Footwear News has revealed the big winners of its highly coveted FN Achievement Awards (FNAAs), the industry’s most-anticipated event of the year.
At the 37th annual awards ceremony, to be held Nov. 29 in New York, brilliant entrepreneurs Sam and Libby Edelman will be recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award, an honor that has previously been bestowed on designers and executives including Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Bruce Nordstrom and Vince Camuto.
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In addition, FN will also highlight the major success stories of 2023, including the leaders and companies that set the bar higher for financial and philanthropic progress, and the creators who won us over with their imaginative designs.
“The FNAAs are the industry’s highest honor and they acknowledge the most important accomplishments of the year. Despite a very challenging 2023, this year’s class of winners reflects incredible innovation, design prowess and business acumen,” said Michael Atmore, Editorial Director of FN and Chief Brand Officer of Fairchild Media Group. “Our Lifetime Achievement winners and Hall of Fame inductees are shining examples of highly impactful careers. We are honored to celebrate each of the winners for showing us what success looks like.”
Each year, the FNAAs — often called the “Shoe Oscars” — celebrate footwear’s influential style stars, best brand stories, ardent philanthropists, emerging talents and industry veterans.
Below is a list of the 2023 award recipients. Stay tuned for more FNAA winners, including the Icon Award honoree, which will be announced in the coming weeks.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Sam & Libby Edelman
For more than 30 years, Sam and Libby Edelman have been footwear’s power couple, working together to build some of the biggest brands in the women’s business. First, their Sam & Libby label became an icon of the 1980s and ’90s, selling a staggering 7 million pairs of its bow ballet flat. And more recently, their Sam Edelman brand remains a global powerhouse in contemporary fashion.
Icon Award: Jessica Simpson
Jessica Simpson has defied the odds and become one of fashion’s longest-running success stories. Her special blend of on-trend, accessible style has resonated with consumers of all ages since she founded her eponymous brand with mom Tina in 2005. And after taking back ownership of the business last year, Simpson’s power position is forever cemented.
Person of the Year: Michael Greenberg
As co-founder and president of Skechers USA Inc., Michael Greenberg presides over a company dominating on multiple fronts, with quarterly sales records, new ventures like pickleball, soccer and basketball, and buzzy deals with Snoop Dogg, Doja Cat, Martha Stewart and more. But even more impressive is Greenberg’s many charitable commitments, including the 15-year-old Pier to Pier Friendship Walk.
Company of the Year: Authentic Brands Group
The fashion industry’s busiest dealmaker was back at it again in 2023. Authentic Brands Group landed multiple acquisitions in the footwear space this year, including Hunter and Rockport Group. And after closing its purchase of Boardriders in September (which includes Quiksilver, Roxy, DC Shoes and others), the company is now worth $29 billion.
Designer of the Year: Gherardo Felloni
Roger Vivier creative director Gherardo Felloni has brought high-wattage glamour and a fresh perspective to the storied brand since he joined in 2018. But the designer fully hit his stride this year, introducing a couture-inspired collection for fall ’23 and debuting actual bespoke handbags at Paris Couture in July. Felloni has also deftly combed the vast Vivier archives to revive and reimagine vintage styles for today’s tastes.
Shoe of the Year: Adidas Samba
Nearly 75 years after Adidas debuted the Samba, the sneaker is once again having a moment. Although built for the soccer pitch, the silhouette has found new life among the style conscious, who’ve discovered it on TikTok or the feet of their favorite celebrity. And attention-grabbing collaborations with the likes of Pharrell Williams, Ronnie Fieg, Wales Bonner, Hello Kitty and others has only added fuel to the fire.
Retailer of the Year: Kith
Kith has been aggressive when it comes to expansion this year. It opened four new outposts in 2023 — in Beverly Hills, Calif., Miami; Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Toronto (marking its entry into Canada) — with at least one more store slated for the coming months. The retailer also continues to defy expectations with its marketing campaigns and steady stream of covetable collaborations. Founder, CEO and creative director Ronnie Fieg has found a unique formula that truly works.
