How Kenner’s Open Sneaker Became a Beacon of Brazilian Street Culture

Originally designed for the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Kenner’s growing global appeal all started with a sense of community.

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Brazilian footwear brand Kenner has always been rooted in timeless cool and unbridled creativity, inspired by California’s infectious street style and surf culture, and deeply connected to Rio de Janeiro’s burgeoning dance and art scenes.

Envisioning a disruptive open-toe shoe design inspired by founder Peter Simon’s original models, Kenner developed the brand’s Rakka Sole Technology, an innovative hybrid sole utilizing a combination of EVA memory foam and vulcanized rubber. Early marketing strategies highlighted the line’s appeal for surf and beach, but Kenner’s striking design quickly garnered an unlikely following by sneakerheads, who favored the shoe’s versatility, durability and ease of movement. Just as Brazil was seeing a resurgence of funk music, the Kenner shoe made its debut on the big stage, as touring artists and local musicians chose to flaunt Kenners during live performances.

In 2021, recording artists FBC and VHOOR released “De Kenner,” a dance track championing the joy of movement in Kenners. Embracing this fanfare, Kenner adopted a community-first approach to marketing, spotlighting Brazil’s emerging street culture movement through artist-led campaigns and social media content. In 2022, Kenner worked in partnership with Brazilian rap artist L7NNON (known to sport Kenners on tour) to co-develop his own collection of sandals, becoming one of Kenner’s best-selling collaborations. “For me it’s very reminiscent of my childhood, an object of desire. Even today when it arrives here at home I get crazy, even more so with my name on it now, right? It represents a lot, an absurd victory collaborating with a brand that I’ve always been passionate about,” L7NNON says of the blockbuster collection. “It represents the self-esteem of those who come from a low background and who see this product as something of great value. It’s not about the price, but it’s a dream. When you have your first Kenner, you know what it means to you.”

Local artists regularly pay homage to the brand in vibrant street murals, and to date, 70+ songs have name-dropped Kenner, repping its ties to Brazil’s streetwear and dance communities. Speaking to the brand’s meteoric rise, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Je M’appelle Brazil, Samir Bertoli, notes that Kenner found its footing alongside local creatives ushering in a new frontier of street fashion across Brazilian states. “When the first street culture aesthetic began to form in Brazil, Kenner was there. I think it represents a point of unity, because all the street aesthetics from all the states in Brazil wear Kenner. Kenner has a unique identity, it makes it look easy to create a strong aesthetic that the street identifies with, this is neither easy nor simple.”

Kenner solidified its presence in the fashion space alongside Cartel 011, introducing the hybrid Rakka Siren, an ultra-modern heritage design that exemplified the brand’s knack for innovative, boundary-pushing footwear. This month, Kenner lands in the U.S. with four models designed to offer optimal functionality while nodding to Rio de Janeiro’s street culture. The Rakka Slide Pro and Rakka Mezkla combine the utility of a sneaker and a sandal, providing advanced arch support while elevating the typical open-shoe format. Intricate designs, like the Rakka Boot, are fashioned with a high-top velcro lacing system — an eye-catching testament to the brand’s ability to reimagine footwear archetypes. Lastly, the sporty Rakka Ultra Force remains Kenner’s bestselling product, a beacon of Brazilian culture and colloquially synonymous with the iconic sound it makes on the floor when dancing.

Since leaning more into street culture, Kenner has amassed nearly 1.4M followers on Instagram, and has been worn by recording artists Masego and Anitta.

Easy on the eyes and feet, Kenner’s hero designs, including the Rakka Boot, Rakka Mezkla, Rakka Slide Pro and Rakka Ultra Force, have set Brazil’s creative subcultures ablaze, tapping into the rhythm of Rio de Janeiro. With its U.S. launch, Kenner sets its sights on enrapturing the Western market.

See the brand’s robust archive of shoe designs in the galleries above. Shop Kenner’s latest selection of footwear by visiting the brand’s website.

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