Anna Bediones lives and breathes sneakers. Aside from being a fan of all things basketball since childhood, Bediones has built her life around sneakers. She started out working in retail before starting to write about sneakers and sneaker culture which lead to content creating and influencing — Bediones has one of the best sneakerhead Instagram accounts with over 40k followers.
Now, Bediones is the new Director of Women’s strategy at SoleSavy, a sneaker-obsessed community-driven platform that tasks itself with helping sneakerheads buy sneakers at a fair price without having to deal with aftermarket resale vultures.
I’ve you spent any time in sneakerhead forums or in the comments section of your favorite fashion website (or you’re just a woman who loves sneakers), you’re probably well aware that the sneaker community can be full of assholes who try to tell you what you should and shouldn’t like. Since the community is the one thing SoleSavy values above, you know, sneakers, the platform has brought Bediones on board to lead the strategy for the platform’s new woman’s-only community.
“It’s important for us to facilitate a community that allows women to enjoy sneakers without external judgment or disruption,” Bediones tells me over the phone. “One of the big complaints that women have about the sneaker community, as a whole, is that it’s quite gatekeep-y. It’s almost like women are put to a higher standard of what a sneakerhead should look and be like”
Bediones continues, “We just want to have a space for women to feel comfortable to share whatever they want about sneakers and network with other community members and sneaker lovers without anybody else injecting themselves into these conversations.”
I linked up with Bediones to get her take on the current sneaker climate, the efforts that brands are now making to better cater to women (and how they can still do better), and the value of community in the sneaker space. She also ran us through her favorite shoes of the year so far, and the pairs that have alluded her grasp. Let’s dive in!
I’ve noticed brands like Nike are really trying to bump up efforts to cater to women. Women’s size exclusives, or the Aleali May, AMBUSH collaborations come to mind, how else can the big brands step it up?
There are a lot of opportunities for brands to support women. Collaborating with more women is an amazing way to start, and we have Aleali and Melody Ehsani and AMBUSH, and a lot of other women who are starting to have more long terms relationships with these brands. But having women internally making decisions is also something else they can incorporate. This way when you’re creating products for women you actually have real women making the decisions behind whatever products are coming out and whatever initiatives are happening.
There is also the issue of accessibility for women. We saw Jordan Brand and A Ma Maniere do an amazing roll-out back in April, and I think that sets a new standard of how women’s products can be rolled out and how women can be prioritized in women’s exclusive sneakers. Accessibility is a huge issue across the board, the biggest thing is when you’re making products for women and women can’t even access them, something needs to change there.
Having more women internally is one of the biggest things they can change so that we can properly make decisions to make sure women are prioritized and being spoken to appropriately.
You touched on the gatekeep-y aspects of sneaker culture, for anyone that has been turned off by that aspect of the community, what’s so rewarding about being part of a community where you can freely talk about shoes?
What we always say is that people join SoleSavy to learn about how to buy sneakers, but stay for the community. I myself joined the community late last year, and my role started four months ago. But for the last six months, I’ve been observing how the community looks out for each other. It’s so encouraging, a lot of it goes well beyond just sneakers. A member recently had a job interview and because they had created such a bond with other members, they received an incredible amount of support for that. We encourage members to share their personal projects, we have members who start podcasts or fashion blogs or want to start writing.
The internet can be such a mean place, but in the SoleSavy community, everyone is people first. People assist on sneaker releases, on top of all that, we have an assist channel to facilitate this. I think this is a community you can’t really create anywhere else because it’s also heavily vetted. You have to apply for membership. So, you’re vetted before you’re admitted into our SoleSavy community. Then just to make sure you’re not a reseller, we have dedicated community leaders who are constantly monitoring all of our channels. There’s a no-tolerance policy for bullying or harassment. We have a very dedicated team ensuring this community is safe, even more so in our women’s space.
Buying shoes on a markup is obviously a very familiar scenario for sneakerheads. With women’s sneakers, it’s almost impossible to get women’s sneakers at retail price. Why does that disparity exist so strongly?
That goes back to my point earlier about having more women internally. Allocation is a big component of the accessibility of women’s products. Because the quantity is often lower in smaller sizes, the markup is even higher on the aftermarket because there is scarcity to it. There’s just not as much product allocated to the smaller sizes, and people who wear general men’s sizes now also have to compete with men purchasing the product. When I look at our monitors (monitors are part of our SoleSavy technology), we can see stock on a lot of the shops we monitor and you can see the disparity between how many size fives there are vs how many size tens there are. I think that’s also not really insider knowledge, in any buying scenario the large often tend to have the most allocation vs the smallest sizing.
