Gender equality can be approached from so many different angles. And the ladies (and gent) from she.lace have reminded me yet again that there is no end to the potential ways that we can work towards empowering women. Sneaker devotees Jamila Husbands, Kiah Welsh, and Travis Pereira launched shelace.com earlier this year as an online platform to promote women’s vital and equally-important role in the sneaker industry and market. To be precise, their tagline reads: “Showing the world women love sneakers, one lace at a time.”
And even at a time of peak athleisure, the disparity between women’s and men’s place in sneaker culture still stands out. The marketing campaigns, retail offerings, and the industry itself still tend to be predominantly male. Here, we discuss their work with she.lace, what inspired them to start the blog, and of course, which sneaker-sporting style icons they look up to.
What is she.lace all about?
Jamila: It’s a social initiative with the main mission of empowering women through their sneakers. We want to change the status quo and empower ladies of all ages to believe that their dreams are attainable no matter what! she.lace is the platform in which we highlight women of various backgrounds chasing their dreams and goals while wearing dope kicks.
Kiah: she.lace is an initiative to use sneakers as a conduit for women’s empowerment. The reason being… sneakers are traditionally associated with men and masculinity. With our blog, we’re carving out a space for women in a sphere that has been restrictive for so long. We want not only more representation but equal representation. And so, what you get is she.lace converging art (the cool locations we choose to shoot at, all with a story), sneakers, and women’s empowerment.
We try to match our models with a location and/or activity that speaks to what they’re about. We strive to highlight all three of our main pillars: art (culture), sneakers, and women’s empowerment. This is important to us because it allows people to be enticed for multiple reasons. It’s not just about women who are sneaker enthusiasts… it’s about women who are doing great things and feeling empowered while wearing sneakers.
What inspired you to start she.lace?
J: Realizing the lack of representation of women on the shelves of sneaker stores. Back in university, I would go shopping with Travis to multiple sneaker stores and boutiques and get frustrated because I didn’t see myself reflected in these stores. she.lace is our response to that and a way for us to highlight women within the sneaker culture.
K: Whenever I’d walk into a sneaker store, the sneakers available for women were very limited when it came down to special releases and colourways. They were usually simple and pink – and that did not represent me at all. The result? she.lace, showing the world that there are different types of women that love different types of styles and colourways, too! And, that women don’t have to be an afterthought when brands design sneakers.
So she.lace is all about empowering women. Is feminism something that has always been important to you?
J: Yes it has and I don’t think I realized how much until university.
What does feminism mean to you?
J: Feminism to me is about ensuring that there are highly visible, positive representations of women in all fields. Whether it be in the sneaker culture, journalism, trades, or IT work. I want young women to feel like their goals are attainable and that their gender should not be a factor.
K: Feminism to me is all about equality, plain and simple. In [regards] to sneaker culture, women’s sneakers are merely a “third thought” after men and children shoes. Sneaker culture, at it’s core, is out of touch. Women aren’t usually the first thought when people think “sneaker culture,” and we want to change that mentality.
Which sneaker-sporting women do you look to as style icons?
J: [Los Angeles-based designer] Melody Ehsani. I mentioned her in our blog post “History in the Making.” She has designed jewellery, clothing, and sneakers, and strives to empower women of all backgrounds with her work. Her passion for activism is truly inspiring and is something that will be implemented into she.lace.
K: Other than Rihanna who slays in just about everything and anything, Vashtie Kola is someone I look up to as a style icon. She’s not only the first woman to design a Jordan, but she’s also a music director, filmmaker, and DJ, proving that you can achieve and be anything you want, while still looking fly in kicks.
What’s your favourite pair of sneakers or go-to brand?
J: It is hard for me to choose a favourite pair. It depends on my mood! really like the Puma Suedes. They come in a variety of colours. I especially like their Careaux collaboration with female footwear designer Caroll Lynn.
K: I love all sneakers! But, I’m always drawn to Air Max 90s. Those are my faves! They’re classic, simple, and they’re so comfortable!
Do you remember your first pair of sneakers?
J: It would be the Nike Air Griffey Max II in the OG Freshwater colourway. I loved those sneakers!
K: Yes! My first pair of sneakers was a white based K-SWISS sneaker with five baby blue lines on each side. That was the beginning of no end!
Have you noticed any changes in sneaker culture, and particularly women’s inclusion in it, since you started she.lace?
K: Yes! Since starting she.lace, we’ve begun to notice particular women’s inclusion more often than usual because we’re looking for it a lot more. For instance, Nike partnered with the International Girl Crew, a mission to connect creative women on a NikeiD Cortez Classic that shows their shared passions involving travel, culture, and community. They’re definitely highlighting women from all different walks of life, and that’s what we love to see!
What role do you think she.lace has played in changing the game of sneaker culture?
K: Though we launched our blog in April, there’s definitely been women who have reached out, telling us their story of sneaker exclusion. So, from that perspective, we’re starting a dialogue of what needs to change. And, with our blog we’re not only having that conversation but we’re creating content around that.
Have you received any great pieces of career advice you’d like to pass on?
J: Believe in yourself and go after what you want and love to do!
K: If you’re passionate about something, go for it! Don’t let other voices persuade you not to. You know what you love, so do you! Be consistent & work hard. One doesn’t go without the other. And a piece of advice that spans all life journeys: discipline, determination, and dedication are three very important attributes you need…bonus points if you can find the she.lace blog post we quoted that from.
What has been a highlight for you thus far in the she.lace journey?
J: Meeting all of these wonderful ladies and hearing their stories.
K: For me, the highlight has been meeting different women with the same goals. It’s truly amazing how social media works, and how far it can reach! We’re starting to create a global village online, and that is truly amazing!
Ed’s Note: This interview has been edited and condensed.