Ronnie Fieg - New York's Gel Lyte Genius
Ronnie Fieg is a hustler, born and bred. From kicking down doors to start in the stock room of New York's David Z as a 13 year old, Ronnie has laid the foundation to reach true aficionado status. Now with over 85 colorways under his belt for the likes of ASICS, Sebago and Saucony, Ronnie, like Super Mario, has promised to take the game to the next level. We'll have to wait and see what he has cooking in the Fieg kitchen... but there's no denying he has more than a few home runs under his belt. Peep his new aqua and teal Gels... dopearope! As seen in Issue 19 of Sneaker Freaker.
Yo Ronnie! Introduce yourself! What's the secret to Ronnie Fieg's success?
Well, my passion is creating footwear. The secret to my success is giving the customer their money's worth. Making sure that when I work on a project the driving force is the shoe itself and not the logo or my name. The goal is to offer timeless silhouettes in premium materials at a reasonable price.
Hairy muff. What's happening in New York? Is it still popping off right now? What's everyone wearing?
Ha ha, New York is always popping off!! The market has definitely shifted, fashions change from year-to-year but this preppy trend has stuck around for a while and will continue to grow for at least another year. This summer a ton of people are wearing boat shoes and canvas Vans or Converse, but sneaker heads will always be on their shit.
No doubt. Unless you live in the Big Apple, kids might not know who David Z is... Is he your uncle or something?
He is my mom's first cousin actually, which makes him my second cousin. When I was younger, at every family get-together he would slip hundred dollar bills in my shirt pocket which made him a superhero in my book. I begged and annoyed the shit out of him to let me work from when I turned 12. On my 13th birthday he let me start working in the stock room, best birthday gift ever.
I'll say. Hundred dollar bills never came my way at family picnics. From the stock room you moved on up to knocking out colours for David Z. The first I seem to recall was that 13 colour Gel Lyte III job from a few years ago? Are you still proud of that one?
Yes my first project was the Red/pink/black/gold/blue Gel Lyte III and somehow it got on the cover of the Wall Street Journal! They sold out on the day of its release in May 2007. I will always cherish that shoe because it opened the gates for me and helped the Gel Lyte III become what it is today. Fast forward three and a half years, I have worked on over 85 collaborations with over 15 brands. Ha ha! I never counted, I had no idea it was that many till just now!
Man, you never sleep. The Super Reds were super nice... but have you got something against mesh in a toe box?
I have nothing against a mesh toe box, however I feel like that makes up 20% of the shoe and if I could throw some premium leathers there.... why not? I like switching it up sometimes, the Navy/Aquas have a mesh toe and people loved both those and the Super Reds. I have a thing for perforated leather toe boxes, if you see that on a Gel Lyte III you should know what's up.
Speaking of which, what's up with your new Teals and Greys? Is there a theme there or just dope colours?
The Greys are the second Gel Lyte III for Nice Kicks. Matt Halfhill is one of my closest friends in the sneaker game and I respect him totally for his contribution to the sneaker community. Working with Nice Kicks = instant classic. The all grey upper came out solo clean! Throwing ideas around with Matt is like playing shoe Jeopardy. The Teals aka ‘The Cove' are named after the prestige hotel in the Bahamas. I was inspired while vacationing there by the teal waters (upper), grey skies (sole) and off white sands (extra lace). I was standing there just staring at the scenery and it felt like something out of a movie. I took a picture and designed those on the plane ride coming home. My favorite combination of nubuck and pig skin has been extremely successful but seeing the execution in this teal color way gave me the chills, definitely in my top three creations.
Is it as easy as it looks to flip colours on a shoe? Isn't creating a collab just like Nike iD?
I wish it was that easy. It's much easier when you're limited to 20 colors and five materials, however that's not the case with my projects. Having access to thousands of materials and colors can be a gift and a curse, you can get extremely creative and it becomes somewhat difficult to narrow samples down to a marketable product. I get laughed at sitting in sample rooms feeling leathers for hours, I'm a freak when it comes to materials. I put a lot of time and effort making sure the quality is there for every single project, and you can't do that on Nike ID. I also started designing my own patterns and uppers for a few companies but you'll have to wait till spring to see those.
OK! Why are so many guys jumping ship from sneakers to boots and boat shoes? We remember when everyone was jocking to do a Nike!
The market has shifted. The days when sneakers controlled 90% of the metro/indie/urban are over. Due to the over-saturated sneaker market people wanted to look different, and in comes the Americana trend. I was there to see the full circle from Timberland, Clarks, Red Wing, Sebagos and Chippewas dominating the streets of New York in the mid 90s to the sneaker boom in the early 2000s and back again with the brown shoe renaissance we're seeing today. The importance of value also plays a major part in the resurgence, you simply get more for your money when buying most shoes/boots compared to athletic footwear.
Ouch! You told us back in May you were about to take the sneaker scene to the next level... were you talking about your Sebagos?
That's exactly right, I knew the market had gotten more educated with today's media and it helped relay the message of authenticity and heritage. I only work with brands who have stayed true to their craft and make high quality products. Sebago is one of those brands. Being down in the Dominican Republic to see the shoes being hand-sewn was amazing and made me even more of a fan. I am a sneaker freak but I learned to respect all types of premium footwear, it's amazing seeing the market do the same.
Do you think you achieved what you set out to do?
I've not set out to do anything other than supply the people with special products and hope they are happy spending their hard earned money on my creations. They determine my achievements, I do it for them.
What's the craziest story you ever heard that involve sneakers?
A bum I see everyday saved a portion of his money for over three months to buy a pair of Jordan viii Aquas when they first dropped. He still wears them.
When will enough be enough?