Sneakers are a multi-billion dollar industry that keeps on growing, but issues around inclusivity remain present. The Sneaker industry is primarily dominated by young men and men in general. As a result, women interested in sneakers face several challenges that limits their overall experiences. The challenges I'm talking about are more than the number of sneakers that are available in women's sizing. A lack of representation from women in sneakers affects the perspectives, decision-making, and culture around sneakers in general.
The sneakerhead community is vast, diverse, and full of opportunity. A place where people can gather and talk all things related to sneakers, but no community is perfect and that includes the sneaker community. Being a woman in the male dominant sneaker industry can be difficult. Rajaa Sultanah, found out how to make an impact in the sneakerhead community by starting SNKHER Social club in 2021. Rajaa created the streetwear brand for women sneakerheads during her senior year at Howard University in 2021.
Their mission is to create a community through a love of sneakers by providing a platform that serves inspires and celebrates women in streetwear and sneaker culture. Rajaa’s passion, experience in a male dominated industry and desire to increase the representation and recognition of women in sneakers shine in this conversation.
Read the sneaker interview below.
The Intro Questions
Tell us a Fun fact about yourself?
I am a former Division I softball player. I played shortstop at Howard University.
How many sneakers do you own?
Currently my collection is at over 20 pairs and counting.
What is your favorite sneaker?
My favorite sneaker for a while now has been the Off-White Jordan 4's. Hoping to get my hands on a pair someday.
When did your interest in sneakers begin?
I've loved sneakers for as long as I can remember. Playing sports from a young age definitely played a big role in that.
The Core Questions
What do you like the most about sneakers/and or the sneaker community?
I love how people in the sneaker community appreciate the artistic and creative aspects of sneaker design, as well as the cultural significance and historical context of certain sneakers and the stories behind them. It goes way beyond just being a sneaker. I also enjoy the sense of community and shared passion that comes with being part of the sneaker community, whether that's through online forums, social media groups, or in-person events. The sneaker community can also be a place where people from diverse backgrounds can come together and connect over a shared interest, which can be a powerful force for setting aside differences, bringing people together, and promoting inclusivity.
What should someone know about the importance of the sneaker community?
Overall, the sneaker community is a vibrant and passionate community that brings people together, celebrates creativity and innovation, promotes self-expression, and has the potential to make a positive impact on society.
Do sneakers start conversations? Why/why not?
One of the mottos of SNKHER is that sneakers create conversations, conversations create relationships, and relationships create community. Sneakers definitely create conversations and connections between people who share a passion for them. Sneakers can serve as a form of self-expression, and people may choose to wear sneakers that represent their personal style, interests, or cultural identity. When people notice someone's sneakers, it can often lead to conversations about shared interests or experiences, which can help build connections and relationships between people and friendships can even be formed.
How do sneakers bring people together?
Sneakers can bring people together by creating a shared interest and passion that transcends differences amongst us. They can serve as a common ground. People from different cultures, regions, and socioeconomic backgrounds can find commonality in their shared love for sneakers, which can help break down barriers and promote inclusivity. Social media platforms, such as Instagram and Twitter, have created a virtual community of sneaker enthusiasts who can connect and share their love for sneakers with others from around the world. This online community provides a space for people to connect, share ideas and inspiration, and engage in conversations about the latest sneaker trends and releases. People who are passionate about sneakers can bond over their love for the latest drops, classic models, and unique designs. They can swap stories about their sneaker collections, share styling tips and recommendations, and even collaborate on creative projects that showcase their shared love for sneakers. Sneaker events, such as sneaker conventions and sneaker releases, can be a place where people come together to celebrate their love of sneakers too. These events can provide a sense of community and belonging for people who may feel isolated or marginalized in other aspects of their lives.
What are some unique aspects of the SNKHER community that stand out from the sneaker community?
I believe there are a few aspects of the SNKHER community that stands out from the overall community. SNKHER is specifically focused on celebrating and empowering women in the streetwear and sneaker culture. This focus on women is unique in the broader sneaker community, which has historically been male-dominated. Another thing is, SNKHER is not just a sneaker-focused community, but also a lifestyle brand and innovative content company. This multifaceted approach sets SNKHER apart from other sneaker-focused communities, as it aims to create a broader cultural movement around women's empowerment and representation. The SNKHER mission statement includes a commitment to inclusivity, which is not always emphasized in the broader sneaker community. By creating a platform that serves and celebrates women in streetwear and sneaker culture, SNKHER is taking a proactive approach to promoting inclusivity and diversity within the sneaker community.
What was it like entering a male-dominated industry? How did your experiences impact SNKHER?
Honestly, I was bit nervous going into it, but I have received nothing but support and positivity since I started. Men and women have applauded me for the creation of SNKHER and agreed that it is something that is definitely needed in the culture. I have been blessed with great mentors and people rooting for me to make SNKHER as successful of a movement as possible.
Why did you create the SNKHER Social Club?
