The humble honey bee doesn’t just provide us with that sticky spread we love on toast, these profuse pollinators hold the whole goddamn ecosystem as we know it together. Without them, a lot of the foods we love right now would die off, so it’s pretty important to make sure they stay around. Swedish retailers Sneakersnstuff are helping tackle the problem of the dwindling honey bee population with their new collaboration on the Reebok Classic Ventilator. Clever themes and back stories have always been an integral aspect of Sneakersnstuff’s colabs, and we thought this latest effort was particularly intriguing, so we chased down co-founders Erik and Peter. We stepped back in time and discussed how SNS started as a store and how they came to develop such a strong relationship with Reebok, as well as why ‘sneaker storytelling’ is so important in the shoe game today.
SF: Tell us about the love affair with sneakers. When did you first realize sneakers were gonna be your thing?
Erik: I grew up playing basketball, and there's no media coverage of basketball in Sweden, so whatever you could get had to come from the States. It was either a VHS tape sent from a friend or it was an American magazine. So all the ads when watching basketball or reading about it were for sneakers; it was Nike, it was Reebok. So I think that paved the way, that was sort of the start of the brainwash. At that stage in Europe, there were really only black or white sneakers, but in those ads there were red, blue, purple, all kinds of colours. So you strove to get that stuff that nobody else had. That was my starting point.
I know you guys have been around for more than a decade now. How did SNS come together?
Peter: Back in the day, I worked in a sporting goods store. There were no sneaker shops yet. To get sneakers in Sweden, you had to buy them from a sporting goods store. So to be exact, 26 years ago, I started working in this industry and a couple of years later I heard by word of mouth about Erik, who was as interested as I was in sneakers. And then, we actually met at a Reebok DMX event in 1994, I think.
Erik: Something like that.
Peter: Yeah. Then we started working together a couple years later and every day we had time off, we went hunting for sneakers. We started the company in November, 1998. We signed a partnership agreement and then opened up in early 1999. It's 16 years doing our own thing now and it's never been better. Never regret it.
Great stuff. What are the first memories you have of Reebok?
Peter: Actually one of my first shoes that I ever got was a Reebok Classic. This was way back in the day. I remember they had a few shoes that I really, really wanted. They were popular in the early '90s, it was their glory days, so to speak. I was very into that clean and casual look when I was younger.
Erik: From a basketball standpoint, like in the late '80s to early ‘90s, there was really only Reebok and Nike. Converse had sort of faded out and adidas was nowhere in the mix. There was a time when Reebok was probably leading the way, actually. They came up with this streetball programme, they did all these things in the '90s that actually meant something to the kids. I mean the Kamikazes, even the Shaqs at a later stage. These were the only alternatives to Jordans and Nike. So that was a big first impression for me.
I just want to ask you about the role of sort of storytelling in product. It's something that didn't exist when we first started obsessing about shoes. It was just every season, there were new colours. Now there is usually a story behind colabs and a lot of the inline releases too. Why is that use of storytelling so important for product and how does it play a role in the elevation of the product to a different level?
Peter: It's added value. It's not super important to have a story, but being a sneaker nerd it's always nice to know something else.
Erik: I actually think that it is super important to have a story. It should not overtake the actual product. The product should come first. You should create a good-looking shoe, but you should be able to combine that with the story and explain why it looks that way. Why is this purple? Why is this teal? Why is this green? Reebok has put nice colours together forever, but now we add something else.
What’s the story behind this Ventilator colab?
Erik: Storytelling, as I said, can overtake the product sometimes. But I think for this product we have a story that has deserved to be told for a while. We've talked about it for a couple of years. This felt like the perfect shoe to do it on. Peter's sister has a company called Bee Urban, and they want to save the bees. That's the short story. Bees are dying and we wanna make people aware of how important they are to the world. Mankind will die if all the bees die, so it's pretty important stuff. So, what we did, we sponsored a beehive. Reebok and Sneakersnstuff now have a beehive up in Stockholm, where Bee Urban takes care of our bees. The first pairs will come with a Reebok Hexalite-shaped jar full of the honey harvested from this beehive. It's gonna be nice.
Colabs with a conscience!
Peter: Yeah. It's a big issue, there is a world to be saved here, and we're trying to just contribute in the best way that we can by creating this shoe. It’s about giving something extra too. And to be able to harvest honey, to be able to send out Hexalite-shaped honey jars, That's storytelling for us. It adds a new dimension of storytelling.