Brand of the Year: Hoka
Hoka is well on its way to being a $2 billion brand, after bringing in more than $420 million in sales in the fiscal first quarter alone. Parent company Deckers Brands credits much of the growth to its category expansion beyond road running and into trail running, hiking, outdoor, lifestyle, kids’ and apparel. But its adoption among fashion influencers and celebrities has helped turn the maximalist running brand into a wardrobe essential.
Style Influencer of the Year: Storm Reid
“Euphoria” and “The Last of Us” star Storm Reid is one of Gen Z’s ultimate trendsetters. The longtime New Balance ambassador tapped into her Atlanta roots this year via her first collab with the brand. “My ultimate dream was to design my own sneaker one day,” she told FN this summer.
Collection of the Year: Salehe Bembury x Crocs
Designer Salehe Bembury brought a weird and wondrously organic vibe to Crocs’ EVA clogs and slides with the Pollex Pod collection. And fans have clearly responded: Each release has sold out within a few hours, and many go for high premiums on the resale market. The success has been so compelling that the two parties renewed their partnership in April for another two years.
Collaboration of the Year: Jae Tips x Saucony Grid Azura 2000 “Remember Who Fronted”
Jae Tips — a rapper turned collaborator from the Bronx, N.Y. — delivered a fresh take on the Saucony Grid Azura 2000 this year: a mixed-media tour de force dubbed “Remember Who Fronted” that garnered immediate raves from the highly discerning sneaker audience. The result of Jae Tips’ work is one of Saucony’s most daring collaborations to date. And it marks the debut of a new design talent to watch.
Launch of the Year: Brandon Blackwood
The rising designer made his footwear debut in February — at a defining moment for New York-based Blackwood, who has captivated the fashion world with his luxury handbags since launching the business in 2015. His designs have been worn by Kim Kardashian, Lupita Nyong’o, Saweetie, Michelle Obama, Olivia Rodrigo, Cardi B, Doja Cat, Tessa Thompson, Winnie Harlow and more. Beyoncé wore a head-to-toe Blackwood look on stage in May, during her sellout global tour.
Social Impact Award: Zappos
As one of the pioneers in the adaptive category, Zappos has championed inclusive fashion for people with disabilities since 2017, driving awareness and innovation in the space through its Adaptive shopping platform and multi-year partnership with Runway of Dreams. Additionally, through its Zappos for Good customer giveback program, the company also provides vital support to nonprofits such as Soles4Souls and the Kids in Need Foundation.
Sustainability Leadership Award: Veja
Since its inception in 2005, Veja has been steadfast about minimizing waste and supporting the circular economy, as it creates highly coveted lifestyle and performance shoes. Its dual focuses have garnered the adoration of the fashion elite, as well as like-minded partners such as Reformation, with whom it launched a buzzy collaboration this year.
Emerging Talent Award: Ancuta Sarca
After studying ready-to-wear design in her native Romania, Ancuta Sarca moved to London, where she worked at womenswear brands such as Ashish and Meadham Kirchoff. The designer launched her brand at London Fashion Week in 2019 and quickly attracted attention with her upcycled heels made from deadstock sneakers. Retailers such as Browns, Ssense, Farfetch are among her key partners, while her fans include Rihanna, Bella Hadid, Karlie Kloss and Cher.
Hall of Fame: Howard White
Jordan Brand vice president Howard White is the longest-tenured Black executive at Nike Inc., having joined the company in 1978 as a field rep. In that role, he helped recruit NBA legend Michael Jordan to the company and has been instrumental in the development and success of the basketball imprint, while also garnering a reputation as one of the most respected men in sneakers. MJ himself lobbied for Howard to be included as a character in this year’s “Air” film, cementing his place in basketball history.
Hall of Fame: Tracy Margolies
Tracy Margolies can count many accomplishments during her more than 20-year career at both Saks and Bergdorf Goodman. During her first chapter at Saks, she spearheaded the ambitious rollout of 10022-SHOE, the shoe salon with its own Zip code. More recently, she played an instrumental role in the grand renovation of the Saks Fifth Avenue New York flagship, unveiled in 2019, and has championed diverse, next-gen talent through the New Wave at Saks designer accelerator program. Through it all, her first love has always been shoes.
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