Sneaker Freakettes of the world, it’s time to STAND UP! Lori Lobenstine (Female Sneaker Fiend) along with photographer extraordinaire Amanda Lopez are about to slam head-on into the publication world, with their new book ‘Girls Got Kicks’. It’s all about breaking down stereotypes, and with these two behind the wheel, who knows what will happen. We caught up with the ladies as they trek the globe to capture the true essence of female sneaker collecting. Lads, step aside, sisters are doin’ it for themselves!
::LORI LOBENSTINE – AUTHOR::
Hey Lori, did you ever imagine just how many ladies were into this cuckoo sneaker craze?
As a youth worker and basketball coach I knew that everywhere I went there were girls who were crazy about their kicks. So doing the math, I knew there were a lot of us! I still think there are way more girls out there into kicks than we realize. So many of them aren’t online, they’re just out there doing their own badass thing, running under our radar and repping in their own ways. Having said that, I never knew Female Sneaker Fiend would become such a meeting place and online community for girls and women all over the world. That’s been really cool and it’s taught me a lot…
Why was the website such a necessity back when you launched in 2005?
It was a real bridge between girls and the online sneaker community. Most of the other sites at that time were so male-dominated that many girls got turned off by being disrespected or having to wade through stupid pics of near-naked girls wearing kicks. We needed a site that truly reflected the real female sneaker fiends. Now it’s a home base for a lot of girls who also rep on other sites. They come back to FSF for the community, to buy and sell on the largest marketplace for small sneakers, to learn about getting into the industry and to check out the competition.
Has the battle for smaller sizes and more diversity within the female footwear category been won?
Well, it depends. I think we’ve come a long way in two directions. Firstly, the growth of small brands that are creating diverse product for women like Booji, Keep and Milkshake Kicks and secondly, the growth of the big brands, particularly Nike, finally paying attention to their female customers with nice colabs, more options and finer attention to detail. Female sneaker fiends are looking for the hottest and most exclusive shit just like their male counterparts. I’m not saying that’s the only way to be a fiend, but for those girls, having the exclusives come out in small sizes would be HUGE. It’s a more gender-neutral view of sneakers, and I think it better represents the sneaker fiend community at large. The second direction I want to see growth in is marketing. None of these brands that spend billions on marketing their product actually advertise their women’s sneakers, with the occasional exception of certain performance shoes. Yes, they send info to sneaker sites like FSF and SF so we can spread the word, but when have you ever seen them actually advertise a women’s sneaker? It’s a vicious cycle. The sneakers don’t get advertised, so they don’t sell, so they don’t get funding for development, so they’re not great kicks, so female sneaker fiends don’t buy them, so…
It ends up driving you bananas! Why continue the fight for FSFs worldwide?
It’s fun! As much as I love sneakers, I love the female sneaker fiends just as much. I feel like an insider sociologist. I’m fascinated and moved by this passion we have for our kicks and all the different ways that females express it. And the fact that it’s less expected, that it’s overlooked, that it challenges some stereotypes… that just makes it more intense and more interesting. It’s pretty easy to like kicks if you’re a guy. But if you’re a girl with a sick collection you’re going to face-down some folks who really doubt you. So I love female sneaker fiends for that glint in their eye, that swagger in their step and the extra knowledge they have to have for when guys assume they don’t.
You’re about to capture that essence with your new publication Girls Got Kicks. How important will this be for the movement?
Girls Got Kicks aims to capture the style, passion and variety of female sneaker fiends in a book that collages words and images, the young and old, the famous and ordinary. From girls in small towns who thought they were the only girl out there who loved kicks to girls who spend countless hours on sneaker websites, from fashionistas to tomboys, graff artists to indie rockers, Girls Got Kicks will be a tribute to females who have reshaped footwear in their own image. Our community is as rich and colorful as our collections, and we want folks to see that. In terms of the book’s impact on the movement, that’s a great question. I think anytime a movement can see itself and celebrate itself, it grows and deepens. I think the book will not only help connect us, but help push aside stereotypes about who a female sneaker fiend is. I’m constantly inspired by all the ways that girls represent themselves with their kicks. I hope Girls Got Kicks inspires them as much as they inspire me.
Preach on! So what inspired you to get the project off the ground?
Bobbito Garcia’s book, Where’d You Get Those? inspired both the website and the upcoming book. In fact, the site has been partly about building the community to the place where it is now, both in terms of size and connectivity, so that the book can properly reflect the whole scene. As much as I love Where’d You Get Those?, Bobbito managed to include hundreds of photos without a single female. He said he didn’t know any female sneaker fiends. It made me swear that never again would someone not know how to find us. The website has done that, and now a book will make our presence more permanent.
