The streaming world has been shaken-up a lot over the course of the last few years, especially as it becomes the predominant way to listen to and discover new music. This year alone has already seen a few big players joining and leaving both record labels and streaming giants for new positions as the industry gets increasingly competitive. Now Variety reports that head of artist curation for hip-hop and R&B programming at Apple Music, Carl Chery, will be leaving the company for a new role at competitor Spotify.
Chery joined the company all the way back in 2014 as part of Apple's acquisition of Beats By Dre/Beats Music, but now it's expected he'll fill the hole former RapCaviar curator Tuma Basa left when he headed to YouTube in February. As Variety points out, Chery previously developed Apple Music's hugely popular A-List: Hip-Hop and A-List: R&B playlists, and he was also responsible for helping secure Chance The Rapper'sColoring Book as an Apple Music exclusive.
Carl Chery has also played a big part in helping launch the careers of numerous popular artists, including Post Malone, Cardi B, and Daniel Caesar among others.
The latest episode of Sole Collector's series Full Size Run features Roc-A-Fella co-founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke, who sat down to discuss the label's history with the Air Force 1. Alongside highlighting Kanye's impact on sneaker culture and sharing his thoughts on Drake possibly leaving Jordan Brand for Adidas, Biggs also spoke about whether Nelly took the Air Force 1 from Roc-A-Fella.
At the 6:30 mark in the video, he explained, “I mean, I don't really go into that. A sneaker's love is all over. If someone gravitates towards something and wants to put it in a song, or something like that, more kudos to them. It's not a taking or jacking kind of thing. We don't got equity in Nike. We don't own that sneaker. And what he was talking about at the time didn't have the Roc-A-Fella logo on it.”
As for his thoughts on Drake and Jordan Brand, he said, “A lot of people are big in music, it doesn't mean they're big as a brand. There are a lot of artist[s] that sell records, but that doesn't mean they can sell things outside of that. Doesn't mean that kids wanna dress like them or be like them. There's other guys that sold much more than them, but doesn't mean that if you put a sneaker on them, that they were gonna sell sneakers and clothes.”
The Air Force 1 has played a strong, central role in Nike's energy marketing in 2017, and Acronym's collaboration on the sneaker was a key part of that. The brand's designer, Errolson Hugh, recently caught up High Snobiety in Berlin and explained on why he chose to design the sneaker the way he did.
“They wanted to make the shoe as different as possible, but still have it recognizable as an Air Force 1,” says Hugh, who explains why he gave his version of the sneaker a zipper done the the forefoot of the shoe's upper. “When we first got the shoe, instead of working on colorways, we wanted to address the functionality of the shoe, because that's our thing.”
The first version of the Acronym x Nike Lunar Force 1, which first released in 2015, came in two different bright colorways, but the recent iteration sees the shoe taking on its iconic white/white makeup.
He also discusses the pink pair of the sneakers that he dip-dyed at ComplexCon's Air Force 1 activation. Watch the video above to see the complete interview.
At this year's ComplexCon, Nike highlighted originality and creativity by allowing attendees to customize their very own Air Force 1. Complex News' Beija stopped by the Nike installation to put her own spin on the classic sneaker, and she definitely had an outside-the-box approach. You can check that out up top.
On today's episode of Out of Bounds, the crew gets into Carmelo thirsty over La La and the NFL reinstating Josh Gordon after three years on a conditional basis. That still won't convince Sam Darnold to make himself eligible for the 2018 draft if the Browns get the first pick. They also talk about Papa John's blaming kneeling NFL players for slow sales instead of their garbage-flavored pizza. And Mia breaks down her college football playoff predictions. Hint: she hates Bama.
19-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer is the biggest sneakerhead in the tennis world, and he joined Joe La Puma before the U.S. Open for the latest episode of Complex's Sneaker Shopping at Stadium Goods in New York City to talk about getting his own Air Jordan collab and the sneakers he wears off the court.
In the episode, Federer talks about what it was like to work with legendary Nike and Air Jordan designer Tinker Hatfield and how he designed Federer's signature sneaker in an hour on his iPad. Federer also talks about getting his own version of the Air Jordan III and how he looked up to Michael Jordan when he was growing up. He goes on to say that Nike doesn't send him every sneaker that he wants, talks about wearing Supreme x Nike collaborations, and why he loves the Air Force 1. In the end, Federer spends over $5,100 on a mix of Nike and Jordan sneakers.
In the episode, Diddy reminisces on the Air Force 1s he wore in the famous “Mo Money Mo Problems” music video and says that he picked out the sneakers to give East Coast hip-hop a definitive look. He also talked about him and the Notorious B.I.G. buying 20 pairs of sneakers at a time to look fresh on tour. Diddy goes on to reveal in the episode that he's been approached by Jordan Brand and Gucci to make sneakers for Biggie and hints that there might be projects on the way. In the end, Diddy spends over $4,000 on Jordans, Nike SB Dunks, and Chuck Taylors.
Each year, brands and designers drop several collections, collaborations, and special releases. And each year, there are a few that stand out and grab everyone’s attention. Hype can be brought on by the brand’s own popularity; other times it’s a co-sign from an A-list celebrity. Regardless of how it happens, the most in-demand pieces often sell out almost instantly, cause long lines (even as brands and retailers implement new, stricter lineup systems), and show up on sites like eBay and Grailed—sometimes for triple the retail price.
