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Yours - The One Man Sneaker Brand

Date: April 30 2010

By: Sneaker Freaker

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New Zealand has been making waves in the streetwear scene of late, with clothing labels such as Lower and ABC killing it cross country and across the globe. Now it's about time a sneaker brand jumps in and joins the party! Welcome to Yours - a company set up by Andrew Henry four years ago and finally, it's now making its mark. We caught up with the designer to get the nitty gritty details on just how one starts up their own sneaker brand without any financial aid, background in design and (pardon the pun) a foot in the door. Yours proves that anything is possible!

Hey Andrew, how's tricks over there in luscious New Zealand?
Hey M.A.F.I.A , all good.

Let's jump straight into it... many heads have probably dreamt of making their own sneaker, but only a handful actually see the process all the way through. Why did you decide to create your very own sneaker brand?
The sneaker culture has inspired me in countless ways and brought me a lot of happiness. It was a natural path to want to create something of my own and contribute to the culture. I've always carefully examined the sneakers I buy, taken in details and thought about how to improve on models.... so it's been cool to be able to create something of my own.

How does one go about funding what would seem to be a very costly endeavour?
Any small business starts with some kind of investment. I know of successful designers who were backed by an existing brand - that would be the ideal. To be funded by a brand you respect to do what you love! It didn't work out that way for me so it is all personally funded and let's just say.... it involves taking some risks.

Without any prior background in shoe making or business, how did you get things rolling?
From day one I simply started drawing... a lot. Putting ideas on paper. After this I spoke to anyone I could to find out about the shoe business. I absorbed as much knowledge as possible which led to finding some great contacts - designers, manufacturers and great business mentors. That brought me to this point.

Who else was involved in helping get the brand off the ground?
There are loads of people who have contributed to Yours' success - my first stockists, who took a gamble on me, friends who have helped with PR and all of the people who have put me in contact with others and helped build relationships. But if you mean in terms of the design and the running of the business, it's a solo project. It has been entirely self-produced from that point of view.

Four years and ten samples later you finally settled on your masterpiece - no doubt you pulled a lot of hair out and lost your bananas on more than one occasion - how did you stay focused and committed?
There were times when it seemed impossible, but the thought of having a sneaker of my very own was enough to keep me focused. To see someone rocking your creation is something special and if I had to go through it all again I would.

It's a very clean looking shoe that forgoes the bells and whistles of a lot of styles on the market today - you're obviously influenced by high-end fashion and crisp lines...who do you look to for inspiration when it comes to design?
I wouldn't say I look to any one brand or designer. I don't have a favourite that I keep coming back to. I am inspired day to day which includes everything around me... my aesthetic changes a lot so that is a hard question.

People will see the end result of Yours without knowing the blood, sweat and tears that went into creating the brand. What were the most hectic challenges you faced in that four-year period?
The most hectic challenge would have been the actual production of the sneaker. Getting it ‘perfect' was a real challenge. The whole process from start to finish was self taught so as you can imagine there was a lot of trial and error. The design itself came quite naturally, but transferring that into something material was exceptionally difficult. Right now the focus for Yours is to find the right stockists overseas. The brand is only a year old so it is very early days - without stockists, you can't sell shoes so that is how we will stay afloat in the short term. Since the feedback so far has been really positive, I would say that in the longer term, from a design point of view, I need to keep things fresh and original. One challenge for me has been that I want the shoes to grow / sell organically and that impacts how they are pushed to market. I really want the shoes to speak for themselves.

Do you think we're finally seeing an ‘independents day' of sorts - a time where self-funded, self-produced brands are finally able to survive and make their mark?
I hope so! I definitely think now is the time for independent brands to make their mark. I think consumers are looking for ways to express themselves and are moving away from the big names in order to find unique products. I love checking out new independent labels and I think people have a natural inclination to cheer on the little guys. More often than not they are doing it for all the right reasons and it shows in their work.

Are independent brands sustainable then?
I think that all you need to do is look around to see evidence that it is - Common Projects spring to mind since we are talking specifically about sneakers.

Where can we cop a pair?
Check my website for stockists www.yoursruoy.com There are designs in the pipeline for a couple of new styles and plans to further expand. Keep an eye out for new products later in the year.

Thanks Andrew!

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