In an effort to increase access to educational tools for the next generation of hypebeasts, the Fashion Institute of Technology is partnering with Complex to roll out an online course that teaches the fundamentals of sneaker design.
The six-part Sneaker Industry Essentials program — which includes 30 hours of instruction taught by a wide range of experts, including executives from brands like Nike and Adidas, as well as FIT professors and Complex editors — was officially announced on Wednesday, with enrollment opening in the coming weeks in advance of an April start date. In addition to design, the class will cover marketing, advertising and business strategies designed to help students learn the basics of creating a footwear business.
The class is powered by Qubed Education, a New York-based education technology startup, which previously teamed with FIT on a separate online class focused on beauty in partnership with Allure. Rob Kingyens, president and CEO of Qubed said his team was inspired to propose a sneaker class to FIT in response to the ongoing proliferation of streetwear, particularly the international sneaker market which is valued at $55 billion.
“There’s clearly this huge amount of passion for streetwear, and sneakers have gone very much more mainstream,” he said. “There are even luxury brands like Louis Vuitton that are creating their own [collaborations]. We’re at an inflection point of sneakers being adopted by everyone and becoming a fashion statement.”
Sarah Mullins, chair of the accessories design program at FIT, said the class serves an extension of the current footwear curriculum within the school’s core degree program. Though footwear has been available within FIT’s course offerings for the last decade, she said sneaker design in particular has continued to grow in popularity as a result of the growth of streetwear style. “Sneakers are a hot topic. It’s definitely a huge industry, and delivering things like this online course is a new trend in education,” she said.
While the cost to participate has yet to be announced, Kingyens said it will be under $1,000, most likely somewhere between $500 and $750. (FIT, Complex and Qubed will share percentages of the tuition fee.) The classes are priced comparatively cheaper than a traditional fashion design course, and participating students will receive an official certificate for the non-credit course.
“A big part of our mission is to make education and top-tier education accessible, and because of that, we make our programs 100 percent available online,” he said. “Anyone anywhere can be on them. We don’t create hurdles to getting accepted.”
Qubed primarily offers classes in creative fields like fashion, music and media, and operates by collaborating with both a university and a media partner, Kingyens said. One of its first partnerships was with Parsons School of Design and Teen Vogue, a class that enrolled more than 10,000 students. He said Complex felt like a natural fit for the course, given its status as an authority on streetwear culture.
As a result, the class was officially announced via a video posted on the Complex site during an interview with NBA basketball player Steph Curry. Kingyens, who attended the NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles over the weekend, said the idea to use Curry came from his strong connection to street style, alongside peers like Russell Westbrook who have become fashion icons of their own accord.
“People understand fashion, beauty and sneakers from a cursory level, but not how to take that passion and make it a career path. We see this as a prime area within a massive industry,” he said.
Kingyens said the courses are designed to help individuals find proper career paths, and often draw a mix of demographics and ages from high school students and college dropouts to professionals switching industries.
“We expect a pretty wide range, but the commonality with all those groups is that our students have identified they want to do something they love. And they’re trying to figure out, with their time, schedule and finances, the best way to understand the industry,” he said.