Nothing could usher in an “if not now, then when” energy age like a global pandemic. As a result, Portland, long the epicenter of the global footwear world, is now in the midst of perhaps the busiest footwear startup scene in years, with at least half a dozen new companies vying for a foothold in this notoriously difficult place to get a foothold. No wonder. – Crack the industry.
TonThey are helped by a growing number of ancillary businesses, from venture capitalists to supply chain consultants, from freelance designers to academic incubators. New companies are popping up all the time: Italy-based Fila just leased space in northwest Portland at press time.
It’s a risky business, said Kate Delhagen, founder of Oregon Sports Angels, a venture capital firm that invests in sports-related consumer products and technology. “A lot of small players underestimate the difficulty of making shoes, scaling the business and making a profit,” she said.
That obviously isn’t going to stop people from trying, she adds: “I met a guy yesterday. He was hatching the idea of making a 3D printed shoe. He was in the building platform and prototyping stage. But he was ex-Nike and he had an idea. He was like, ‘Hey, I’m going to try this.’”
nike Market cap: $150 billion.* Approximately 14,000 employees in Oregon and Southwest Washington, and approximately 79,000 employees worldwide. Nike, the world’s most valuable apparel brand, has celebrated its 50th anniversary by opening a flashy new building at its headquarters, named after Serena Williams.
adidas Market cap: $23 billion. Approximately 1,750 employees are employed at the U.S. headquarters in Oregon and approximately 62,000 worldwide. Has worked with the most exclusive fashion houses, including Balenciaga, Gucci and Prada.
United Nations Market cap: $5.23 billion. Swiss brand known for its eco-friendly running shoes. It recently launched a collection with Spanish luxury design firm Loewe; Portland has 222 employees so far.
Colombia Market cap: $4.1 billion. About 2,000 employees in Oregon; 8,300 worldwide. Homegrown Columbia has partnered with big names from Disney to Opening Ceremony.
Under Armor Market cap: $3.16 billion. Headquartered in Baltimore, but employs about 150 people in Oregon at the company’s Southwest Portland headquarters in a former YMCA.
lululemon Market cap: $37.3 billion. Headquartered in Canada, it expanded here in 2022 and now introduces its first women’s cross-training shoe, the Blissfeel.As of press time, footwear designers are being hired work in the northwest portland.
whole bird Market cap: $460 million. Silicon Valley’s favorite casual shoe. Opened a creative office in Oregon in August with about 22 employees, poaching talent from Nike and Adidas.
not any personal hero.hundreds of employees in Oregon, including its Pearl District headquarters.monopolized the market Sandals for toddlers.
Lots of A performance shoe, but made for the chef. The startup’s core ex-Adidas employee, whose first pre-orders will be delivered in summer 2022, says its “athletes” are chefs who work shifts at restaurants. The clever design includes a removable insole and the leather exterior is easy to clean.
Sesh Nike tried to slash star runner Allyson Felix’s compensation after she became pregnant, told the company to stick it where the sun didn’t shine, and quickly launched her own footwear line Wire. It’s located in Southern California, but designed and developed in Portland by a team with previous ties to both Nike and Adidas.
velvet Founded in 2021 by a group of Portlanders with ties to Nike, Columbia and Adidas. Its founders saw a market space for performance “recovery sandals”—slippers that athletes could wear after a tough game. The idea is a cushion that fits the foot across it.
jack west A company focused on flip flops/slippers, founded in 2020 and based on PDX, this company targets emerging sports and leisure categories. Its founders have worked at Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, and Columbia.
Vermazzi A mix of Portland and Seattle, its founders have had ties to Columbia Sportwear in the past. What this young company is all about: Personalized running shoes that “pace-adjust” to your running pace—one for super-fast five-minute mile runners, another for slower, steady runners , which takes twice as long to run.Its first line is due to coming Available in early 2023.
Barra BALA was founded by two former Nike employees in 2019. Its positioning is nurse shoes. Nurses need to stand for a long time and work up to 12 hours a day. Its shoes have a liquid-resistant outer layer (because bodily fluids of all kinds tend to splash on nurses’ feet during daily rounds), a comfortable inner bootie, and a flexible athletic sole to prevent the inevitable sprinting of patients down the corridors there is a need.
Hello A sustainable, fashion-forward footwear brand led by a Latino founder with connections to Columbia and Keen seemed like it should fit perfectly into the story Portland likes to tell itself.But its founder has traveled to Michigan, saying he has more venture capital backing there and that his lack of Nike background is a big problem A duty to overcome in Portland.
*The size of the planet is based on the approximate headcount of the Portland market. **This and other market estimates on this page were accurate at press time, but markets are constantly changing.