Hey Omar! How’s things?
Things are good. Busy, which is always better than slow for us. Gettin' ready for the summer heat.
Norfolk, Virginia. Tell us a little about this place cos’ we’ve heard much about your store...
Norfolk is known for its culture and diverse neighborhoods and is one of seven cities that make up the growing area of Hampton Roads (1.3 million people) which covers a community with diverse interests and deep roots in skating, surfing, sports and hip hop. It’s home to sports stars Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning, Michael Vick and the Neptunes, the Clipse, Kenna, Famlay, Missy Elliott, and Timbaland as well as veteran skateboard pros like Andy Howell, Sergie Ventura, and Kyle Berard.
And the main attraction in Norfolk, apart from your store, would be?
I’d like to say the hospitality of the southern belles, but I guess it’s the longest stretch of public beach on the east coast (besides Florida) or the skate park at Mt Trashmore.
And what’s your background?
I was born and raised in Virginia Beach and moved to NYC in '91, but for more than a decade I’ve been involved on the creative side in skate/snowboarding, sports and urban apparel. Mostly creative direction for advertising and corporate branding, but also product development and brand management.
What else do you do apart from Commonwealth?
Besides working on the store and its extended projects (which is a lot as it is), I still do creative consulting and design for other labels. And on top of that, I’m launching a new men’s clothing label called Rip-off & Duplicate/R&D which will be unveiling at the upcoming shows starting in August.
From the pictures on your site, the shop looks pretty fresh. Is there much of a ‘scene’ in Virginia? How does it compare to the main cities in the US… say LA and NY?
NY and LA are metropolitan cities; I lived in both cities (still live in NYC) and wouldn’t compare it to Norfolk, Virginia. Hampton Roads is definitely suburban, but there is a scene there. There’s been a strong skate community there since the early 80s. It also has a pretty good music talent pool. As for other subcultures it's small, but talented and building quickly.
When we saw the C’mon Pumps, it was just before the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, and we thought they were designed for the games….
A little history 101. The proto-Virginians that docked at Jamestown referred to their ‘undertaking’ as a commonwealth from the day the colony was founded in 1607. They go back to a 17th century notion of the state as a common enterprise; practicing ‘all for one, one for all’ philosophies; which is why our store motto is ‘For the Greater Good’. Decades later (1649-1660) in England ‘the Commonwealth’ came to mean the period of Puritan rule. Even without knowing the etymology of the word. We just like the sound and presence that Commonwealth creates.
I’m sure you’ve been asked a million times, but we wanna know…. Why the Pump Omnilite?
I’m a fan of basketball and have always loved watching the NBA dunk contest. So my favorite memory of a Reebok sneaker came in '91 when Dee Brown ‘pumped up’ his Omni Lites and won with the ‘No Look’ dunk.
Why those colours/rainbow swirls?
The colorways were based around the swirled plastic supports. The swirls were based on the 25 cent super bounce balls you get in those coin operated gumball machines. With all the variations of color blocked reissues around, I wanted the Cmon Omni to stand out so I designed it as a solid colored quality leather with laces to match making the swirled plastic be the initial attraction. Black: cos its classic; Grey: cos its clean; and Seafoam (most requested): cos I personally wanted a sneaker that color!
How many were made?
100 each colorway. If I knew the demand and respect for the shoe was gonna be as big as it was, We would’ve produced more so heads worldwide could get them. We sold most to the locals.
How many times have people tried to hustle free shit?
Once was enough. No one likes to be hustled.
What will the next shoe be?
I’d like that to be a surprise as well. I want the desire for the shoe to be based on the idea and quality of the design or materials chosen, not on the popularity of the model or the brand that it’s with. Like how we chose a shoe from Reebok and made is desirable and notable.
What’s on the cards? Projects? Events? Collaborations?
Our biggest project right now is a new location in Washington DC, late Summer '06. We were fortunate enough to be able to produce some co-branded products with different companies for the opening. Our hat with New Era has been leaked already, so we wanna wait til the opening to reveal the rest. That way there isn't so much ‘hype’ that it gets killed before it comes out.
We read that you’re down on the ‘blog’ thing, where people pinch stuff and claim fame on their site. I guess it’s a catch 22 scenario for stores and brands. What have you got to say about that?
It’s not that I don’t like blogs. I like some of the personal blogs and online magazines out there. It’s when people call their blogs ‘online magazines’ when the reporting and journalism is unprofessional, poorly written, misinformed and worst of all, plagiarized. I hate giving free advice, so get your money’s worth with the following; For reporters, columnists, journalists, and writers of these ‘blogzines’, you should follow the same honor principle system that barely exists in the print world. Do the research, learn to write using your own point of view and use spell check! For the companies looking for press, don’t believe that ‘all press is good press’, be selective to who you release information to, it’s the same principle as selective distribution for your products. You sell to the stores that will present your product correctly, so choose the right outlets that will present the information about your company correctly.
Do you think Tom Cruise has gone mad?
Not for me. People believe what they need to to survive.
This is the bit where you show and give your...
Love. Shouts to my partner, Larry Incognito and the heads holdin’ down the store (Renato, Zack, Jae, Louise, Brian and Lex) and all the brands, labels, media and people (too many to name) that have been supporting Commonwealth.
Hate. I try not to hate, just point out what could be better. Advice. Another freebie? ‘Stop chokin' your dogs!’ (Stop lacing your kicks so damn tight!)
This article appeared in Issue 8 of Sneaker Freaker. Buy it here!