Shoe lovers all over the world will get a front-row seat for the shoe industry’s biggest night when the FN Achievement Awards goes virtual for the first time on Dec. 8.
It will be a memorable occasion, with plenty of star power, plus inspiring stories about some of the major successes in footwear amid unprecedented times.
This year’s group of honorees represent the young, vibrant individuals shaping the design world, as well the progressive voices ushering in a new age of inclusion and social action to improve our environment and our communities.
“It goes without saying that 2020 was a year that brought epic and intimidating challenges,” said Michael Atmore, FN’s editorial director and chief brand officer of Fairchild Media. “While there were points along the way that seemed impossible to celebrate, our winners list proves the power of resilience and the ability to triumph over incredible odds. Diverse, inclusive and forward-thinking — each winner is a powerful lesson in leadership.”
Below is the full list of honorees for the 2020 FN Achievement Awards.
Shoe of the Year: Nike Dunk
Thirty-five years after it was introduced for the basketball court, the Nike Dunk became the hottest shoe of 2020. Although every iteration of the shoe was an instant sellout, its hype was led by major needle-moving collaborations, including ones with Travis Scott, The Grateful Dead and Ben & Jerry’s. In addition, celebrity fans such as Scott and Kylie Jenner helped boost the silhouette’s popularity — and its resale price. (StockX estimates when Jenner or Scott wears a shoe, its resale price climbs by 30-50%.)
Style Influencer of the Year: Cardi B
In just three years, Cardi B has come to influence just about everything in pop culture — from music, fashion and style to social media, politics and even public service (serving as the spokesperson for the 2020 Census). As she embarks on an even bigger role in the footwear and fashion industries, starting with her Reebok collection launch in November, the budding businesswoman is quickly building an empire.
Collaborator of the Year: Amina Muaddi for Fenty
Shortly after launching her label in 2018, Amina Muaddi gained two important fans in Rihanna and her stylist Jahleel Weaver. The relationship between the three has since blossomed into a design partnership for Fenty footwear, which debuted in July to much fanfare. And anticipation continues to build for their next line release, due in November.
Person of the Year: Aurora James
Since launching her label Brother Vellies in 2013, Aurora James has inspired the fashion world with her unique design vision focused on craftsmanship, sustainability and equality. This year, she stepped forward to lead national conversations about racial justice and founded the 15 Percent Pledge, which challenges the fashion community to commit to real, tangible change. Major companies such as Sephora and Rent the Runway have signed on.
Designer of the Year: Salehe Bembury
As Versace’s VP of sneakers and men’s footwear, Salehe Bembury has been behind some of the fashion house’s most compelling silhouettes to date. But this year, the designer stepped firmly into the spotlight with his independent projects, including a buzzy collaboration with New Balance and a forthcoming project with Anta.
Company of the Year: Deckers Brands
For Deckers Brands, its Ugg business has long been a top performer, but in 2020, it was all about Hoka One One, the performance running brand that garnered impressive sales gains and A-list celebrity fans. Meanwhile, the company also made a major commitment to diversity and inclusion, and donated $1 million to COVID relief efforts.
Icon Award for Social Impact: D’Wayne Edwards
For 10 years, D’Wayne Edwards has helped underserved young people break into the shoe business through his Pensole Footwear Design Academy, forging partnerships with companies like Nike, Adidas and Foot Locker. And as one of the forces behind the African American Footwear Forum, Edwards continues to promote racial equality and Black representation throughout the industry.
Retailer of the Year: The Whitaker Group
There’s a reason why VP hopeful Kamala Harris stopped by The Whitaker Group’s Social Status store in Charlotte, N.C., in late October. Owner James Whitner is one of the most influential figures in the sneaker world, and he has been using his platform to activate and engage young Black men and women. And in a year where retailers have struggled mightily — especially independents — his company has continued to be a leader.
Brand of the Year: Birkenstock
In 2020, Birkenstock once again found itself at the forefront of the marketplace — and the center of the zeitgeist, becoming the “official home-office shoe.” In Q2, the brand’s Arizona sandal was the most-searched shoe in the world, according to Lyst, thanks to a boost from celebrity fans like Reese Witherspoon, Jason Momoa and even Kanye West.
Brand of the Year: Crocs
Love it or hate it, Crocs’ classic clog was a winner in 2020, driving 68% of the company’s total footwear revenues in Q2. Helping to fuel some of the excitement around the brand were collaborations with Justin Bieber, Bad Bunny and Ruby Rose, along with a major fashion shift toward comfort.
Athletic Brand of the Year: New Balance
New Balance’s collaboration game was on fire this year. The sneaker label, which had been relegated to the “dad shoe” category, roared back with a seemingly endless stream of hit releases. Among its many partners: Staud, Aime Leon Dore, Salehe Bembury, Casablanca and retail hotspots Concepts and Bodega.
Launch of the Year: Alfredo Piferi
Rising talent Alfredo Piferi, who was most recently head of design at Jimmy Choo and also built his resume with gigs at Burberry and Kanye West, launched his glamorous Piferi label this fall. At a time when most new designers are struggling to gain traction, major retailers have already signed on, including Harrods, Browns in London, Level in Dubai and Pedder Group in China.
Sustainability Leadership Award: Timberland
Timberland has historically been a leader in sustainability within the footwear industry. But in September, the outdoor standout took a bold stance when it unveiled two new product-related goals that it intends to hit by 2030. The end result, Timberland explained, is for its products “to have a net positive impact on nature,” which means it will give back more than it takes.
Emerging Talent of the Year: Andrea Wazen
All young designers face struggles, but this year brought immense challenges for Lebanese designer Andrea Wazen, whose flagship store and offices were destroyed by the August explosion in Beirut’s port. Undaunted, she channeled her energies into an elegant spring 2021 shoe collection dedicated to Beirut and its architectural legacy.
Hall of Fame: Dick Johnson
Dick Johnson was named president and CEO of Foot Locker Inc. in 2014, after spending more than a decade learning the ins and outs of all of the company’s retail banners. This year, he has steered more than 3,000 stores in 27 countries through the pandemic and built a stronger digital business in a tough retail climate, while also connecting to a highly diverse workforce and giving back to communities at the core of its business.
Hall of Fame: Sergio Rossi
FN will posthumously induct famed designer Sergio Rossi into the FN Hall of Fame, in recognition of his glittering design career. Rossi, who died from coronavirus this year, defined made-in-Italy shoemaking for decades through his eponymous label, as well as his work with fashion houses such as Versace, Dolce & Gabbana and Azzedine Alaïa.
For 34 years, the annual FN Achievement Awards — often called the “Shoe Oscars” — have celebrated the style stars, best brand stories, ardent philanthropists, emerging talents and industry veterans. The first virtual FNAAs will air online Dec. 8 and are sponsored by The Style Room Powered by Zappos, and FDRA.