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Lotek - Rich Hirsch

Date: March 28 2007

By: Sneaker Freaker

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Lotek have been cogging out shoes for a long minute now, and back in Issue 8 of Sneaker Freaker we featured an exclusive interview with the brains behind the bike, Rich Hirsch. After seeing other X-treme-style sports get all the glory when it came to footwear, Hirsch set about creating a sneaker that allowed bandits to bunny hop without being too flashy and over bearing. He not only created a sneaker brand, he formed a movement, and we needed to find out more so we got Nuno Oliveira to do the dirty work for us!

Hey Rich... what’s up with Lotek?
I was actually working with a large company that wanted to get into the BMX market and explained to them how to do it properly so that it benefits the industry as well. After a while they realized that it would cost way too much and offered me their sourcing to vendors if I wanted to do it alone. I drew up some shoes and a sole, ordered some samples and it’s all kind of a blur from there. I do all the designing from Portland but I started it and it's warehoused in LA. I’m sure Lotek is pretty small compared to any other shoe brands in SNKRFRKR...I’m guessing our numbers are small enough to consider us a full-time limited edition brand.

Is there any significance behind the name? How did you settle on that?
I liked the idea of simple shoes, so what better fitting of a name than ‘Lotek’.

How is the BMX scene these days?
It’s chill. Been underground for a while now and it looks like things are swinging back our way. It definitely went through similar refinements as the skate industry did years back, like most of the wack guys are on TV doing X-Games kinda stuff and the guys with all the style are just staying low key. It's still fun...

Walk us through the design process...
They usually start with notes on my sidekick about random things I see; materials, patterns, other shoes etc. Then a paper drawing, or if the ideas strong, straight to illustrator.

How long does it take to bring the final product to life, between design and samples?
Six months to a year is about average for Lotek. That gives us three months for testing and the three months it takes for them to come over on the boat. Samples take three weeks to a month, so the time correcting samples can add up quick.

Yeah that’s quite a while... Is there anything you learned about sneakers that you didn’t know before, now that you’re designing them?
I’ve learned a lot, mostly about how different materials feel and work together. I’ve also learned a fair amount about the pricing of materials in different countries and their duties. For instance, in the U.S, when you import a shoe that’s made of 51% or more synthetic materials, duty is roughly 40% more than a leather shoe.

Is there any detail that is a must for a BMX shoe?
It’s pretty similar to a skate shoe, triple stitched toe, 400 nbs rubber sole, although I think our sole is a bit thicker so your foot doesn’t fold around the pedal too much.

All your sneakers share the same sole, is that for a continuous theme, or to save on costs?
We don’t want to make a new one just so we can say we have two. If we introduce another sole it has to be because it’s an improvement in some way. With that said, we actually have a vulcanized sole coming out next season that will allow us to offer a price point shoe that will retail for under $50us.

Will you develop any new technical details in the future?
Yeah, we are developing mold-injected insoles right now that should come in all our shoes next year. They form to your feet and create a perfect fit for everyone which helps add a lot of comfort and stability.

I really liked the brown leather and gum sole you used on the first run of ‘Troops’, what determines your final choice of color ways?
Thanks, we really just test out a lot of different materials. That shoe was made of saddle leather which distresses real easily and the idea was that no two pair would be alike. We really try to push our limits with each new shoe in the direction of style as well as making a better product for the BMX rider. A good example would be our mid-top shoe – for BMX riders, ankle injuries are commonplace, so the mid-top accommodates that as well as brings a unique style that other companies may stray from for fear of low sales.

Lotek can be considered ‘small’ amongst companies like etnies, Vans and DC, yet you have locked down a great team with some heavy hitters and seem to be growing steadily. Why do you think that is?
We are a movement more then anything. People that we get involved with are part of it, and that’s something that can’t be replaced with a paycheck. We also try to give our riders opportunities that skate companies don’t, like their own signature products.

So who's riding on the Lotek team now?
The crew consists of Mike Aitken, Jason Enns, Bob Scerbo, Seth Kimbrough, Terry Adams, Eddie Cleveland, Ian Schwartz and Chase Hawk.

What products have you developed for the team?
The Delta is Jason Enns' pro-model shoe, and the Brooklyn was the Edwin De La Rosa pro model (but he left for DC just recently) and we’re working an assortment of signature items for next spring right now.

Were you concerned going into it, that you would not be able to compete with those other brands?
At the time when I started it seemed like the mainstream brands were really neglecting our industry so the space was there. Most of the larger brands usually hire the wrong people and end up with a weird team and identity, sort of like Nike SB the first time around. So you could say they made it easy.

You also do quick ‘mixtape’ style videos of the team to promote the brand, which is clever. How did that come about?
Lotek is influenced by music more than anything, and I knew going into it that the mixtape is the underground’s voice. We do a new mixtape twice a year when our new shoes come out.

What’s next?
Hopefully a little love from the sneaker community...

:: NUNO OLIVEIRA

This article appeared in Issue 8 of Sneaker Freaker. Buy it here!

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