At the top of Women’s History Month, starting March 1, global commerce leader eBay announced its Trailblazers Collection, an exclusive drop shining a deserved light on sneakers designed or inspired by the industry’s most influential women by combining fan-favorite styles with incredible backstories while celebrating the undeniable influence of women on sneaker culture. As described in a press release sent exclusively to ESSENCE, the Trailblazers Collection is dubbed as one that “brings together iconic sneakers created by – and for – the females who’ve paved the way.”

Charis Marquez, VP Fashion, eBay North America, explains the release as a series of various sneaker drops inspired by different women who have influenced the sneaker industry throughout the years. “Women have kind of been left out. [Women] have been in on the background and buying men’s shoes, [but] we’ve really been in it. Last year we started a campaign called Not a Female Sneaker Head Campaign to really show that it’s not about being a male or a female sneakerhead – we’re all kind of part of the culture,” Marquez told ESSENCE passionately on Zoom.

“We kicked it off there and this is really our next level for the collection. It’s a series of drops including very accessible collections items like from Stella McCartney, but then also some really hard-to-find pieces,” Marquez continued. “We’re pretty excited because it really is taking this whole program to another level and starting the conversation. We all just want to really start the conversation.” 

Included in the exclusive drop is the Air Jordan II Retro “Violette”, designed by Vashtie Kola, who served as a previous eBay partner to share the never-been-told story of her passion for sneakers, journey through and to being a sneakerhead, and how the sneaker industry has evolved since her entry into the sneaker world. Kola, who became the first female Air Jordan collaboration with the release of her sneaker in 2010, shares her thoughts on the evolution of the sneaker industry since the premiere of her sneaker.

As she reminisced about where she was when the sneaker was released, Kola brought us back to New York City in the early 2000s. After being approached by brand builder, Beats/Apple’s Global Influence and Social Actions Lead, and friend Astor Chambers following her Jordan 3 sneaker birthday cake feature on HYPEBEAST, Kola was presented with the opportunity to collaborate with the Jordan Brand. “Of course that kind of conversation you have with someone, I couldn’t really believe it. I was like, ‘this is completely not going to happen.’ The next day we were having conversations about the direction of a Jordan II, which was the anniversary of the Jordan II coming up the next year,” Kola said. Thus her Air Jordan II Retro “Violette” was born.

“I’m excited to see all of the collaborations that the brand has done. While I’m very happy and excited, I’m also waiting for more,” Kola admitted to ESSENCE. “I think there’s definitely space for all the brands out there to see where the future is going and realize that we, female sneakerheads, exist. We’ve been here for a long time, and a lot of us deserve an opportunity so I think it’s exciting. I definitely think the opportunities could happen faster and the growth could happen in a more timely fashion.”

Only available on eBay, sneakerheads, sneaker enthusiasts and budding sneaker lovers can shop the Trailblazers Collection with iconic styles including Tiffany Beer’s NIKE AIR MAG “Back to the Future,” Stella McCartney’s adidas Ultraboost 22, Charlotte Lee’s Casablanca x New Balance 327, and Sheryl Swoopes’ iconic Nike Air Swoopes. When asked by ESSENCE how she determined eligible sneakers from the Trailblazers Collection, which are all backed by eBay’s Authenticity Guarantee, Marquez noted the importance of giving women in the sneakerhead community the props they deserve for the contribution they’ve made.

“There are a lot of really cool, hard-to-find sneakers here, but it’s more about being able to put that platform out there to really highlight these women,” Marquez explained. “I think I’m less excited about the individual sneakers and more excited that we’re able to highlight so many different, unique women. We really get lost in the shuffle when people think of a sneakerhead. Now, yes, they might think of a Vashtie [Kola], but it’s not really the first thing always that comes to mind. The more that we can put that out there that women are designing, they’re getting shoes named after them. They’re starting companies that relate to sneakers. They are wearing them as fashion statements; it’s not just about the men.”

Beyond the sneakers listed in the exclusive release, other drops on eBay’s website will include Aleali May x Air Jordan 14, AMBUSH x Dunk High ‘Black’ by Yoon Anh, and the Under Armor ICON Curry 6 ‘United We Win’ DONE. As ESSENCE concluded the interview with Kola, the sneaker influencer shared her thoughts on why sneakers have become such a huge part of her identity. “I feel like it’s who I am, and it’s a part of my journey,” she said. “I’m just so excited that the community has evolved. It was strictly sneakerheads and now it’s the entire world. I’m very excited.”

Through the month of March, eBay will honor women’s role in today’s sneaker culture with additional announcements and activities. Check out www.ebayinc.com/trailblazers and follow @ebaysneakers on Twitter.

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