“That space that I occupy in Harvey Nichols is worth £2.5 million pounds a year turnover. You’re not going to be able to do that selling Huaraches.”
Within this ever-evolving sneaker culture of ours, it’s always a breath of fresh air when someone has the heart to step up and take on the insurmountable dual task of serving as a hub for all of its creative outlets and capturing the many elements that come with it.
This was the lofty dream held by Fresh Laces founders Nathan and Louie back in 2013. The two sneaker-heads, who share a friendship that goes back to the school playground, delivered their debut sneaker lifestyle event in the heart of London that won the hearts of many crepe enthusiasts. Since this inception Fresh Laces has gone from strength to strength, evolving from a mere modest sneaker event, to a curator of the culture, to now setting up a consignment store within the walls of Knightsbridge’s luxury department store Harvey Nichols. But while some detractors may not understand the bold move by this dynamic-duo, we sat down with one of it’s maverick founders to get his take on the how his brand has now breached the boundaries of the reselling game in just 2 short years, the backlash they’ve received and the UK Sneaker scene as a whole.
CJ: When did you first decide on doing your own event?
Nathan: “Well my wife is a businesswomen and she has always been in to doing events herself selling jewellery. She really pushed me to host an event because she knows trainers are my passion and I’m a collector, I love shoes and I love the whole community around the culture. However at first I wasn’t going to do it to be honest, but she gave me a kick up the ass to do it and we made it happen.”
CJ: What’s your current take on the sneaker culture in the UK?
Nathan: “I think the culture has built itself to a really high level and now everyone wants to be involved in it, which is a good thing, at the same time there are some negatives, but overall I think the culture is healthy and good.”
CJ: How did the arrangement with Harvey Nichols come about?
Nathan: “A good friend of mine knew someone who worked at Harvey Nichols and they asked me if they could come and check out the event. At this time I did not know that she worked for the store, she came through and loved the vibe and the fact that it was more then a typical market reselling place, so she said to us that she would love to replicate that within Harvey Nichols and within three month’s we made it happen in July 2014. At the event we had Jadakiss, Waka Flocka, Professor Green and Charlie Sloth come through which helped to propel us to where we are now.”
CJ: Did you always see a gap in the market where Air Jordans, could be priced higher then a Balenciaga or Giuseppe?
Nathan: “For years now we’ve had sneaker resellers in the UK, before we had these reselling spots we had import shops like Sports and Things in Streatham, where they would buy shoes from the states and sell them for double or triple what the price was. Things have only gotten bigger now, I would say since Kanye dropped the Yeezy in 2009 things have only got bigger but this price range for exclusive shoes has always been there. With this in mind Harvey Nichols approaches me with the idea and I sat back and thought how can I make it work? Having a consignment shop in one of the most expensive postcodes in the world. It would make sense to cater to that high-end customer, because a normal sneaker-head (no offense) doesn’t shop in Harvey Nichols. The core customer they attract is local to the area, be it affluent Arab’s, Chinese, business men, you know people with money and if that’s who Harvey Nichols is associated with then it doesn’t makes sense for me to set up a store where people can find bargains. Yes some of our stock may be very overpriced, I’m a sneaker head I know this myself but are we looking at this as a hobby or are we looking at this as a business? A lot of people complained about the £1000 pounds price tag Red Independence Day Air Max but I’ve sold two.”
CJ: Can you explain the concept of price per square foot?
Nathan: “The space I occupy in Harvey Nichols is worth £2.5 million pounds a year turnover. You’re not going to be able to do that selling Huaraches. I’m just trying to price our shoes up there with the high-end designers. In my eyes that super limited Air Jordan is worth just as much as a Louboutin and supply and demand shows us this.”
CJ: What has this done for the culture?
Nathan: “I think for the culture, its showing the top levels we can reach and no disrespect to anyone in particular but Yeezy’s going for up to £3000 pounds on Ebay at a sneaker event on a table. That kind of price is in line with a high-end shop. This kind of business doesn’t have to be on a street level, it can be corporate and high end.
We haven’t seen nothing like this before in a Harrods or Selfridges. Harvey Nichols have taken a street level concept and put it in their store for their high-end customers. I think it’s a celebration for how far we have reached, and where we can go.
CJ: How have you found the journey building Fresh Laces to where it is?
