A pair of prototype Nike Air Yeezy 1 that rapper Kanye West wore to the 2008 Grammys fetched a staggering US$1.8 million (S$2.46 million) at a private sale hosted by auction house Sotheby’s in April. There is a reason for its astronomical price – West is among the most influential sneaker and clothing designers, and the Air Yeezy 1 is his first signature sneaker with Nike.
It is not the first time sneakers have been sold for eye-popping prices. In August last year, a pair of trainers worn by basketball legend Michael Jordan at an exhibition game in 1985 fetched £460,000 (S$860,000) at an online auction.
JoeFreshGoods x New Balance sneaker which launches on September 10 at Dover Street Market Singapore and its e-shop features a colourway inspired by dirt, grass and sky as an ode to the great outdoors.
Sneakers are a huge revenue spinner in the fashion industry. According to market and consumer data specialist Statista, total revenue for the global sneakers market was approximately US$70 billion last year and is expected to hit US$102 billion by 2025. Investment bank Cowen & Co describes sneakers as “an emerging alternative asset class”, one driven in part by multiple digital platforms and insatiable demand from millennials.
Sneaker collecting as a sub-culture started in the United States in the ’80s, fuelled in large part by basketball icon Jordan and his line of Air Jordans as well as the growing popularity of hip-hop. By the ’90s, it had gone global.
Expect demand for the Nike Air Force 1 sneaker collab with Louis Vuitton for Spring 2022 to be off the charts.
It was his love for sneakers that drove Singaporean Richard Xia, 30, to co-found Novelship – a marketplace to buy and sell sneakers – in 2017 with his friend Chris Xue.
He noticed that Singapore was not a prime location for the hottest drops from big players like Nike and Adidas. And sites like eBay charged high international shipping rates. On top of that, enthusiasts also have to grapple with unscrupulous dealers peddling fake goods. This led him to set up Novelship, which helps sneaker lovers navigate the minefield of the resale and secondary market.
Today, Novelship is Asia’s fastest-growing marketplace for authentic sneakers, apparel and collectables. The company employs about 60 people and has five processing centres and a presence in six markets. Its monthly revenue is north of $3 million. “The demand for high-end sneakers is growing in Singapore. The kids of 10 years ago have some money in their pockets now and they are buying what they like,” says Xia, who is chief executive of the company.
Nike Air Jordan 1 Retro High OG “UNC To Chicago”.
Novelship introduced a mobile app in July with a more intuitive interface and a better search experience. The app also has extra features such as “instant delivery”, which allows buyers to store their goods at Novelship’s premises so that they can resell the merchandise more conveniently.
Novelship also has a presence in Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan, but Xia says the surge in demand for hot sneakers is highest in Singapore, contributing to one-third of the company’s annual revenue. This, he believes, is due to the influence of the global hip-hop scene on young Singaporeans.
He says: “When you see your idols like Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Travis Scott not only repping sneakers but also collaborating with huge brands like Nike and Adidas, it makes sense that you would want to buy them. “The sneakers are not only items you can use to express your individuality and fashion sense, but you also have a connection with the history and story behind them.”
The K-pop wave sweeping through the world has also fuelled demand. Xia says: “Hip-hop has also manifested itself in the K-pop scene. You see stars like G-Dragon and BTS tapping this sneaker culture and releasing collaborations of their own.”
Ahead, we get up close with some avid sneakerheads from Singapore.