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First In Flight (Adelaide) - Interview

Date: August 09 2008

By: Sneaker Freaker

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There is a running joke that Adelaide runs a lot slower than the rest of Australia but there is one sneaker store out to prove that fact wrong. Taking the reigns of their spanking new website, First In Flight, Adelaide’s original sneaker spot, has given freakers all over the world the opportunity to buy up big from their ever-growing inventory. Putting the southern part of the scene on the map, FIF go all out to leave their mark on a city more known for churches than kicks! We chat with Ben Stephan and find out more about this burgeoning addiction and converting non-believers into disciples.

Hey guys, how is the City of Churches chugging along?
Yeah, great. There’s a lot more happening here than the rest of OZ is willing to admit!

Where did the name of the store arise?
We had pages and pages of names, that we either weren’t happy with or couldn’t agree upon. We really wanted something unique, and wanted to avoid the whole 'shoe, feet, sneaker', derivative style name. After much deliberation, I was sitting down one night with a list of possibilities, going back over the names. I had the Ipod on in the background, when Blackalicious came on. It seemed a perfect fit for the first shop in Adelaide to cater for the sneaker culture. It was one of those times when you hear something and go, yep, that’s it. But we have had a few calls asking to book holidays though.

Give us some background into the crew that help FIF run it’s daily operations.
I have been involved in the sneaker industry for over eight years now, particularly in the skate shoe area. Starting with DC back in 1999 as a rep, I have seen the amazing growth the company has had and is continuing with. These guys have done amazing things for the sport and skate shoe industry, always pushing the boundaries of what a skate shoe is. I still work for DC, and it is great to see both sides of the retail game and has also given me the opportunity to meet many people in the industry and get over to the States more often. It’s always good to see what’s happening over there in retail, as they really are the drivers of the whole game. They have such a huge culture and there are many amazing retailers there.

We have some great staff in the store, all with a passion for the shoes. Adam, who is on the floor day to day, has worked for Platypus and recently returned from a stint in Japan. He has a great knowledge of our product. Nick organised the sneaker swap, which was a great success and was great for the entire scene over here. Amy is new to the business and has come from an accounting and marketing background. This has been the best thing that has happened for us, as the bookwork is definitely not my forte! If the paper work is not up to scratch, you are going to be behind the 8 ball to begin with. We also work really closely with our graphic designers at The Cloud Concept. They have done everything from our logo, shop design and now the website. They have been amazing at what they do and helped us build our brand.

How has the store progressed in the last three years since opening its wings?
We first started out with the idea of sneakers and denim, but the store has evolved into mainly shoes and streetwear to suit. We still carry a good range of Japanese denim, but sneakers is where it is at. Over the years we have picked up some new brands, one of these recently being Asics. We are looking forward to getting in some great product from them. You know, it’s all a learning curve. You have an idea of what we like and the consumer wants, but you aren’t always right. You have to cater for what the consumer wants. They can get product from all over the world within days, so if you aren’t competitive on price or product, then you will lose out. We really try to back the products that are limited in our market, i.e. Quickstrike style releases. This gives us the edge over all the other sneaker stores that have opened in Adelaide. We are still the only store that specialises in sneakers. Our range has grown from our opening day when we were lucky to have 20 styles, to over 120 styles/colourways and still growing.

There is the running joke that Adelaide is truly more than one hour behind the rest of us in Australia (and I only say that as an ex-Radelaidian), but how does the streetwear scene hold up there?
There is a very tight knit community in Adelaide. The scene is defiantly smaller than in other areas, but the crew that are in it are so on the ball. The internet is on the same time globally, so there is no lag anymore. Also, there have been many other stores that have opened up since we started, which has only strengthened the scene and actually helped us out. The more stores there are, the more exposed people are to the scene. We see new faces all the time and a new generation is coming through.

What are the brands holding it down in the Southern State? What are some differences you have found that sets Adelaide apart?
Nike is our key brand. There is a massive hip hop scene in Adelaide, especially with the Hilltop Hoods down here. Those guys are all Nike freaks. Nike is just a given though, I think that is the case everywhere. We carry a large range of Reebok as well, which has really kicked in, in the last year. They have got their shit together with ranges and have much more on offer, but they still have a long way to go. There is a lot of product in their archive we would love to see.

NB is one of the harder brands for us, which is really frustrating, as we love the product and know how strong it is everywhere else. Maybe this is the 1 hour behind thing. We are looking forward to receiving Asics; the first drop for us is on its way, which will be the Mita Kirimomi collection. We will also be getting our first drop of Gourmet very soon as well.

Why has it taken this long for you guys to cater worldwide, with the impending launch of your website?
The website has been a work in progress for over a year now. Our designers have workshopped so many ideas that we had both come up with. We have collaborated since day one. They came up with over 300 logos at the start. Everything has to be perfect, they won’t release anything until it is. We wanted our site to be clean and highlight our products, just like our shop. It is easy to navigate and you can check out the product in detail. We are so stoked with the way it has come up, and we know it will be a major tool for us allowing us to showcase our store and products both nationally and internationally. We will be adding an online store shortly for products we are allowed to sell online. We just want to make sure the current site has no glitches. We will be taking orders via email or phone.

Tell us about the Sneaker Swap meet you guys held a couple of months back. What was the reaction and feedback like from the event, and any plans to hold a sequel?
The swap meet was such a fun day. All our mates were there with their collections for sale and a few sneaky beers. There was an amazing array of product. There were crew that were just checking out how it all went, and we have had so many people keen for the next one. It was good to see all the local stores there together and a great vibe all day. There’s going to be another one before Christmas. We were thinking of running it biannually. I’m sure that they will only get bigger and increase the interest in the scene. We will keep everyone posted about the next one on the site and Sneaker Freaker forums.

What are your plans for the next couple of years with the store? Will we see any colabs or apparel lines dropping?
We have a few things we are working on at the moment. We have some plans in the pipeline at the moment for expansion. Our first run of tees is at the printers right now and will be ready to go for our INFRARED release next month.

Check our Shop Guide for First In Flight information.

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