There’s a dismissive quality when it comes to sizing, a lot of sneaker dudes will say “just size up or size down.” As someone who has bought sneakers for his partner, this doesn’t always work out. If you’re a women’s 7 1/2, that doesn’t mean you always wear a men’s size 6, why is this an imperfect way of sizing for sneakers?
Because every brand and every model varies in sizing and how it fits in certain markets. We’ve created a guide that’s ever-growing and based on community input, on how to convert your size from men’s to women’s and vice versa. “1.5” is a good baseline to start with, but we all know that different shoes fit differently. A Jordan 1 fits differently than an Air Force 1, or a Yeezy Foam Runner, or a New Balance sneaker. A lot of that information is crowdsourced in SoleSavy, a lot of people who have already had these pairs can weigh in on how a sneaker fits. It’s a good baseline to start with, but the brands don’t work off of one standard sizing model. Just like you would wear a different size in any other brand, that would also apply to converting your men’s and women’s shoes.
What’s your personal sneaker story, how did you get into the culture to where you’re at now?
I grew up in a basketball household and my dad loved to put me in sneakers. We watched a lot of basketball. He put me into basketball at eight years old. I guess I wanted to be just like my dad. That basketball interest also affected my style inspiration. Anything that fit within the basketball culture and also translated into music is what I gravitated towards. My idols were Michael Jordan, Kobe Byrant, Allen Iverson, and any woman that I saw in pop culture that also embodied that style of sneakers, streetwear, baggy clothing, TLC, Aaliyah, Sporty Spice, all of that really impacted the way that I dressed and the things that I liked. I would say basketball is the root of it and my interest just kept continuously growing through the ’90s and 2000s.
What are some of your all-time favorite sneaker drops and why?
I really like the Jordan 3 A Ma Maniere. That’s the front runner for my favorite sneaker this year. Not only was it designed for women, but the storytelling behind it was also incredible. The rollout was near perfect. It was new and so well done, the way they prioritized women. I also really liked the Jordan 4 Union release from last year because it gave sneaker consumers a fair shot at buying the sneakers. Amazing bot protection, which also set a standard last year for how sneakers can be released, and A Ma Maniere pulled pieces of that for their own drop.
Shoe-wise, my favorite shoes are the Air Jordan 1 Court Purple. It wasn’t originally a women’s shoes. That’s my personal favorite shoe this year. I love the Kobe 6 Grinches as well, not roll out wise but as a shoe. That was a really hard shoe to get, and why I joined SoleSavy the day that I did.
If you had to choose a favorite sneaker silhouette what would it be?
Air Jordan 4. It’s just the easiest to wear I think it’s more elevated, nothing against the Air Force 1, but the four shows my personality more because not as many people wear it. It also came out the year I was born, which I also love.
What are the craziest lengths you’ve gone to cop a pair of sneakers?
I’ve camped out overnight. Not my favorite thing to do, it’s winter, and winter here in Toronto is very cold. It was for the Jordan 1 BRED. I can’t remember the year. I want to say 2013? I camped out overnight for those and drove an hour out of the city and I met a lot of friends in line.
Before that, I would go early to buy sneakers, like five hours before the mall opened and that’s never been fun because I’m almost always the only girl or have been historically. And buying resale, which I hate more than anything, but sometimes you just have to.
Is there a pair of sneakers that has eluded your grasp?
For the longest time, it was the Kobe 6 Grinches. I wanted them when they first came out but I was in college and I couldn’t afford to have that many pairs of basketball sneakers. Plus, I had torn my ACL that year. So I was like, ‘alright, I don’t need shoes this year.’ But for the last five years, I’ve been telling myself I’m going to do it. But $2,500 bucks for a pair of sneakers is just insane to me.
What’s your take on Crocs?
I use to be very anti-Croc. Very. Now, I’m slowly getting ready to buy myself a pair because I fell in love with the Foam Runners when they dropped. I love them so much, so now I’m thinking maybe I’ll like Crocs too. And like I mentioned, a lot of NBA players influence my style. Seeing NBA players wearing them, I’m finally warming up to Crocs. So I no longer have an anti-Croc opinion.
I feel like that’s the case with a lot of people. People are softening up to the idea. What do you love about the Foam Runners?
I just think they’re so comfortable. They’re so easy to wear. Plus, I’m a Kanye fan. I grew up being a fanatic, he’s one of my idols in the 2000s and 2010s. I think they’re just so interesting and I know they’re funny looking, but the shape is just so unique and so streamlined and aesthetically pleasing that I wear them every single day. So I don’t know if Crocs can replace those, but I’m going to try!