Jimmy Gorecki's JSP x Lakai Colab Is a Love Letter to Skateboarding
If you had to pick one noun to describe Jimmy Gorecki's career in skateboarding, 'longevity' would be an apt choice. From his time as a rising Philadelphia skate star who cut his teeth at the city's famous Love Park to serving as a founding member of Pharrell's ICECREAM skate team and using his expertise to start brands like JSP and Standard Issue, Gorecki has seen the skateboard industry from every angle.
Above all else, Gorecki is a steward of skateboarding culture and history. His encyclopaedic knowledge of the sport shines through in his collaborative projects, the latest of which is a two-shoe effort with Lakai. The colab is a full-circle moment for Gorecki: when he was a teenager, Lakai was the first brand to flow him free kicks, and now he's working with them directly to create shoes for the next generation of skaters.
In an extensive interview, Jimmy Gorecki spoke with Sneaker Freaker about his history with Lakai, why the brand is so important to skateboarding culture and more. See the full conversation below.
What's your history with Lakai? There are more than a few vintage photos of you skating in their sneakers!
I was just starting my skate career in earnest when [Lakai founders] Rick Howard and Mike Carroll left Vans and DC to do Lakai, and that was a huge moment for me. Those guys were super influential around the turn of the century, both for what they did on their boards and how they dressed while they were doing it I mean, these are the guys responsible for Girl, Chocolate, so many dope brands. When Lakai got off the ground, they started signing guys like Scott Johnson and Anthony Pappalardo, who I'd skate pretty regularly with at Love Park in Philly. Their team was the best of the best, and as a kid, it was totally mind-blowing. You could only dream of being a part of something so cool.
How did you get linked in with them?
I didn't have a shoe sponsorer when Anthony joined Lakai, but Anthony was also skating for Alien Workshop at the time, and their team manager Nino Scalia – another Philly guy who, later, helped Pharrell start the ICECREAM skate team – was cool with Kelly Byrd, the manager of the Lakai team. Kelly had just come over to Lakai from DC and was helping get the brand up and running, so he got me on the flow program. I started getting free shoes from them and it was amazing. Any thought or consideration of officially being on the team was light-years away, but I didn't really care. I'd had a few conversations with ,Nike SB about getting on their flow team, but I was like 'I'd honestly rather be on flow with Lakai.'
And now, two decades later, you've got your own Lakai colab through JSP. That has to feel like a full-circle moment, right?
Absolutely, man. The brand is so important to skateboarding culture. Their tagline early on was 'Everything is inspired by skateboarding.' That was pretty unique back then, and it's always stuck with me.
How did the JSP x Lakai colab come about?
My good friend Ray Mate' [founder of Mighty Healthy] did a Lakai colab recently, and he shared a pair with me. I was taking the shoes out of the box, and I saw the catalogue that came with them. As I was putting the shoes on and looking at the catalogue, one model in particular stood out to me: the Flaco 2 Mid. I keep reading about the model, and another name comes up: Stevie Perez. I've actually known Stevie since he was a young kid on flow from Krooked, and stayed in touch with him as his career progressed. Between me liking the model and seeing Stevie was associated with it, I was like 'Man, I'd love to work on a pair of these.'
I have an old friend at Lakai named Craig Chimile, who I knew from Aesthetics, the first skate company that ever sponsored me when I was coming up in Philly. I hit him up, told him I really liked the shoe and straight-up asked if I could take a stab at it as a JSP project. He ran the idea by Stevie and Rick, they were down and we were off to the races.
How did you land on denim as the material of choice for the colab?
I was thinking about how the materials that are usually used on skate shoes like suede, canvas and leather break down with use, and wondered how denim would hold up. I used to wear a lot of Evisu jeans and they'd take forever to break in properly, so I said 'f*ck, if it takes this material so long to break in when you're wearing it daily, it would be interesting to try on it a skate shoe.' Obviously, putting selvedge denim on a skate shoe would be too pricy – and probably too stiff to really be skatable – but I wanted to create something with a similar feel and aesthetic.
I worked with Andy Mueller, who's a legendary artist and designer [Girl, Lakai, The Quiet Life], and we went with a darker denim material for the high top and a lighter one for the low top, then brought some old-school Lakai pink into the mix as well on the logos. To accompany the kicks, we cooked up a special JSP sweatsuit with graphics that nod to Stevie's love of music.
Look good, skate good. How does the denim hold up from a performance perspective?
The advantage of being a skater is that I could wear-test them myself [laughs]. I put in hours on the benches and banks at the schoolyard near my house, then brought 'em with me on a trip to New York and skated all over the city as well. I was blown away by how well the material held up. The sidewalls didn't give out at all. Some skate shoes feel really shifty and unsafe after a while, but these stayed sturdy session after session.
How is collaborating with Lakai different from working with some of the other skate brands JSP has partnered with like DC and Vans?
The thing with Lakai is that they've remained so authentically 'skate'. They haven't intentionally catered to anything other than skateboarders. A lot of other brands that started out making skate shoes wind up creating other categories and styles for the sake of expanding their reach and selling more shoes. There's nothing wrong with expansion – sneakers are a business at the end of the day – but it's really impressive how Lakai has never done anything for a 'hype' factor or explored other lanes to put eyes on their products. They're a skate brand through and through.
It's fitting that their tagline nowadays is 'The shoes we skate!'
To me, that's what's the most commendable about their stance. As I get older and look back on my life, the best times were when I was a young, hungry kid who wanted to make a name in the world of skateboarding, and the way Lakai stays true to skateboarders and skateboarding is really commendable. The game is so different nowadays, from luxury houses making skate shoes to different media outlets covering skate culture, and a lot of these new players might not come from the world of skateboarding, so a brand like Lakai that does is more important than ever.
With so many people and entities paying attention to skating these days, I've found myself connecting more to skate projects that are 'deeper than rap,' you know what I mean? Sure, anyone would love to do a f*cking Air Jordan or Air Max 95. However, stories that are really personal, genuine and authentic are way easier to convey, especially in skateboarding. You don't have to fish for meaning or an angle, it's skate history.
So what's your favourite thing about this collection?
Getting to sit down with Rick Howard and work on the visuals for this project was a dream come true, especially with all the classic skate videos Lakai made. It was also really dope working with Stevie Perez, and seeing how stoked he was on the project. The part he filmed for the release took him one day, and he laid down so many hammers! I'd have never thought I'd have the opportunity to do something like this 20 years ago. I almost feel like I'm doing better in the second part of my skateboarding career than my first [laughs]. I've really had to pinch myself through this whole process.
The JSP x Lakai collection releases via the Lakai webstore, JSP webstore and skate shops March 25. The Flaco 2 Mid is priced at $77, the Flaco 2 Low at $75 and each piece of the matching sweatsuit arrives at $120