Peter Fahey - Sneaker Pimps
Sneaker Pimps was formed by Peter Fahey way back in 2003. Amazingly, it has been on the road ever since, clocking up nearly 70 shows in 19 countries. Featuring hundreds of killer kicks, both old and new, the Pimps experience has grown over the years to include artists such as Futura and Dave White, music from Public Enemy and Biz Markie, skating demos as well as live sneaker customising from the modern masters SBTG and Meth. if you haven’t seen the Pimps show, chances are it will be globetrotting into your hometown soon. Time to pay our respects to the pimp behind the show behind the shoes behind the bamboo curtain.
So where are you Pete? Last time we spoke you didn't even have a house.
Yeah, actually I just got married and I'm living in Hong Kong which is perfect for me because it’s such a different culture. I'm working with a few people on other businesses - so I guess Hong Kong is also my stepping stone into mainland China.
Hey congratulations! So is your wife a sneaker widow or does she come on tour?
Ha hah! Dude I met her in a sneaker store in Seattle when I was on tour. She knows about shoes but doesn't care much for them, which is perfect because if I wanna talk shit about sneakers she understands. But yes, Dede actually transferred colleges to study online so she could travel around with me.
Oh how sweet! We actually have a connection as we both started around the same time in Australia, funny how things turn out isn't it?
Yeah! That's one thing people always ask me: ‘oh you're from Australia?’ and then they ask me about Sneaker Freaker and then there's the Melbourne stencil artists, some of the labels like General Pants from outta there and I dunno, I guess coming up in Australia and being so far away from the rest of the world, Aussies have had to create our own entertainment, art and publications, just so we don't have to wait so long to get it from Asia or the States. The result is a lot of home grown creativity which is really dope to see. I still call Australia home!
How would you describe the Sneaker Pimps show?
It’s a physical manifestation of today's global sneaker culture. At Sneaker Pimps it’s not just about checking out sneakers, it's about seeing and experiencing a culture. I focus on all the elements that make up the sneaker culture and what's driving it now, so you'll also experience live street art, skateboarding, live basketball, live hip-hop music and more.
And is the Tour the only thing that you do?
Primarily yes. But I’ve also just started an apparel production company in Hong Kong, launching a few labels by famous artists. We basically develop a whole clothing line based around their artwork. Plus we are launching a Sneaker Pimps clothing line this summer. Aside from clothing, I do other events within the same scene.
You’ve worked with big names like Biz Markie and Public Enemy and artists such as Dave White and Futura. The package goes together quite nicely now doesn't it?
Yeah totally. If you look at the whole sneaker thing, bringing in hip hop is merely an extension of where it all came from and that's really where the inspiration comes from to include all those other activities at Sneaker Pimps.
The main question i gotta ask is... how the hell have you managed to be on the road for nearly four years???
Before Sneaker Pimps I was doing events in Sydney but not at this scale. I guess, just fucking being into it and people all over the world who are into the same thing is what has enabled me to get to this point. You mentioned the internet and that's been a huge part in connecting people because a big part of this culture is online. And that's how we can just go and do a show in Indonesia for example. And then you just continually push the concept to corporates in America or Europe or Japan. You need big companies to support this type of entertainment. And that's the biggest challenge - to get a budget to create the type of show I want to do. I guess what I'm saying is each show has gotta be better than the last and more multi-dimensional.
You mentioned Indonesia then, you recently had 13,000 kids come and they filled an aircraft hanger? That must have been an amazing show?
Yeah that was crazy! I had an idea that it was gonna be a big crowd, and I was thinking maybe 4-5000 through the doors. When I got there and I saw the venue I was thinking ‘WOW we don't need this much space’ but we had some cool stuff like a big skate course with cars and buses and rails and shit, then we had a sixty foot long wall for a bunch of artists like Futura. But I still thought we had too much space and we were never gonna fill it. But out of the blue, it was the biggest show we ever did. Here's the crazy thing about this show which I have found out only in the last week or so - two of the biggest footwear companies have just set up executives out there to tap the Indonesian market - before it was all distributors - so that show turned a lot of heads. The cool thing is I could name another 10 cities around the world with that much potential and more.
