With one of the world’s most unpronounceable shop names, Lijfstijl has been teasing sneakerheads with sneakpeeks of their upcoming collabo with New Balance. Leave it to Sneaker Freaker to get the dirt on this drop with an exclusive interview with the Rotterdam based crew. With their inspiring motto ‘we don’t talk, we walk’, we strapped on our Oranjeboom to venture into one of the most intriguing cities in Europe.
Hey Guys, how is the Rotterdam scene?
Right now, the Rotterdam scene is growing fast. A bit too fast for its own good sometimes, but that’s just our opinion. Some people in Rotterdam pick trends up really fast. So when a specific ‘trend’ is growing, everybody jumps on it. Sometimes that’s hard to see, because then there is the possibility of killing it. When we started out four and a half years ago, there weren’t a lot of people that understood the whole sneaker and high-end street fashion thing in Rotterdam. Now you see everybody is on it, especially the peeps that weren’t into it when it wasn’t a fashion trend or considered hype. We started out with exclusive sneakers and fashion because of the love for it. Alain used to B-boy and skateboard a lot back in the day and Tjimme used to play basketball and that is how our love for sneakers started. We were always busy searching for the models that our mums never let us buy back in the day. And now you see a lot of people are into it because of the blogs and the whole hype surrounding the scene. But luckily you always have a few people that are still in it for the love. Guys like Leyp, Nick Kailola (who was the Sneaker Freaker customize winner in Issue 5) and Woei (another sneaker shop in Rotterdam) know what’s up, and together we all stay strong. What a lot of people don’t understand is that the Rotterdam scene is a lot different from Amsterdam. In Amsterdam there are more people that are busy with lifestyle, sneakers and stuff. Amsterdam has got a lot of young people, a lot of students, more people that are culturally engaged and also a lot of tourists. Rotterdam is a working city, so the whole scene is a bit smaller, but that doesn’t mean it is not as good. The true scene is more underground here. In Rotterdam you have got a lot of real old-school heads. People who are just in it for the love and their own sentimental reasons. We always say real recognize real. And that sums it all up.
There seems to be a massive boom in sneaker collaborations between European sneaker stores and New Balance, for example, Solebox, 24 Kilates, Hanon and Sneakersnstuff. Why do you think we are seeing the NB brand receiving such a massive push in Europe?
We don’t think that New Balance itself is pushing it so hard, but more the people that just love the brand, like us. We call New Balance the 'Bentley' of sneakers. Because the quality and the materials are always top notch, and that is the same with the models. A few years back only Nike and a few others had collaborations so there were a lot of people that followed that. Right now we think that more people are realizing that there is more than only the limited edition models from the bigger brands. And we think it is the same for the shops. We just like the fact that they never did big ad campaigns, but just let the product and quality speak for itself.
Our whole collaboration started out in London, when we were invited to the 100 year celebration of New Balance. We were there with Nils de Wolf, who used to work for New Balance (right now he is the Director of Vans Benelux). He introduced us to some guys, and we were just drinking a few beers, talking about shoes, like the most of us do. All of sudden we were talking about the SMU's (Special Make Ups) of Size? and Offspring, and that it would be cool to do something like that in Holland. They were like, 'yeah, we should do that'. After that, we designed a few shoes but when Nils moved to Vans the whole idea got shelved. That was until there was a new sales rep that also liked the ideas. And so we got started again.
All of the above sneakers have a strong story line that has influenced the collaborations. What does the Lijfstijl shoe say about your environment and surroundings?
Everything! We inspired the whole shoe on our city, Rotterdam, which is a trendsetting city in Holland and the only city with a skyline. The reason being is that Rotterdam was bombed on 14 May 1940 by the Nazis in WWII. When the rest of Holland was already surrendering to the Nazis, the elite forces of Holland, Korps Marines based in Rotterdam were still busy defending the city. The Nazis decided to bomb the city as retaliation, and to set an example. After WWII the whole city was rebuilt from ashes, and a lot of new architecture found its way in this rebuilding period. We lost our old centre, our heart, but the love remains. That’s why we based this first shoe on the colours of our city, on the colours that surround us. It’s a city of many contrasts; contrasts in architecture that indicate the phases which this city was facing after WWII, the people’s pain, but also their energy and inspiration to re-build their city and to keep on building. Rotterdam is also an underground city; the whole Hip Hop scene is big in Rotterdam, but more underground than, for example, Amsterdam. Even the whole party scene is diverse; you have to know were to go to, to fully experience it. And that’s the same with us; it’s more then meets the eye.