Nathan: “People need to understand that 3 years ago I was working on a building site with a dream of making a living by pursuing my passions which are football and trainers. I managed to do it with the trainers. I would like to see more heads looking this as a celebration of putting your mind to something, like our first event, we put that on in four weeks! We didn’t know what we were going to do at the start, but seeing it through and doing that event is what got us noticed by Harvey Nichols. So I ask are we going to keep making these brands billions or are we going to try and carve out a piece for ourselves? Why shouldn’t we be allowed to go from consumers to a business?”
CJ: Do you think more individuals within this culture should create businesses?
Nathan: “You can be on the fringes of the culture and enjoy it, but I find it more empowering to take control and be a success with what you love and enjoy. It should be everyone’s dream to make a living out of their passion.”
CJ: What advice would you give to that person who would want to make that move?
Nathan: “If it’s your passion, push for it you’re going to face obstacles and hit some brick walls but just keep pushing through. Stay loyal to your vision. Don’t chase the money, chase your passion and the money will come. Let things be organic and respect the culture.”
YU MING WU THE GROWTH OF SNEAKERCON
Sneakercon is fast becoming the premier global sneaker event to attend. Their storied history has earned them the tagline “Greatest Sneaker Show On Earth” and if you’ve been yo one of their events, then you know that this statement shouldn’t be taken lightly. Their second event of 2017 just kicked off on a cold Saturday, thousands of attendees filtered through London’s ExCel exhibition center to enjoy a full day of buying, selling, and trading the most exclusive sneakers and clothing on the market.
The masterminds behind the brand were also present and we caught up with co-founder and CMO of New York-based consignment shop Stadium Goods, Yu-Ming Wu. The man has constantly taken his passion for sneakers and parlayed it into various endeavors throughout the years such as Sneakernews.com an immense for the latest information on the freshest footwear brands.
We sat down with the head honcho to talk about the global growth of SneakerCon and its expansion into Europe, his history within the culture, and how he feels the event has been received by the UK and some of the difficulties that the brand has faced.
Tell us about your history in the sneaker scene?
I am just a guy that likes sneakers so much that I decided to devote my life to it. Back in 2003, I started a website to research the field of sneakers called freshnessmag.com. This covered the culture around sneakers including toys, apparel and interesting guys like Alife in New York City, that was really interesting to me, so early on I just took a deep dive. I then got my first shot working for Nike Basketball.com, I helped them develop a program to reach sneakerheads. They were creating these Flash-based experiential sites and I told them no, all these kids want to see is shoes, so we made the shoe the hero. I spent three years with them and while there I did more research and development of my own and I developed a site called Kicks Finder. From there I just understood that I should not just work in sneakers, but really dig deeper. At this point, I had to start a website just on sneakers. I remembered reading an article back in the early 2000’s that domains were the new real estate, so I bought a lot of domains and one of the domains that I bought was Sneakercon and another one was Sneakernews which I launched in 2007.
So how did Sneakercon come about?
Fast forward to 2009, I met two buddies who I knew through buying on eBay their dad actually owned a store in New York City selling baseball cards and I actually wrote about it on freshnessmag.com we realized that our offices were five minutes from each other and on the same block. So they visited me and we chatted. They then brought up the idea of doing a sneaker convention, I wasn’t really interested in it but they eventually convinced me to partner with them. Then I told them that I owned sneakercon.com and that’s how we got started. Every step you take is a stepping stone, from Freshness Mag, Kicks Finder, Sneaker News, Sneakercon until most recently I was invited to be a partner in a store called Stadium Goods in New York City.
What were some of the differences that might have been potential barriers that you encountered when bringing the brand to the UK?
I think the biggest barrier is that we are an American company and once you start doing business on a global level, things change quite a bit. For example, it’s very easy to register a company and start a business and move forward in the US, it doesn’t take much. But once you start moving into different countries, one your not a citizen, two you cant just open a bank account, so it’s a little bit harder to deal with financial wise and it’s harder for us to grow. However we’ve slowly realized what we need to do to grow, push as much digital ticket sales as possible that makes it easier for us to maneuver. But past that the whole thing has been a learning experience. We had a successful event back in May, it was incredible the line went around the entire Kensington Olympia while another show was going on. Moving further out the city was another risk that we had to take. At each step, we evaluate if we’re going to be more successful or less successful. There’s a lot of differences to anticipate over here simply because we know the US more and the more we travel around the world we realize it’s the less that we actually know how things work.