I saw you had dates booked for South Africa and Moscow. Are there sneaker heads in all those places?
Yeah totally but even if there isn't, it doesn't matter! The thing is that when we go to these cities, it almost sets off a nuclear bomb in shoes! We got guys who paint shoes, skaters, graffiti artists, the super rare stuff on the walls and then when the locals experience all this sneaker culture in one massive hit, it just gets them totally stoked on shoes! That's why I can go to a city where there's only a few heads because the package we bring makes it appeal to a much broader audience.
Do you get excited about sneakers?
Fuck yeah, if anything doing the show has made me appreciate it more than when I started out. You know a lot of people talk shit and are so jaded because they were collecting 10 years ago - my point of view is who gives a fuck what happened yesterday! Today is today. I'm always going to have to wear shoes on my feet so I'm always gonna be on the look out for fresh gear.
I imagine stuff must go wrong all the time, people let you down or shit just doesn't work out. Have there been times when you thought it was all too hard?
No, not really. I kinda anticipate that shit will go wrong like if I need a new venue at the last minute... It's Murphy's Law - anything that can go wrong will go wrong. I've taken that philosophy and I'm relieved if it doesn't. I've had crazy shit happen (see Peter's stories elsewhere) but it's never been at the point of just chucking it in. In Japan for instance I didn’t even have enough money to get home. It's totally stressful but as I become more experienced I have learnt how to deal with it and respond to get the job done.
I love that photo of the old ladies looking at the custom shoes on the conveyor belt. What was going on there?
Out of the thousands of photos I have of Sneaker Pimps this one is one of my favorites. Basically I was in Antwerp, Belgium at this really prestigious fashion museum and a bunch of old biddies come rolling through. Right where they are all standing there was this one shoe which had X-rated porn all over it - I mean XXX rated - and we were all laughing coz one of them saw it and told all their friends to look at it and they were all laughing. I had my camera in my pocket and snapped a bunch of photos. The cool thing was they didn't seem offended at all.
Do you think it’s reached a peak in the states?
No, but I never try and predict what's gonna happen because it's a pointless thing. Skateboarding was huge in the eighties, then it died and I guess the same thing could happen with footwear but as I said, I don't ever try to predict what could happen. If I do a show in New York with SBTG, Methamphibian and a bunch of artists and there's Public Enemy and 5000 kids, you know there's something big going on. The shows have tripled in size so that's an indication in my own experience that it's getting bigger. And remember there's an industry that supports footwear, all of these companies put a lot of effort into the scene from Nike iD to adicolor. Kids are into it and now there's magazines and events and it's growing, there's a whole infrastructure supporting it. That to me suggests that it's something a little bit more solid and substantial than many outsiders think.
I agree with you totally... Has Pimps changed the way you see footwear, in particular your inside knowledge of the marketing?
It amazes me everyday seeing all this creativity and watching it go from being something so organic into a commercial product - I’ve seen many instances where a sneaker customizer will make a custom and 12 months later something exactly like it will be released. I think they have to really listen to the core consumer and give them what they want - whether it's a shoe or an event, but also hire the individuals at the forefront of that. Just look at how well Nike SB did its second time around from doing just that.
Are there too many brands, too much of everything?
I don't think so. Some campaigns and products get a little tired - but what I love right now is all the indie brands coming up, they see all the footwear that is out there and realize there is a market that isn't being served and so they create their own product to service that market and suddenly you have JB Classics, KKOK, BAPE, Visvim, Madfoot etc.
Can you ever go back to a nine to five job after an experience like Sneaker Pimps?
No, I never conformed to a traditional way. Since the age of 15 I have always been doing little businesses and projects that I truly love. I'm 24 now and have been doing my own thing for over 8 years - it's not an issue of money, it’s an issue of self discovery through doing what I love. The nine to five thing doesn't seem to be who I am at this point in my life or the foreseeable future.
This article appeared in Issue 8 of Sneaker Freaker. Buy it here!