Sneakers: They allow us to express our individuality and our creativity. From classic black Chuck’s to basketball shoes with the latest technology, who doesn’t appreciate a good pair? However, the sneaker community hasn’t always been the friendliest to women.
Over the years, shoe releases have become competitive. Being a woman in the male-dominated space of sneaker culture can be challenging. Struggles include access, supplies, and female representation.
Instead of waiting for change, two Toronto women decided to lead the way. One year ago, Abby Albino and Shelby Weaver opened Makeway, Canada’s first standalone sneaker boutique for women, by women.
Located at Stackt Market on Bathurst Street, they celebrated their first anniversary this past weekend.
Both Albino and Weaver discovered their passion for sneakers at an early age through basketball, but weren’t always welcomed in the community.
“Sometimes, it’s not a nice place for women because it’s gatekept and male-dominated,” Albino said. “They don’t take us seriously as sneaker lovers,”
Aside from running a business, the two trailblazers are heavily involved in the city. Weaver works as the Director of Basketball Operations and Culture for the Toronto Raptors and owns Mack House, a sneaker customization business. Albino is the Head of Development at Mad Ruk Entertainment and is a co-founder of Rise Tribe, an organization that aims to empower the next generation of Filipnx-Canadian youth.
For Albino and Weaver, when they see a problem, they need to fix it.
Despite the lack of female representation and recognition, they believe that “there is no sneaker culture without women."
Over the past year, releases have included the AJ14 Shocking Pink and AJ1 Low Shattered Backboards. During a recent block party, they collaborated with Jordan and dropped the Women’s AJ XI Retro Black and White, which is an exclusive release. They’ve also had the opportunity to create colourways for WNBA hats.
Aside from sneakers, they sell items created by local women and BIPOC creators. From Santa Isla rings to The Give and Grow basketball planters, there are many eye-catching products and inspiring female entrepreneurship stories behind them.
However, the space wasn’t only created for retail purposes. While businesses were closing their doors due to the pandemic, Makeway opened theirs on the brink of Toronto’s lockdown. They saw the pandemic as a blessing in disguise, as this was a long-term space.
“We didn’t want to be an online store, we wanted to be a community space and a place where people could come together,” Weaver said.
In the first year, they learned about retail, e-commerce, digital presence, and what it takes to run a business. Looking forward to year two, they hope to finetune and continue exploring the community side.
“The world is ever-changing, the community is ever-changing, everything is changing all the time,” Weaver said. “There’s always something to learn."
Photo courtesy of Makeway