The year 2016 is almost a wrap, and looking back, a few brands stick out as those that dominated fashion. They made—and sold—the products everyone wanted. They were the ones people couldn’t stop talking about. They were right at the center of culture and how we dress today.
Gucci and Vetements were certainly in this camp. But the brand that did it on the biggest scale—in a way that was as smart as it was lucrative—was Adidas. That it’s technically a sports brand and not chiefly a fashion brand hardly matters when sports and style have become inseparable and streetwear is blending with high fashion. Adidas was everywhere.
Its classic styles, such as the Stan Smith, Sambas, and especially the Superstar, helped drive the big swing toward casual shoes and away from performance that dominated the sneaker business in 2016. Last year, the German label sold 15 million pairs of the Superstar alone, and this year that momentum continued, letting the company reclaim the number two spot in US sport footwear and apparel from Under Armour. It benefited from the continued success of athleisure, which has remained a major force shaping clothing today, and helped fuel it through its popularity.
Adidas was also behind some of the biggest new sneakers of 2016. People of course lined up for the Yeezy line it produced with Kanye West. But its new style, the NMD, was equally buzzed about. (Together, those styles accounted for most of the highly sought sneakers at Sneaker Con, the rapidly growing convention billed as “the greatest sneaker show on earth.”) These limited-run shoes built up its brand prestige while leaving fans wanting more, and Adidas added to its cred through collaborations with streetwear godfathers A Bathing Ape and London-based skate brand Palace, as well as designers Raf Simons and Rick Owens.
Through the first nine months of 2016 (pdf), sales were up 17.5%, and that’s despite the closure of major sports chains, such as Sports Authority, that removed sales channels. For the first time in years, Adidas is regaining market share in the US as it outperforms rivals Nike and Under Armour.
Innovation wasn’t lacking either. The brand opened an experiential new retail store in New York, debuted a sneaker made of synthetic spider silk, and sold its first 3D-printed shoes.
Adidas may not be strictly a fashion label, but it played a major role in defining what people wore—and what was cool—in 2016.