Skepta’s new Air Max: why grime and R&B stars can’t wait to sign up with Nike

Rihanna, Drake and Skepta have all struck deals with footwear giants such as Nike and Manolo Blahnik. How is it that corporate sponsorship is more credible – and lucrative – than a record deal?

Skepta has inked a deal with Nike.
Grime star Skepta has signed a deal with Nike. Photograph: Roger Kisby/Getty Images

“You will get kidnapped in those boots!” warns Rihanna in the press release for her new collaboration with Manolo Blahnik, a burlesque, thigh-high denim boot called the “9 to 5”.

It might look like a prop from a Jackie Collins bonkbuster about a cowgirl who moves to the Big Smoke, but it also makes total business sense. Rihanna’s a veteran of the fashion collaboration – River Island and her own Fenty line –and it works for the company, too: Manolo Blahnik is probably hoping to connect with an audience that doesn’t remember who Carrie Bradshaw was.

Jeans genie … Rihanna’s Manolo Blahnik denim boots
Jean genius … Rihanna’s Manolo Blahnik denim boots

That equation: stylish R&B star plus brand is an all-important one in the competitive world of sportswear. Thirty years since Run DMC’s single My Adidasled them to make a deal with that brand, “sneakernomics” are still very much at play. Last year Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Pusha T all did footwear collaborations, while Skepta has announced he is to release a new Air Max in collaboration with Nike.

The result – the Air Max BW – has an eye on utility chic and streetwear noir. It is also indicative of how sophisticated these collaborations have become; Air Max are seen as a vital element of the grime uniform, and the timing feels well stage-managed, chiming with Drake signing to JME’s Boy Know Better label and grime’s symbolic break into the American market.

Skepta debuted his Air Max BW’s on his Instagram.
Skepta debuted his Air Max BW’s on Instagram. Photograph: Instagram

“Brands recognise that R&B acts are cool, and they are willing to pay for their influence on kids,” says Hattie Collins, features director at i-D magazine. For the musicians there’s no ideological crisis – they are not bound by the Generation X ideology of refusing to sell out. Instead, these sneaker collaborations are viewed as part of the same trajectory as their musical careers. The narrative, of the black, working-class kid succeeding against the odds, is the same.

“The culture is not to just succeed but to attain Dr Dre levels,” says Collins. “Anyone can be a millionaire – but how do you get to be a billionaire?” With record sales slipping, these collaborations are even more important. “They a pay better than record companies, and ask for less. What’s not to love?”

[Source:- Gurdian]