Nike – indeed, most sneaker brands – have had a somewhat uneven history when it comes to women.
Famously named after a Goddess, and built to appeal to men, Nike are almost infamous for being sometimes out of touch with women. Ask any serious female sneakerhead to this day for their main gripes with Nike, and it's usually along the lines of – why are our sneakers all pink and sparkly? 1991 saw a concerted effort from Nike to create a viable women's market, perhaps feeling the pressure from the female audience share Reebok were enjoying thanks to their efforts to design for, and with, women. For the first time ever, they spoke to women, to find out exactly what they wanted from a sportswear brand – and in the early 2000s, created Nike Goddess, an internal team tasked with creating a proper Nike Women's arm, from the clothing and footwear up to the brick and mortar stores and stands where women could experience a new Nike, one that not only listened to them, but wanted to listen. It took a lot of experimentation, successes and failures, but they now have a solid position with women, and definitely understand their female customers better than they used to.
It's worth noting that Nike have endorsed several amazing female athletes over the years, including tennis player Serena Williams, US football player Alex Morgan, and basketball's Diana Taurasi, a woman who made a massive impact on the court, and as a Nike collaborator. Ad campaigns aimed at showing women why sports were specifically beneficial to them definitely helped solidy their position as a serious women's sports brand.
Despite periods of stagnancy here and there in terms of fashion, performance wise Nike has made all the right moves with female athletes. Nike have been upping their game, realising that maybe more women would be sneakerheads if they approached the designs in the same way they would men's. We've got the now classic Thea, a much wider range of colourways and packs specifically for women, and models like the Kyoto and Juvenate being created to cater to the sports women actually partake in, such as yoga. We saw a concerted effort to create packs that offered a wide range of models, both women's and more traditional men's silhouettes, allowing women to pick the shape that suits them best, rather than being tied to what Nike dictates a women's shoe should be. It was awesome, for example, to see the Huarache Light included in the women's 2015 Safari pack, as well as the more usual Air Huaraches, Theas and Air Maxes. A promise to bring more Grade School sizes in Nike's Retro releases also made a big difference. The women's sneaker market is notoriously difficult anyway – mixing female fashion with performance often is, given the more fickle nature of the beast. They're definitely doing something right though – we're starting to see men pining after the women's colourways, a definite change of pace. They opened their first European women's only Nike store, complete with NikeiD consultancy service, here in the UK. They've also begun actively talking to female sneakerheads as well as athletes, including a 2015 project to improve Jordan brand for women specifically. We look forward to seeing where Nike take women of all kinds in the future.