25.10.22FeaturesSneaker LABSponsored
ARTICLE BY Minh Vuong

Why Sneaker LAB Are ‘The Future of Sneaker Care’

Sneaker LAB

Sneaker LAB’s ecologically elevated process has delivered innovative cleaning and care products for over ten years. More and more sneakerheads worldwide are embracing the brand’s ‘Clean. Care. Protect.’ ethos, showing the unifying power of conscious consumption. Now, with a decade of experience under their belt, here’s how the next few years and the power of collaboration will make way for ‘the future of sneaker care.’

Jo Farah Sneaker LAB
Jo Farah
Shian Kraak Sneaker LAB
Shian Kraak
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Who’s in the Sneaker LAB?

Jo Farah realised sneakers would become a massive part of his life when he first saw the seminal documentary Just For Kicks. Not long after, he took his love of sneakers, street culture and music to the US, honing his entrepreneurial skills as means of funding his newfound passion. After realising he had a knack for marketing unique brands, Farah decided to bring his talents home in 2012 with a new venture: Sneaker LAB. His vision for the brand was based on responsibility – one for the environment through formulating unique and sustainable care products for the shoes he and other sneakerheads loved, and a social duty to strengthen local industries in his South African homeland. Setting off on an ‘empathic mission of creating environmentally friendly sneaker care products that provide an alternative to the status quo’ led to a new biodegradable formulation, the only to achieve Green Tag certification (more on this later).

Sneaker LAB CEO Shian Kraak had a similar trajectory. Monthly international fashion magazine drops at the local newsagent exposed Kraak to a new and exciting world beyond the small South African surf town where she grew up. Her exposure to the industry was also fostered by her mother, who was the CEO of a leading South African surfing retail group for over 35 years. After gaining experience in all facets of the field, from design to marketing and sales, and channelling her mother’s inspirational path, Kraak joined Sneaker LAB in 2014 as a sales agent before working her way up to the top job. Sharing Farah’s intention of broadcasting the brand internationally with a strong local foundation, Kraak’s bond to her homeland makes her the perfect person to help achieve that goal – even confessing that leaving Cape Town ‘was off the cards as I fell in love with the city’s diversity and culture.’

From South Africa to the World

Farah’s first big break came when South African retailer sportscene ordered 500 units of Sneaker LAB products. A leap of faith for both parties without knowing if there’d be demand for it!

‘I will never forget the first order. I remember packing it in the office – just myself and the designer working together,’ says Farah.

The risk paid off: Sneaker LAB’s first order landed at 25 sportscene locations on a Friday and was sold out by the following Monday.

From there, everything snowballed – Sneaker LAB became an international brand. As well as a webstore known for exclusives and special collaborations, they boast a global network of brick-and-mortar stockists across 60 countries. And earlier this year, they announced a major partnership with New Balance to stock Sneaker LAB in their stores across the Asia Pacific. The Sneaker Laundry at New Balance Harajuku in Tokyo, Japan, is now a premier shoe-care destination.

The next step sees the brand growing in Europe via Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and a Nike deal will have more Sneaker LAB products in more stores throughout the EMEA region.

Sneaker LAB Products

Green Tag

Sneaker LAB are the only sneaker care company to bear Green Tag certification, an internationally recognised standard of environmental compliance. They’ve achieved this through their advanced biodegradable formulations that keep working long after application. Their assortment includes all the items you’d expect, from cleaners and protector sprays to convenient carry wipes, but it also includes distinct products like the Odor Protector. Learn more about the range here.

Sneaker LAB’s next goal is making their Sneaker Wipes fully recyclable, which would mean their entire product range is 100 per cent recyclable! They’re regularly updating this progress on their blog – proof of their efforts to uphold their Green Tag certification.

Beyond the LAB

Sneaker LAB have also extended their environmental and social responsibility beyond their products. Their ongoing partnership with the Peninsula School Feeding Association continues to feed thousands of South African school children every day. And since 2018, joint projects with the environmental organisation WeForest have made way for local agricultural initiatives, from tree planting to beekeeping mentorship that encourages alternative farming practices! It’s all part of Farah and the brand’s first and foremost commitment to South Africa and its communities.

On top of their admirable sustainability initiatives, the brand is also celebrating women and diversity in the sneaker and street culture scene to back another key value: ‘The Future is Female.’ To do this, Sneaker LAB put female creatives and sneakerheads front and centre of their marketing communications and social media channels. They’ve also supported female-specific events like SNEAK-HER in India and the Kicks ‘R’ Us art show in New York.

‘“The Future is Female” is an important pillar for us because, as a brand, we have a big audience and platform to speak about this message,’ says Kraak.

What’s Growing in the LAB

The power of collaboration will take Sneaker LAB to the next level without a doubt. Linkups across the sneaker- and street-culture sphere have included major names like PUMAFILA and Reebok, while efforts with Raised By Wolves and Eytys speak to niche subcultures within the scene. Axel Arigato x Sneaker LAB is the latest colab, delivering custom-packaged Sneaker Wipes and Premium Cleaning Kits exclusive to Axel Arigato doors and their webstore. And there’s more to come from the ongoing partnership. Regular artist linkups have also strengthened Sneaker LAB’s presence beyond just shoe cleaning.

Speaking of, another of Sneaker LAB’s continuing projects is a growing library of shoe-care guides for popular models. It’s becoming one of the most comprehensive resources on the internet! Want to freshen up your Yeezys but don’t know how? Do your NB 990s need a jump start on cleanliness? Sneaker LAB have the answer.

Of course, this all taps into the fact that Sneaker LAB are continually developing market-leading shoe care products that are friendlier for your kicks and the environment. Keen to learn even more? Check out their website!

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