What is she.lace? Well, we believe this question is best answered by explaining WHO she.lace is.
We’re three sneaker-enthused visionaries who have the far-fetched idea to combine the things we love and represent into one mission: sneaker culture, art and women’s empowerment. Two journalists and an educator… We want to share different stories, and teach different lessons. Consider it an occupational habit but whenever we hear “why?”, we respond “why not?”
It’s just consumerism, why should it be considered a reflection of greater societal trends of exclusion?
Why should it matter if women don’t have the same options and availability of sneakers?
Why the love of sneakers as a platform for women’s empowerment?
For as long as she can remember Jamila has had a love for sneakers. Unfortunately, for the same amount of time she’s been disappointed (not to mention frustrated) with the limitations of experiencing that love. If it hasn’t been a dismal selection to choose from, it’s been a poor availability in sizes and overall quantity. Right about now you may be thinking: “Women sneakers are coming out in droves, and they get a lot of exclusive kicks.” Perhaps, this is increasingly the case. BUT, are the amount of women releases on par with men’s? If you answered “no” then we still have an issue. As far as Jamila’s concerned, this is why:
This could, and should, be understood as a microcosm for an all too common outlook of women’s participation in popular culture. Far too often, traditionally male-dominated spaces exclude ladies in subtle ways that go unnoticed or unchallenged for the most part. Jamila has always been that person who challenges taken-for-granted norms.
We all love to celebrate images that we feel are accurate reflections of ourselves. Growing up (sticking to the theme of traditionally male-dominated spaces) Jamila had a strong appreciation for two hip hop artists in particular: Foxy Brown and Eve. To be fair Broken Silence was a phenomenal album (some might say classic) that reminded hip hop fans why the feisty Brooklynite rapper was one of the best in the game, male or female. But Jamila’s affinity for “ill Na Na” went beyond her raunchy lyrics and tough demeanor. It was her smooth chocolate-like dark complexion that reminded Jamila of what she saw when she looked in the mirror. The fact that Foxy infused her Caribbean culture in her music didn’t hurt either. As for the “Pitbull in a Skirt” a.k.a. Eve, the Ruff Ryders recording artist won Jamila over with more than just her “Don’t take shit” attitude. Ultimately the confidence Eve exuded, while being surrounded by male peers, by demanding her respect as a woman was reason enough. But with the astrological sign of Scorpio, the icing on the cake was when Eve dropped her second album titled Scorpion. These women were successful, confident and respected. Jamila saw herself in these women so this is more than just looking “oh so fly in kicks”… It’s about being able to find equal representation in something she loves.
This Scorpio is getting ready to sting. Sorry, we couldn’t resist that pun .
Kiah remembers sporting her first sneakers in Grade Five. It was a pair of K-Swiss, white with the trademark five baby blue stripes on each side. Though at the time wearing the sneaker made her feel badass, little did she know that this feeling of “badassery” would later grow into a mission to make all women feel empowered in their sneakers. That grade five straight-A student rocking her kicks, has evolved into a she.lace co-founder being “oh so fly” in everything she does. The playground has gone from the elementary schoolyard to the City of Toronto, and far beyond. All the while she still vividly remembers the feeling of confidently strolling in those K-Swiss sneakers. She’s going to make sure all young girls and women have their “K-Swiss” memory to cherish.
For Kiah, any type of sneaker with crazy patterns or a sleek yet clean design is dope. But, for her….it is a “means to an end”. In other words, it’s not so much the sneaker as it is what she.lace is using “the sneaker” to represent that truly satisfies Kiah: using sneakers as a conduit for women’s empowerment . What intrigues Kiah the most, is learning about the various stories shared by women featured on the blogs . Their stories are interesting and important because they showcase how powerful, insightful and ambitious women can be. After all, strength does come in numbers!
Kiah feels that in sneaker culture, women are often overlooked. Which is why she.lace is so important. It’s encouraging a conversation around women and sneakers, and giving a voice to those doing amazing things. It would only make sense that this co-founder would take delight in showing the world how women love sneakers, one lace at a time.
Sneakerhead, NO! Sneaker collector, YES-NO (he actually WEARS his kicks)! Sneaker enthusiast, YES! Advocate for women’s empowerment, ABSOLUTELY! Seems like Travis satisfies the criteria for a she.lace co-founder. Not to mention, he prides himself on attaching to any initiative that seeks to bring equality and equitability to sneaker culture. So, how did this sneaker loving Toronto native find himself co-creating and enthralled with a mission to carve out space in a traditionally male-centric industry for women to be acknowledged and celebrated? Well, he simply used the keen sense of observation to realize that increasingly women are making very meaningful contributions to the sneakerworld but aren’t getting the reciprocal representation. How you ask? Let’s take a walk down memory lane…
At one point in time, Travis was a “permanent fixture” in many of the sneaker boutiques of Toronto. Yes, in his heyday (when he had more “disposable income” a.k.a. less bills) he was on a first-name basis with many of the sneaker shops…those were the days ahhh! The fact that Travis was an addict for Nike SB Dunks, Reebok Classics, Puma Clydes and Adidas Gazelles (of course the Adidas Superstar 35th Anniversary collections) is besides the point. HERE’S THE POINT…while Travis was at the peak of his sneaker shopping frenzy, his female besties were at their trough. Limitless options: colours, models, brands, styles, materials, AVAILABILITY, ACCESS. Slim pickings: take what you can get and/or find. So, when Travis made his weekly sneaker purchases and left the store(s) with three shoes on average he was glad to be accompanied by his she.lace co-founder Jamila. Not only did she advise him with her pristine eye and phenomenal sense of sneaker style…she would have two free hands to help carry bags because the stores seldom had what she wanted. As much as he enjoyed his sneaker purchases, he dreaded feeling the disappointment that emanated from his friend. Travis’ sneaker purchasing habits have certainly curbed over the years (so he claims), but this has had nothing to do with lack of options.
What’s the result?? A she.lace co-founder that has made it his personal (wo)mandate to ensure there will be a time when he leaves sneaker boutiques with his “oh so fly co-founders”… and these lovely ladies don’t have any free hands to offer for help.