Tell us about hooking up with the photographer Amanda Lopez…
I hooked up with Amanda Lopez in two ways. First, I found her when I looked for photographers from the Younity Collective, a great group of female artists. Then I saw she had also done that phenomenal Mama Clothing Lookbook with the Fall/Winter ‘08 ‘La Vida Loca’ theme. I was really impressed, and I could tell she was great at capturing the essence and vibe of her subjects. I checked in with both Toofly (cofounder of Younity) and Gabriella (Mama Clothing) and they gave her rave reviews. Then I reached out to see if she was interested. I thought I had a chance because of her cool ‘Vans: True Story’ project, and sure enough, she was intrigued. It’s been an amazing partnership. She’s a fantastic photographer and nothing stops her. Already I’ve seen her face down in pouring rain, traffic, poor light, a garbage-ridden photo-shoot site and a red-eye flight. She’s phenomenal.
Are you hoping to branch out globally with your search or will this be purely US-based?
We’re going global. The images in the book will be a mix of Amanda’s portraits and shots sent in by fiends from all over – even if we can’t get Amanda to you, we can get you in the book! We haven’t determined all of the photo shoot sites, but the book will feature interviews and photos from all over the globe. More details on photo shoots will be forthcoming, but images and interview requests can always be sent to [email protected]
You’re yet to break a solid book deal for Girls Got Kicks – what’s the next step for the magic to happen?
Well, we have to do the work. So far, we’ve been putting together what we hope is a powerful, irresistible product. We haven’t taken it to publishers yet, but we have some good contacts and we’re optimistic. We want them to understand that this isn’t a niche book: that sneakers speak to a wide variety of girls and women all over the world, and that the book is about the people, not just the kicks. We’re also looking at the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing, because that is so much more doable these days. The quality and affordability of self-publishing and distribution have improved tremendously, so everything’s on the table right now. We’re really excited!
So are we! Is this book going to make the big brands and our male counterparts take female sneaker collectors seriously?
Great question. I guess I’d have to say at the end of the day, it’s really about us. So if the sneaker companies take notice, gravy. If our beloved male counterparts buy it for their sisters, girlfriends or moms, perfect. But if the brands continue to think we all live for pink sneakers, and if guys want to go on with their ideas that we stumbled onto our James Worthy NBs by accident, well, that’s on them. The book is so WE KNOW. No one can take it away from us. We’re here, and we’re kicking down barriers all over the world with skills and collections to match anybody’s.
::AMANDA LOPEZ – PHOTOGRAPHER::
Hey Amanda, last time we spoke you’d just finished off your True Story Series with Vans and now you’ve jumped into working on this massive Girls Got Kicks project. How did you become involved?
I got involved thanks to Lori. She had seen some of my Vans Shoe shots via the great ladies over at the Younity Collective and later, my work with Mama Clothing. She first approached me about sharing the Vans work on the site then through email exchanges, I found out she was working on the Girls Got Kicks project and she asked if I would be interested in contributing. Each lady obviously has a different story to tell and as a photographer it is your job to capture that essence
How did you approach each shoot?
Lori and I really wanted to try and capture the ladies in locations that were personal to them. I really like to photograph people in their own environments so it was really important to me that we try and do that with this project. When someone is comfortable in their environment, that sense of being comfortable comes out in the shot. Before each individual shoot, Lori or myself would talk with the girls and ask them about their collection and where they would like to be photographed. There is a level of spontaneity that comes when you give the subject that type of control but I enjoy shooting that way so I felt really comfortable showing up to a location and working with the elements to try and create a portrait. We photographed a lot of girls in their bedrooms or homes, in their neighbourhoods, the shoe stores where they work, on trains they would ride into the city to buy their kicks etc. Pretty much we would go wherever the subject wanted us to go for the sake of the portrait.
What challenges did you face in creating the best possible outcome for each image?
Every single girl we’ve photographed has been super sweet so the shoots have been fun and I feel like we’ve gotten some nice images because of the good vibes. The only real challenge that I think we’ve faced however is time. Since we are really trying to represent the diversity of the female sneaker culture we really want to go all over the U.S. and eventually the world, to photograph. With that said, when we travel we only have a limited amount of time in each city so we are only able to photograph a limited number of girls. In a perfect world it would be awesome to spend at least a couple of weeks in each of the cities we go to.
As seen in Issue 16 of Sneaker Freaker