As Alife celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2015, the Lower East Side brand collaborated with Puma to release a collection of apparel and footwear that brings the essence of Alife to various models in Puma's lifestyle line up. On the eve of the release this weekend, we caught up with Alife's Jesse Villanueva in New York to give us an insight into the stories and concepts behind each one of the sneakers in the collection.
Can you break down the overall concept for the collection for us?
The basic concept was to celebrate Alife's fifteen years in business. What we wanted to do was plug into the different elements of the store and the brand we felt were important visually, or important aesthetically. It was taking who and what we are, and exploring that. And just making classic New York shit.
Aesthetically, the sneakers in the collection look so different to each other! But with that concept in mind it makes perfect sense. Let's go through the story behind each sneaker starting with the classic suede models.
The basic premise of the suedes was to play into the overall vibe of the Rivington Club. the Riv was the first sneaker boutique, and for us it was a very important part of who we are and our growth. To be able to give people rare and hard to find, internationally sourced footwear for most of our fifteen years, it's very indicative of our love of the product and sneakers in general. this is what drew us in; the Rivington Club was truly our tribute to the shit we love!
The Riv's iconography has been the three diamonds and the black, red and purple colourway. That was kinda our bag, that was kinda what we ran with when we were there so we wanted to play into those colours and play into the classic old New York aesthetic. These shoes play tribute to how dirty is it on the lower east side and the fact kids have camped out four-five days in the rain and snow for those big sneaker releases.
For example, the Questlove release we had at the store a couple years back; it was snowing, a kid got robbed, Questlove turns up the day before with Pizzas for everybody – things were getting dirty outside! Anyone who has been involved in sport or music, this shoe continues to be part of the conversation, whether it was the '80s with b-boys, the '90s with skaters and the Beastie Boys, or today – it will always work.
So was it difficult to convince puma to let you create a busted looking sneaker?
Nah, we collectively just sat down and came up with these concepts. As soon as you start laughing about ideas collectively, you just go forward with it. They were on-board from day one. I just came in and was like, "can you making it dirty? Make it dusty! Make it grimy!" And they got it perfectly.
Going in a totally different direction, you have these mirror-like R698s that look like they're from the future!
So the basic concept of this sneaker is that it represents the Alife store. So when you walk into Alife Store, mirror to the right, cork benches, white floor, wood fixture. When you walk through the Alife door, theres a hand painted welcome sign by ESPO, so we threw that under the tongue for good measure. Every time you put on this R698, it's like you're walking into the Alife store.
And before you get into the Alife store, in the hallway we got the Piranha tank. The guys who do the dioramas for the Natural History Museum actually created that for us, it's just rad, it's the first thing you notice when you walk into the store. We wanted to pay tribute to that tank and the space that it has created. So we played with the colours and expanded on it with the Disc and the matching apparel.
So let's talk about these Blaze of Glorys, you know we love this silhouette at Sneaker Freaker!
I know you guys definitely do, 'cos you keep releasing the best BOGs ever! Well, another portion of who we are is the Alife Sessions. We've been throwing these intimate parties in our courtyard for eight or nine years at this point. So basically, the leather on the upper is an emulation of the texture leathers on the Marshall amps we have and the mesh represents that old amplifier. The blue, yellow and red highlights on the midsole represent the audio cables we have in there, and they were also the colours used on all the original Sessions shirts. Those colours give this sneaker that extra pop to make it really stand out!
The texture leather on the tongue looks fresh!
Yeah, they really nailed that one out of the gate.
Did you just take a photo and send it to them?
Man, we did tons of research, looking through old books and catalogs, spent days going through different leathers, with the guidance of Puma of course. Shout out Jon Tang, he knows what he's doing!
Lastly, take us through these two patterned colourways.
The high top and Trinomic runner pair together; if you have been in this city at all in the last fifteen years you would have have seen our stickers fucking everywhere, the sticker pattern is indicative of that sticker culture, a pattern that we feel is very us! That sticker is everywhere. so we played into the heritage of the logo, and branding that we've ran with for all this time.
Now that you're fifteen years deep, its safe to call Alife a veteran in the game. Where direction do you see sneaker culture, and streetwear overall, heading?
I don't think it's about one direction, it's going to go so many different directions at the same time, things are just getting so big, wild and out of control. You've got high fashion playing into streetwear, streetwear playing into high fashion, everybody wants to be up-market or lowbrow at the same time. You're going to see it go everywhere. The overall vibe of streetwear has always been a collective one, everything kind of makes sense culturally and now it's all over the place, because its bigger than that now. Its not just some weird kid shit anymore; only appealing to that kid who wanted something different, rare, hard to find shit...now everybody's in on it. It's a great time to be doing what we're doing, I feel that authenticity is still very important though. That's what great about this collection, it's us! we didn't chase anything, we didn't try to be like anybody else – it makes sense! We're super stoked with how the collection turned out, Puma killed this one.