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Bodega Interview - Saucony Elite

Saucony USA have doubled down with Boston's Bodega for this fresh take on their classic Shadow running series. Billed as Saucony Elite, the range will only be available in top-level Japanese accounts. Say what? Can Saucony Elite bring some heat back to the scene? We find out from the Bodega man himself... Mr Jay Gordon.

As seen in Issue 18 of Sneaker Freaker.

It has been an interesting six months with so many independent retail stores hitting the wall, how have you seen the past year?
There has definitely been a shake-up on the retail side and if we weren't so lucky to have such a loyal customer base, it would have been scary. Boston is very loyal to its own. We have customers that return shoes to other stores once they find out we have them at Bodega. You can't ask for better customers than that.

Black vulcanised skate sneakers and all-white canvas plimsolls. How long before these scourges disappear?
Now that the black vulc skate shoes are ubiquitous in the malls we'll hopefully see a drop off soon. As for the all-white canvas, it will be a while since everyone is trying to go super clean, plus we're lucky in Boston because our seasons can only support this look for about six weeks a year anyway.

Was there anything that really surprised you this year? Any notable winners or losers?
I am going to date myself but how can kids really skate in jeans that are so damn tight? Overall, I like what is going on right now with the trends and I am very curious to see where it goes from here. Big winners for this Fall include Penfield, Mishka, Clae and Almost Famous. Big losers: pass.

One thing we've noticed is that runners have dropped off. Nike Air Max, adidas ZX... the go-to shoes of the past few years really lost their gloss. Do you agree?
From a retail perspective, I do agree. We have seen the same or similar colourways a little too often. When the weather is nice, I find that people start looking for Air Max 95s, 97s and 90s as well as the 87s. As for the ZXs, they're making a comeback. I am a true running shoe enthusiast and I'll always have a soft spot for clean runners.

Me too! Have brands run out of ways to keep the classics evergreen?
I believe there's about to be a resurgence when this young crop of consumers finds out how nice good runners look on a sunny day. I have about 150 pairs of runners in my collection and there's nothing like wearing an old pair of Air Max 91s or a simple Air Icarus.

Tell me about Saucony, what's your perception of the brand?
My perception is that they're misunderstood. They've been around for over 100 years but you never see any of their older models, anywhere. They have a library of the best old-school runners and no one has seen them for almost 20 years. They're huge in the performance running space but there is so much more to the brand. I dug up their old catalogues and came across these sick hiking boots, not to mention the Hang Time - one of their classic basketball silhouettes.

They seem to prefer a low profile and I'm not talking about midsoles.
Our relationship started with our first collaboration, which was three colourways of their Shadow 5000. They were a great company to work with and they're based in Boston, so we get to see them quite a bit. From the CEO down, they're a very approachable and friendly company. They make no qualms about making performance running their focus which is what they do best. They're also starting to pour resources towards a push in the ‘originals' space and from what I've seen, they're going to do very well with it.

What's up with Saucony Elite?
Saucony Elite is the new product line that we are helping develop. It's for a select group of Japanese retailers - small runs of classic Saucony models along with reintroductions of their old models. The line emphasises classic American styling with luxury materials and we're finding that these shoes are taking to these materials very well. The first release is concentrated on the Shadow 5000 but we are bringing new models into play on the second and third releases. This program will feature in Japan's top stores, including Lafayette in Yokohama, Nalu in Osaka, and Privilege in Shibuya (Tokyo).

We're familiar with the Shadow 6000. I assume the 5000 is a slightly lower spec model?
It came out two years before but they're both solid shoes and pretty similar specs overall. Obviously

we're big fans here at Bodega.

Well I'd say it's one of the most underrated models, they're insanely comfortable. Why do you think they're so slept on?
I agree that they're underrated. Once you try them, you're hooked. When consumers see the editions we've produced with Saucony Elite I'm confident they'll give them a chance. In clean colours, the Shadows hold their own against anything out there.

Any other vintage models you'd like to bring back from the dead?
Not giving too much away but the top of my list is the Master Control and the old Grid runners from the early ‘90s.

Tell us about the colours, they're fairly restrained but they still have pop. The creamy laces and midsoles are fresh!
Our focus is keeping the colour palatte classic and simple while pushing materials with lots of suedes and premium leathers. That cream colour carries through the first two releases and is contrasted by muted colours that we believe are appropriate for the Japanese market right now.

You mentioned distribution for Elite was Japanese stores only, what's the theory there?
Saucony was at a crossroads in the Japanese market and they wanted to reapproach the market from the top down. We are helping them target just the top boutiques. We like the idea of a great product that doesn't show up everywhere.

So, just to confirm, there's no pairs available at Bodega?
Nope. Well, maybe a couple.

Ha! Is that policy an attempt to get back to how things used to be? It's hardly worth travelling to NYC or London to shop anymore.
We're on the same page with this, it's great to be informed but there are negatives to being too informed. There is no thrill left in the game. The excitement of the hunt, for all intents and purposes is gone. So is finding the coolest shoe you've ever seen and having no idea what it is. I loved searching both Harry the Greek's in Boston before it closed and stores all over New York City for that shoe that just called out to me from the shelf. Now, our customers hear about releases months in the future and usually on the same day that I do. I still like the search, the not knowing where you are going to find that gem. I believe the idea of having a line of shoes for Japan only and making them limited to 300 pairs each, is the kind of release that the market appreciates, even if it's a little frustrating for the consumer. All I can say is, if you have a friend in Japan, hit ‘em up.

And finally, if you could change one thing in the footwear industry right now, what would it be?
I would encourage all of the smaller, independent stores out there to work together. I encourage all shoppers to support their local independent spots. We're living in a world that is becoming one giant corporate logo and it's harder for independent companies to make it. Support your local sneaker stores and skate shops because wherever you live, there's a chain store waiting in the wings to fill the void. You can learn a lot by visiting local stores, it's a great way to learn about that city. Support your local record stores and book stores too, and yes, even your local Bodega.

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