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Sneakerboy: Melbourne's High Fashion Revolution

Interview by Ulee Soropos
Sneakerboy has been generating unique vibes since they opened their doors in Melbourne just 10 months ago. Their business model is what really sets them aside from the rest – you're able to try them on and buy them in store. But there's a catch, they'll be shipped to you the next day, making it more of a virtual showroom. Already having branched out, opening a second store in Sydney and a swag of premium brands being added to their cyber shelves each week. We sat down with owner Chris Kyvetos to get the dish on everything Sneakerboy, including their plans to open a store in New York City.

Hey Chris, how's it all going, are people starting to get their heads around the Sneakerboy concept?
Yeah they are, people are starting to really understand it. It's funny because right from the beginning we didn't have a huge amount of resistance to the actual model. One of the things that surprised us was that people were, from the beginning, very accepting of the way that we were presenting the offer. Now it's not even a talking point, it's just business on a day-to-day level, that's in terms of the retail model. In terms of the whole 'luxury sneaker' thing, I think we were lucky that in the 10 months we've been up and running, a whole bunch of stuff has happened in the luxury sneaker scene, such as Riccardo Tisci x Nike, Buscemi, Rick Owens and Raf Simons in collaboration with adidas. People have really got their heads around the concept.

True, it seems that luxury sneakers are really taking off more than ever right now. Any new brands on Sneakerboy's hit-list?
Yeah, there's always a whole bunch of new brands on the hit-list. We are talking to a couple of Euro brands – you could call them (laughs) – that we think have become relevant. Like Versace who have re-introduced the 'icon' they call it, which is that whole Medusa thing, we've got a customer for that and the silhouettes are pretty clean. We're really interested in Pony as well at the moment. We're working with Reebok to help develop the Reebok business, the Nike business also, we're always on the lookout. We've been talking to the guys at Filling Pieces for the last couple of seasons about getting going with those guys as well. The other one that's interesting is Fila.

Nike has become part of your ever growing inventory. How did that work out and do you believe that Nike's product fits with the rest of your product?
Yeah absolutely, it's funny because we had our account with Nike from day one but we and Nike were a little bit tentative on an assortment for our stores because it was slightly different to anything Nike had on the market previously. We've got more of an assortment plan now with Nike and we're building and developing that. I think Nike is the most influential brand in the business and in the industry so it doesn't make sense that it's not represented somehow. We're steadily growing our assortment with those guys and it's great, the customers are really taking well to it.,

Do you think the simplicity and price point of the Roshe Run and ZX Flux could fit in alongside your top-end product?
It's an interesting one, we haven't put the Roshe Run in the store yet, the ZX Flux we'll introduce I think next month. For us, as long as the silhouette is relevant I don't think price point really matters. Nike are always doing interesting things with the Roshe. The whole tubular tooling has become a part of our business across a lot of brands, so I think it matters more about the silhouette and how they're working on the silhouette as opposed to ticket price, I think that's sort of secondary to the relevance of the shoe.

Adidas has a slew if collaborators including Raf, Rick Owens and Yohji Yahmamoto, who's gonna blow up out of this crew?
The Rick Owens collaboration was the most successful adidas collaboration of all time in its first season, Rick Owens had his own set of assumption and adidas had their own set of assumptions, they both sold three times that. Raf's been a sustained exploration of a more traditional adidas performance shoe and  a fashion interpretation on that.
Then there's Y-3, I think that when they introduced the Qasa last January it changed Y-3's position in the market to what it originally was. When I was a fashion buyer, about 12 years ago now, I bought the very first Yohji Yamamoto x adidas shoe, it was just Yojhi x adidas back then, it was the first designer x sports brand collaboration and it was a perforated little slip-on with no support. It sold for $800 which is like fkn insane for an adidas shoe back then. Since then Y-3 developed and had a few classic silhouettes that were working on a different level to where they started, which is a more fashion forward approach. They introduced the Qasa and since the Qasa Y-3 has come back into relevance as a fashion footwear brand. So I think there's a lot to go with the second coming of Y-3, obviously the Qasa is the foundation of it, but I think the new Yohji Boost silhouette is a fantastic silhouette, it's already had massive demand and I think that it's gonna be quite strong.
I think Rick and Raf are both a steady fashion interpretation of the adidas brand, whereas with Y-3, they've really started to cement the Qasa silhouette and introduce new shoes on top of that like Boost and I know they've got a couple of good things lined up that we're gonna see in July in Paris. The answer to your question is Y-3 is gonna be the one that really explodes. There's also an apparel market for Y-3 now as well. Dirk Schonberger who's an amazing fashion designer and also the creative director of adidas fashion and overseas Y-3 knows that there's a real opportunity with Y-3 in terms of technical and performance apparel that's fashion orientated, I think he's sort of turning his sight pretty firmly on that at the moment as well, it's gonna be exciting.