Did the cockroach storyline come up straight away?
We always had the idea to do something for the city. You have to understand we love our city, it’s just like a girlfriend, sometimes full of love, other times crazy as hell. But always true. The whole idea was already in our mind and then we just sat down with everybody from the shop in a bar, and discussed our options and ideas. The whole cockroach thing came after we already had designed the shoe. The word 'cockroach' is used as a curse word, by other cities, for us. Rotterdam people are named cockroaches, especially in Football, with the whole Ajax vs. Feyenoord thing, they use it a lot.
A while back Alain was reading a story about cockroaches and how they are one of the oldest creatures on the planet. It’s almost impossible to get rid of them. You know they can survive up to fifteen times more radioactive radiation then we can. They’re going to inherit the world when we are gone. That’s some heavy shit man, so we were just like, 'everybody is using it as a curse word, but we’re gonna flip it'. We celebrate the name. A few of our earlier ideas were eliminated but we eventually stuck to the Cockroach/Rotterdam plan. The guys from Leyp made the design of the Cockroach and we thank them for it!
When collaborating with New Balance, how do they take your vision and guide you to create the best possible sneaker?
They gave us a lot of options, but also a lot of freedom. We basically could do what we wanted. There was good contact with designers there. After we gave them our first design, they made us a sample and we just worked from that by adding and subtracting various things from our first design.
How did you settle upon the NB 577 model?
The NB 577 wasn’t released in Holland until recently. The last time was almost eight years ago, as a Foot Locker special, which was a great one, by the way. But everybody in the shop had their own preferences, and we just made it a democratic election. Also the possibilities on this shoe are very nice to work with, how the different panels work on the shoe.
Wasn’t the Lijfstijl x Rotterdam x New Balance meant to be dropping in August? Was the release of the images a little premature, or are the sneakers being held back for a reason?
Yeah that was the initial date, but we had some problems with the whole packaging around it. Because there are a lot of extras we want to release on the same date. For example we chose to make a Susan Bijl bag in the same colours; these had to come from Japan and are now being printed in Holland. The release party needed more planning as well!
With saying that, what is the tentative plan of release and where will heads be able to cop?
The launch is planned for the 25th off October. Of course they will be sold in our shop as well as online. Other retail places are Solebox in Berlin, T-shu in Eindhoven (Holland), possibly more to be confirmed.
How has the store been jamming along? Is there much competition as far as sneaker outlets and street wear stores in Rotterdam?
The store is good. We've been open for four and a half years now and due to the store we have created a huge network. We also throw a lot of parties, events and stuff. We’re just busy supporting our people in different kinds of ways, working together with the guys from Leyp, dropping parties called Dr. Feelgood, advising for the Dutch sneaker brand Quick and also supporting a lot of young talent, MCs and DJs. Actually, two Lijfstijl crew members are some of the fastest rising DJ talents in Holland; The Freshest Kidz. But also guys like Cream, Civil, awink.nl, Nalden.net, Winne, Salah Edin, Hef, Soulland Copenhagen, Susan Bijl and so on. These are people that do their own thing and we support them for it. We are all young and everyone has got their own dreams. We just like to see people working on those dreams. As far as competition goes, there are a lot of new shops, some with whom we chill, others not. But it’s not really a competition. Everybody is cool with each other. It’s a smaller scene, so it doesn’t really help business to be competitive. We all have the same love for sneakers and the whole lifestyle around it. It’s better to help each other than fight one another.
What has this collaboration and working with New Balance taught you guys that you will take with you into the future of Lijfstijl?
Brands are really fond of ideas that we have and concepts we come up with. It showed us the possibilities that are out there for us. We
always thought that brands were too big to listen to us, but right now we're already busy with other options for different brands and companies. We just want to keep moving and growing with the stuff that we like to do. Rotterdam is a working class city, and we have a saying: ‘we don’t talk, we walk’. And that is exactly what we're doing, we just want to keep moving, and enjoy ourselves.
ROTTERDAM, 3011 AT
Ph: 31 (0) 0280 0506