Maria Benetos is the co-founder of Mini-Mode.com, a content and commerce destination for style-savvy moms.
When Ashleigh Dempster struts into a room with her L.A.-cool vibe, beachy blond hair, and model-off-duty duds, it’s hard to believe that this is a mother of two with a budding kids’ footwear empire. Then you see the AKID collection and it all makes sense. Here is a trailblazer who is helping to change the world of childrenswear one sneaker at a time. Plus, she has the perfect complement in her business partner: husband Matt George, the streetwear guru behind such brands as Nomad, Stüssy and multiple collabs with Adidas.
Let’s start by saying, if you’re looking for cutesy sneakers in neon colors covered with your kid's favorite cartoon characters, you’ve come to the wrong place. Famously seen on North West (if you’re curious, it was the Liv slip-on sneaker in black snake, sadly now sold out), most of the AKID styles are basic (high-top, low-top, slip-on, etc) but with a twist. They use unique color combinations with unexpected patterns in stylish, yet durable fabrics. And it’s obvious that real parents design these shoes because they’ve thought of everything -- besides looking kiddie-cool, they’re comfortable, with small details like side zippers to get them on easily and super-soft interiors for those days when your little one just won’t put on socks.
Their two young boys Jasper and Julian were the initial inspiration behind the launch when Dempster went in search of stylish shoes they could actually run around in and came up flat. She found that many brands take an adult silhouette that is popular and just make it smaller, so they make sure that all AKID products are molded specifically for a child’s developing feet. The price point may be a bit higher than your average kids sneaker (prices start at $65), but the high-quality materials justify the cost, and the shoes are truly sartorially versatile even though they have a tough vibe. All styles are gender neutral so you can have your child pair the high tops with a tutu and the slip-ons with some sweats.
While the company is quickly growing, there is something still personal about AKID. Each shoe is named after a child the couple knows personally (Jasper, Liv, Anthony, Atticus, etc.) and the models in their shoots are all family friends. The ultimate goal? “I want my little men to look cool,” says Dempster. Mission accomplished.