakers by Gucci and Louis Vuitton.
“This is a really exciting, creative addition for our luxury client,” D’Amato says. “Our clients want the most special, desirable and valuable items. Luxury sneakers are like bags and other accessories – they’re chic, fashionable and exclusive, and because they retain and gain value, they’re very collectible.”
Walter Ramirez, Heritage Auctions’ Consignment Director for Urban & Contemporary Art, has been watching the sneaker craze closely for quite some time. “Sneaker collecting is extremely popular, and that popularity only continues to grow,” he says. “We’ve been offering game-worn and limited-edition sneakers that interest Urban Art collectors for years.”
Though Ramirez acknowledges that an Urban Art client and luxury client may look for different things when it comes to buying sneakers, he notes that some crossover is inevitable: “For instance, my clients will definitely be interested in the Balenciagas, the Daniel Arsham Dior and the Dior Oblique high-tops,” he says.
Ramirez traces the beginning of the sneaker boom to a 2005 riot outside a New York City store after Nike released a very limited number of its SB Pigeon sneakers, a collaboration with urban artist Jeff Staple. The Pigeon riot, covered live on television and on the front page of newspapers, has been credited with helping to catapult sneakers into mainstream culture.
“People began to realize that there was more to sneakers,” Ramirez says. “Sneakers weren’t only popular. They were an investment.” And that’s a fact. A pair of the Staple NYC Pigeon sneakers, which originally cost $200, recently sold online for $38,000.
Ramirez advises collectors to “look for a great collaboration, value and rarity. If you like it, buy it. If it looks cool, buy it,” he says.
“Some people buy sneakers to wear. Others buy them to collect. And some do both,” D’Amato adds. “The most important rule to follow is buy what you love.”
BARBARA TUNICK is a contributor to Intelligent Collector.