Sneakers are so much more than just a piece of an outfit. They represent memories, little pockets of time when the only thing that mattered was copping that pair. They can lead to careers and lifelong relationships. Sneakers can take you from a skinny kid in Oregon to the top of the world (hint-hint, we’re all Phil’s Knights).
The sneaker industry is now worth billions of dollars. There’s websites, stores, companies, resellers, Instagram pages, Facebook groups and apps dedicated to just kicks. The world’s infatuation with heat on the feet is nothing new–New Yorkers have been copping and stocking since the 70s–but the 24-hour news cycle for just sneakers is new. So is the technology and marketing behind each silhouette.
The constant need for sneakers led Sam del Pilar, founder of Sneakers for Success and Chris Wise, New York City Director of S4S,to get some of the industry’s best together for a STATE OF THE CULTURE panel. Sneakers for Success is a non-profit that uses elements of sneaker culture to engage, inspire, and empower underrepresented youth toward academic success.
S4S wrangled in Bobbito Garcia to host the panel. With him on-stage was Mellany Sanchez, who worked for KITH and is currently consulting/styling for major brands , Matthew Ting, Senior City Activation Manager for adidas in New York, Jason Faustino, Cofounder and Creative Director of Extra Butter, and Jon Lopez, world-renowned basketball and sneaker photographer. They posted up in the lobby of Kimball Hall, an NYU building in lower Manhattan. Every seat in the spot was filled with young creatives looking to break into the biz, friends of the panelists, and sneakerheads.
It was a weird day in the city. Time and date didn’t fully agree with temperature and weather. It was sunny in the morning and it poured in the afternoon. The rain only lasted for two hours or so, but it made the day go by slo-o-o-wly, almost like a whole different 24 hours had started.
But inside Kimball Hall, it felt like there wasn’t enough time for the panelists. They covered a bunch of ground with engaging stories about how they broke into the industry, where sneaker culture was back in the day, where their passion for sneakers comes from and what their first favorite pair was. They shared wisdom on supply and demand, how brands are marketing sneakers and how consumers are receiving those methods.
When the Q+A portion rolled around, the room really came to life. There was a friendly debate about what the reaction of a signature Jordan Brand line of only Drake gear would be. Two young men got up and pitched themselves as interns to the panel. Both of them got a huge round of applause from the crowd, too.
The night was a refresher on how far the culture has come and how far it can still go. The sneaker market is heading towards a crossroads at some point soon, where someone might overtake Nike as the top seller, or Jordan Brand might just suckerpunch everyone right back to the ground. That upcoming struggle was addressed by Garcia, who said plainly, “It could happen or it could not happen.”
Check out pictures of the event up top and head over to the Sneakers for Success Twitter and Facebook for info on how to get involved with the movement.
Photos by Jason K. Chang