We can't deny that the Qasa is a mighty fine shoe. What do you expect adidas to do with Ye?
(Laughs) I think it's more about what Ye does with adidas, you can't have an expectation on it because…. who fucking knows (laughs). I don't think adidas have expectations on it either, I mean you just never know what you're going to get. One thing you do know is that Kanye's proven that when he's focused on something he tends to do it whether you like it or not, it's a fact. So I expect it to influence a lot of things, I'm not sure how though.

Can it ever live up to all the hype?
I think it has to, one way or another it's just gonna be talked about. He's just got this unparalleled ability to make people talk about him, good or bad, will it live up to the hype? I think it will in one way or another.

Jordan is running hot at the moment in the lifestyle arena. What's the number one shoe in the high fashion scene right now?
Buscemi, it's Buscemi Buscemi and it's Buscemi (laughs). I was with John in LA last week and he was showing me what he's working on, it's pretty amazing what he's been able to do in such a short space of time. He's created an absolutely amazing brand that has taken high fashion and the whole footwear scene by storm and it's interesting because the heat around Buscemi is not to do with hype and the excitement over a particular shoe, I think the heat with Buscemi is that the brand has arrived and there's a long way to go with it and it's pretty exciting for him. It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys and I'm glad that we're (Sneakerboy) a part of that because it's definitely an unfolding story.

You have a stack of Euro brands, but I noticed there's no LV or Gucci shoes. Is there a reason they aren't on your shelf?
LV don't ever wholesale, so they only sell LV in LV stores. We're actually talking to those guys about that policy at the moment, I'm not sure how far we're gonna get, we're probably clutching at straws. If you could have a few Vuitton shoes on your shelf of course you would. In terms of Gucci, Gucci's a massive brand, with giants like that there needs to be a long term plan where we will be able to represent enough of Gucci over a sustained period of time that doesn't overtake our whole business, and it's very hard to pick 2 or 3 silhouettes because they're not really set up for that. But having said that, if Gucci does develop a couple of silhouettes that we think we should have right now there is that possibility. We're talking to those guys as well.

I often walk into your store knowing that I can't afford anything, what's the most someone has ever spent?
Do you really want to know (laughs). I'm not sure about recently, but I do remember we had one kid come in, I don't think he got much change out of 20 grand, not that we give change… nah I'm kidding (laughs). We've had a couple of kids buy a lot, I'm not sure what they do with it but I don't really wanna know (laughs). In terms of that we really wanna be as accessible as possible. We don't want to be too expensive for most people and that's something that we're very conscious of and working on. When you walk into a store that you really like it's nice to be able to buy something in there too, that's something that we're really working on.

Do price tags ever shock you?
No, but like I said, I was in LA with John Buscemi last weekend, we were talking about a shoe that might have a price tag on it that might shock a few people (laughs). We're working on developing something for the opening of our store in New York which is not really a commercial shoe, it's just that John mentioned that there's something that he wants to do and he asks me what I thought about it. I thought it was amazing and then we got to the bit about how much it would cost and I almost chocked (laughs). Nah, they don't shock me, here's a short answer to your question. I'll walk into somewhere like Giuseppe Zanotti, I see a shoe, look at the price and I'm like "of course it is" (laughs). Don't forget I've been a high fashion buyer my whole life, since I was seventeen. I remember when I first started dealing with some of these brands I used to get shocked by price tags but less so now, we've gotta be careful with it.

Any differences in what product sells between Sydney and Melbourne?
Nah, it's pretty similar actually, we may sell some more classic silhouettes like Lanvin Patent Toe Caps to architects and that sort of creative market in Melbourne, whereas we may sell slightly more high fashion stuff to the creative industry in Sydney which tends to be music, fashion, PR and all that kind of stuff, so that's probably the only difference that I could pick.

What's next for Sneakerboy?
We are trying to get our store open in the States. We've signed an agreement to lease in New York and we'll hopefully make that work and then we'll figure the rest out later.

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