I was inspired to create SNKHER Social Club because I saw a need for a platform that celebrated and uplifted women in the streetwear and sneaker community. As someone who has been involved in this culture for years, I noticed that there was a lack of representation and recognition for the contributions of women. I wanted to create a space where women could come together, share their love of sneakers and streetwear, and feel empowered and supported. Another big inspiration was to be able to connect and collaborate with women who shared the same passions as me, and see what amazing things we can create when we all come together.
What issues do you currently see in the sneaker community, if any?
In the past, the sneaker community has been predominantly male-dominated, with limited representation and recognition for women in the industry. However, in recent years, there has been a shift towards greater inclusivity and representation for women in the sneaker community. Despite this progress, there are still some issues related to women's representation. Women are often underrepresented in sneaker marketing and advertising campaigns. Even when brands do feature women in their campaigns, they may use stereotypical or objectifying images that don't accurately reflect the diversity of women's experiences and interests. Limited sizes and availability is still a big problem. Women's sneaker sizes are often limited compared to men's sizes, and some popular sneaker releases often are not available in women's sizes at all. This makes it difficult for women to find the sneakers they want and contributes to the perception that the sneaker community is primarily geared towards men. There are still relatively few women in leadership roles within the sneaker industry, which can limit the diversity of perspectives and ideas that are represented in decision-making processes. Overall, while there has been progress towards greater representation and inclusivity for women in the sneaker community, there is still work to be done to address these issues and ensure that women are fully included and well represented within the industry.
How do you think those issues can be solved?
Resolving issues related to women's representation in the sneaker community will require a multifaceted approach that involves both industry leaders and consumers. Sneaker brands can work to feature a more diverse range of women in their marketing and advertising campaigns, including women of different ages, ethnicities, body types, and interests. Brands should also avoid using those stereotypical or objectifying images. Brands can also work to expand the range of sizes available for women's sneakers, including extended sizing options on unisex drops to ensure that popular sneaker releases are available in women's sizes. Industry leaders can work to promote diversity and inclusion in leadership roles within the sneaker industry. This can include initiatives such as mentorship programs, leadership development training, and recruiting efforts that prioritize diversity. Community leaders and influencers can work to create and promote spaces specifically for women in the sneaker community, such as SNKHER. These spaces can provide a platform for women to connect, collaborate, and share their love for sneakers. Overall, addressing these issues will require a collaborative effort from the community.
You mentioned rebranding SNKHER Social to SNKHER HEAD Enterprises. What kind of innovative content do you plan to serve your community?
SNKHER Social Club is one entity under SNKHER Head Enterprises (S.H.E). The purpose of SNKHER as a whole will be to create content the serves and inspires women sneakers. Expanding into a YouTube channel, a podcast, and other media endeavors will allow SNKHER to celebrate the women's sneaker community and magnify our stories, contributions, and impact.
What does the future hold for you?
One thing I've learned thus far is that I haven't been dreaming big enough. I love creating and learning new skills and hobbies. There are so many things that capture my interest from sneakers to art to travel to tv & film. I want to pursue everything that excites me along my journey and see how they can fit into one another over time. I want to impact people positively with the things I create and collaborate with those on the same mission. I have no idea what the future holds for me, but I am really looking forward to finding out.
Where would you like to see the industry go in the next five years and how does SNKHER fit into that vision of the future?
The sneaker industry is constantly evolving, but there's no doubt it will continue to be driven by a passionate community of sneaker enthusiasts. My hope for SNKHER is to continue to grow and build a strong community of women in streetwear and sneaker culture and focus on creating innovative digital and media content for its community. It's possible that we'll see the brand experimenting with new formats and platforms, as well as collaborating with other creatives, influencers, and brands. SNKHER has already made great strides in promoting representation and visibility for women in the sneaker community, and I want to continue to be a vocal advocate for representation and inclusivity in the industry.
When does the SNKHER merch release?
SNKHER merch from our first drop is currently available now at SNKHERSocialClub.com! You can stay update with releases by following our Instagram @SNKHERSocialClub
What advice would you give to young women looking to get into the industry?
Networking is key in any industry, and the sneaker community is no exception. Attend events, engage with other sneaker enthusiasts on social media, and reach out to people in the industry for advice and guidance. People in the sneaker industry can tell when someone is truly passionate about sneakers and when they're just trying to cash in on a trend. Be true to yourself and let your passion for sneakers shine through. Genuine intentions and a positive attitude will take you a long way.
How do we increase the representation and inclusivity of women in the industry?
By acknowledging the issues we can start to work towards solutions. It's important to recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of women in the industry. By making sure women aren't overlooked, we can inspire others and show that there is and always has been a place for women in the sneaker industry. Companies and organizations can also create more opportunities for women in the industry, such as internships, scholarships, and networking events. By providing these opportunities, we can help women build their skills and knowledge and create a more diverse and inclusive industry overall. Women who are new to the industry can benefit from mentorship and support from more experienced professionals. Programs that provide mentorship and training can help women build the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the field.
Coffee Consumed: Undisclosed amount.