What do you think it is about the Sneakercon brand that makes it so well received outside of the US?
The good thing is that we’ve been around for a very long time, we started back in 2009. We care a lot about our audience, but sometimes they might be rude to us and we might have to yell back, but for the most part we care about how much fun that these guys have when they come here we want to make sure that they come in happy and leave happy and 99 percent of the people do. Whether you’ve come to check things out, see people, buy a pair of shoes sell a pair of shoes for the most part we’ve given them a venue to where they can really be a part of the community.
Has the response in your opinion been strong enough to bring you back to the UK?
Absolutely, I think this is still an amazing show for us. London was our first international expansion city. I think just because it’s an English speaking country it was a lot easier for us to go in rather than say an Asian country or the other European countries like France or Germany which we are doing next week. We’ll really be aiming to learn from those experiences to make sure that we’re speaking the right language not just orally, but culturally.
What’re the future plans for Sneakercon as far as growth and expansion?
As far as the US we’re going to do bigger shows, multi-days, offering a lot more programming, a little more than vendors buying and selling shoes. You can start to see here at Crep Protect they brought together some of the biggest YouTubers here like Just Sul, Quias etc. So there’s a lot of nontraditional programming. Traditionally you would have celebrities and basketball players, here we have Youtubers. It’s very different and well accepted by the community. In the future, we’ll see if we can do a basketball game here with Youtubers and not just celebrities. Can we do a panel discussion? Can we do more then what we have here today? I think it will take time to build that audience through word of mouth and visibility in each country.
As far as tastes and attitudes between the UK and US audiences are there many similarities in your opinion?
Honestly, I think everything the UK has been pretty much similar to our US cities everyone here is fashion forward, they’re all wearing Supreme and the hot sneakers. You know surprisingly today, I saw a lot of Off White and a lot of Adidas as well as a really big mixture of things. The kids here look no different to the kids in the US, although I would say the UK audience is a little older than our audience back in the states, where they’re more on the college-age whereas ours are more on the high school age.
Whats your top five releases of 2017?
That’s impossible! I told myself that I was not going to buy any sneakers this year and I’ve added about two hundred pairs to my collection. The Off White collaboration, Pharrell NMD’s and some the Air Max’s this year have been good but again for me its impossible to keep it to a top five. There have been some amazing shoes, PUMA has put out a few good releases, Asics just put up some pictures of the Moncler collection that looks amazing. Adidas is killing it right now, Nike, also Converse with their Tyler collab. Jordan brand has some craziness. It’s been a crazy year, I think I would have to make it a top fifty rather than a top five!
MAGDI FERNANDES OF SLAMMING KICKS : WHAT’S IN MY TRAINER COLLECTION PT. 1
http://www.crepjunkie.com checks out the trainer collection of lifestyle photographer, DJ and all round sneaker Don Magdi Fernandes, of The Slammin’ Kicks store which was one of London’s most popular and established independent sneaker spots back in the day, right up until it closed its doors in late 2007.
DONAE’O: WHAT’S IN MY TRAINER COLLECTION PT.1
http://www.crepjunkie.com We recently caught up with Donae’O down at Relentless No 5 to speak on the ‘Party Hard’ emcees passion for all things creps. In this episode, he breaks down some of his favorite pieces from his trainer collection.
His mixtape ‘SIXTEEN’ – OUT NOW: https://Donaeo.lnk.to/16Mixtape
CREP SELECT: WHAT’S IN MY TRAINER COLLECTION
CHICKEN CONNOISSEUR: WHAT’S IN MY TRAINER COLLECTION! (PT1)
PUMA RS-0 LAUNCH BERLIN
THE PANEL ONLINE AIR MAX DAY 2018 DISCUSSION (PT2)
PHARRELL X ADIDAS CRAZY BYW ‘PINK’
CREP SELECT: WHAT’S IN MY TRAINER COLLECTION
CHICKEN CONNOISSEUR: WHAT’S IN MY TRAINER COLLECTION! (PT1)
THE PANEL ONLINE AIR MAX DAY 2018 DISCUSSION
FIRST LOOK: AIR MAX ANIMAL PACK 2.0
JASON MARKK: OPENS LONDON FLAGSHIP STORE!
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