When it comes to fashion, footwear is everything. In particular, sneakers have been a must-have to make a statement with people’s outfit of choice for a long time, no matter gender. Women and men alike have made it chic to pair tennis shoes with formal wear and flowing dresses. They are a style staple.
We have seen brands like Nike, Adidas, and Reebok, founded by men, grow into iconic household brands with tremendous revenue. But there are women starting to make waves in the sneaker industry. The Jordan brand has collaborated with women creatives like Vashtie Kola, Aleali May and Melody Ehsani. Issa Rae has worked with Converse, and everyone knows how lucrative Rihanna’s PUMA x FENTY collaborations have been. Next up is Brittney Perry.
While growing up, the Indiana native noticed that there was an imbalance between options for men and women among the most popular sneaker brands. She often resorted to buying men’s tennis shoes as a young Black woman for the increased options in color and style. Now she’s doing the work to provide options for women and men through her unisex sneaker brand, PerryCo, founded in 2018. The brand also sells apparel and accessories.
“The core of PerryCo are the sneakers,” she tells ESSENCE. “We have two sneakers called The Prelude and The Premeira Runner. The prelude is a mid-top sneaker that you can wear for any occasion. The Premeira Runner is a trendier shoe that has a minimal look and provides more comfort. With PerryCo, everything is made with intent and for any gender.”
With a line of footwear tailored for women and men, and doing so as a Black woman, the tagline for her brand is fitting.
“I chose ‘breaking barriers’ because while I want to break barriers for women in the sneaker industry, it can also mean overcoming any obstacle anyone is going through, whatever that looks like,” she says.
In addition to creating more inclusive, unisex sneakers, PerryCo is also offering kicks that are versatile for any occasion. These sneakers can be worn for work, hanging with friends, recreation — they can go any and everywhere. The genderless shoes are available on the brand’s website as well as Macy’s website.
While the brand is having success, Perry admits that this endeavor has been no small feat. Navigating as a Black woman within the sneaker industry has brought its highs and lows. From learning the art of shoemaking to fostering community, she learned a lot as she took on entrepreneurship.
“I didn’t go to school for fashion. I went to school for marketing. So for the first shoe I was creating, it was learning by fire,” she says. “I was inspired by different shoes, but I wanted to make sure my shoe was more of a classic shoe. Making something from scratch is very difficult and I wanted my shoe to stand the test of time.”
Perry continues, “After a lot of cold messaging, I came across Quintin Williams, who is a freelance designer based in Atlanta. He had his own sneaker brand and he walked me through the steps of the full process of creating a shoe. It changed my life. I’ve learned through the process that it is important to sample everything and test weather implications, walking behavior of people in different cities, the stitching, and more when designing a shoe.”
In 2022, Perry won the Global Footwear Awards x Sneakers By Women’s Up-and-Coming Female Sneaker Designer of the Year award. With the recognition brought by the win, Perry has been able to tap into more resources available for female designers who are looking to bridge the sneaker gap between men and women. Within the next five years, Perry hopes to see people being open to more independent shoe brands as opposed to only supporting well-known companies.
With PerryCo specifically, the lifelong sneaker lover’s goal is to inspire other women and the next generation to step into the industry and make sure when people think “sneakerhead,” it’s more inclusive. “I am still very new in the industry, but knowing that there are people out there looking for someone like me keeps me motivated to inspire the next generation so I can provide more opportunities for others.”