At the beginning of 2016, Everlane launched @EverlaneStudio on Instagram, a private account dedicated to new product launches. At the time, the company called it an “Instagram incubator,” using the account as a new place to debut new products, gather feedback and engage with its most loyal customers. But because it remained private, users were required to request access, leaving their fate in Everlane’s hands. Ultimately, the company accepted follow requests from just over 4,000 people and posted only eight times—a short-lived, forgettable experiment.

But last Tuesday, anyone who requested to follow the account—likely around 5,000 people—woke up to a push notification confirming that @treadbyeverlane had accepted their follow request. This sparked confused at first, particularly because Everlane changed the account’s username from the original @EverlaneStudio that these followers requested access to a while back (a questionable practice that does not seem to be against Instagram’s terms of service.) Between April 15 and April 23, @treadbyeverlane posted 39 times, including teasers, multiple partial images, and now more obvious product photos to establish a full-blown profile grid.

Everlane’s peculiar marketing tactic ultimately served to launch its first sneaker (The Trainer) under a new line called Tread. The company announced the sneaker on @treadbyeverlane last Thursday, just two days after the Instagram stunt, though its release was poorly planned, launching on the same day of the Mueller Report’s publication (something Everlane’s recent collab with The New York Times should have intercepted). Billed as almost fully sustainable, the sneaker looks like the gereatric version of New Balance 990s, which were arguably gereatric enough to begin with.

Tread’s launch occurs at a pivotal time for Everlane as it tries to find its footing in a post-digitally-native world. Shoes are a fast-growing category for the company; It’s released six new styles, including the Trainer, since January 2019, in addition to new colorways for three other SKUs, mostly focused on women’s. This development is happening as Everlane strives to tap into a sustainable growth path after a few years of bad sizing and other creative misfires. During this time it also opened two stores and has plans for more, including one in Williamsburg, NY, as well as a pop-up in LA—an offline expansion that contradicts the founder and CEO’s infamous claim that he would shut the company down before opening physical retail. With a burgeoning shoe business that now includes a dedicated sneaker brand, offline selling will only become more vital. Customers will need to learn about the brand’s sizing system (it runs small), which means lots of trying on and returning product—a cycle that is better for customers and brands alike in brick-and-mortar stores.

Beyond the role the sneaker will play in Everlane’s growth, the way it launched it follows a few curious trends that other brands have popularized. Like Glossier Play, the second brand under Glossier’s umbrella that’s focused on more colorful and daring products than its restrained, cool-girl namesake line, Tread by Everlane is being promoted as a new brand that warrants a dedicated social media presence, even though it still lives and can be purchased on Everlane’s flagship website. Since Glossier Play’s launch, @glossierplay has featured the products while @glossier, the brand’s main account, does a lot of crossover posts. The strategy makes some sense given the relationship between the parent brand and its new brand extension, but there is an inherent awkwardness in asking people to follow a new account while you are supposed to be giving them what they want already in the original feed. Everlane will likely run into the same issues and act in similar ways, which will put duplicate content in front of consumers who follow both accounts. The issue of double posts will affect loyal customers the most, since shoppers are more likely to follow Everlane’s main account than one limited to its sneaker brand.

Back when Everlane launched @EverlaneStudio, it pegged Nike Lab as one of its inspirations, which has a dedicated account for the company’s sneaker drops. Mimicking Nike Lab’s social strategy makes sense in theory for Everlane, but the former could be a multi-hundred million dollar business, inside of a multi-billion dollar business, which Everlane is not. Everlane says one of the reasons it’s sectioning off the Tread brand is because it wants more of a unisex customer, while its eponymous account leans heavily female. But it’s unclear how making a new Instagram account has the potential to solve that problem, as opposed to a more robust, holistic strategy that invests more in Everlane’s men’s business from both a product and marketing perspective.

Either way, the evolution of Tread by Everlane and its segmented marketing strategy will be something to watch as the company aims to hit around $200 million in revenue and continue growing.