We’re only halfway through 2017 and there have already been quite a few style releases that have dominated the conversation. Seriously—some recent drops have been so insane that news outlets like Huffington Post and ABC7 Eyewitness News, who wouldn’t normally cover these releases, were hyping them up.
From the usual suspects like Supreme and Kanye West to everything in between, these are the most hyped style drops of 2017 so far. And before you get mad, this list only includes apparel and accessories. We have separate lists coming for the best sneakers.
So, when ASSC teased a collaboration with Bape, kids were basically salivating over the collection. It was small—hoodies, tees, and zip-ups with ASSC font and Bape’s iconic ABC Camo pattern, released in limited quantities at Bape’s New York location only. The exclusivity of the line, in addition to the popularity of both Bape and ASSC, definitely made this collab one of the most hyped of the year so far. In fact, some of the pieces are currently being resold on eBay for up to $1,600.
Supreme x Louis Vuitton Collaboration
In 2000, Louis Vuitton hit Supreme with a cease-and-desist after the brand attempted to release skate decks with a graphic similar to LV’s signature monogram. It came as a surprise, then, that nearly two decades later, the fashion house—led by men’s artistic director Kim Jones—is collaborating with Supreme, even if Jones is a noted fan of streetwear.
The Supreme x LV collection was first teased in early January, when Jones posted (then quickly deleted) an Instagram featuring a sticker mash-up of the two brands. A few weeks later, Louis Vuitton confirmed the collaboration during its Fall/Winter 2017 fashion show in Paris by sending models down the runway wearing pieces from the line. Since then, Travis Scott, Kate Moss, ASAP Bari, David Beckham, and more have been seen rocking the yet-to-be-released items.
Perhaps what’s most interesting about this collaboration is what it represents: High-fashion is finally openly acknowledging streetwear. Jones put it best: “No New York men’s conversation is complete without Supreme.”
The Supreme x Louis Vuitton collaboration won’t be cheap: $65,000 LV monogram trunks, $485 box logo T-shirts, and $435 camp caps to name a few. But that likely won’t stop people from buying their favorite pieces when the line drops this coming July. Even the city of New York seems to understand the hype around the collaboration. Last month, a Manhattan community board denied a proposal to have a Louis Vuitton x Supreme pop-up shop to be held at 25 Bond St. in the NoHo neighborhood.
Needles Track Pants
Needles, the Japanese label founded by designer Keizo Shimizu, has been making their now famous track pants with the butterfly embroidery for a few seasons. But it wasn’t until a few months ago that stylish kids everywhere began catching on. With the sportswear trend and heavy co-signs from ASAP Rocky, ASAP Bari, Luka Sabbat, and the No Vacancy Inn guys, Needles hasn’t been able to keep the track pants in stock at Nepenthes, the store Shimizu opened, and other stores.
Supreme has had a long history of releasing novelty pieces, including punching bags, bricks, and even nunchucks. The brand’s Spring/Summer 2017 collection was no different. This past February, the brand released Supreme-branded MetroCards. Retailing for only $5.50, the limited edition MetroCards were sold at Supreme’s store, online, and MTA vending machines at select subway stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. The demand for the cards was huge—so big, in fact, that the lines inside the subway stations looked like queues outside of a Supreme store during a Thursday drop. Now, they’re being resold on sites like eBay and Grailed for up to $70. Cops even had to shut down the line that formed at the Union Square Station because it got too hectic. The MTA has collaborated with other brands before, including Calvin Klein, but none garnered as much attention as this.
Kanye West’s Calabasas Collection
At this point, anything Kanye West releases is bound to attract tons of attention. Prior to the release of his Calabasas collection, West was often seen wearing the maroon track pants from the line. But back then, he and Adidas had not confirmed whether or not it was a custom piece, or if it would eventually be for sale. Later, many thought the pants were only for “friends and family” when some received them as invitations for the rapper’s Yeezy Season 4 fashion show.
But this past March, the Calabasas collection was finally made available to the public via the YeezySupply.com website. No surprise: It sold out within minutes. The line—track pants, crewneck sweaters, hats—retailed for $25–$200, much less than previous Yeezy Season releases, which likely contributed to the success of the collection.
ASAP Bari has turned VLONE into a huge success. The brand’s signature black and orange motif has been seen on everyone from fellow ASAP Mob members Rocky and Ferg to Odell Beckham Jr. and 2 Chainz. While Bari doesn’t follow a calendar—he seems to release product whenever he feels like it, and via VLONE pop-up shops—he was able to dominate the conversation when he did drop new pieces. This year, he opened several VLONE pop-ups, and the lines were insane. Now, pieces are being resold on Grailed for nearly double the retail price.
The brand’s success has led to collaborations with Nike on a pair of Air Force 1s, which resold on eBay for more than $90,000, and Tupac’s estate on merch. Later this month, Bari is also set to present his first ever cut-and-sew collection during Paris Men’s Fashion Week.
Palace Spring/Summer 2017 Collection
Although Palace was founded in 2009, the London skate brand has become even more popular Stateside. In fact, like most of its drops, they couldn’t keep the Spring/Summer 2017 collection in stores. If you’ve ever checked Palace’s online shop on the day of any release, chances are that more than half of the collection already sold out in minutes.
Some of the best-sellers from the Spring/Summer 2017 collection included their graphic T-shirts inspired by Prince and the cult classic film The Breakfast Club, as well as the “tri-ferg” logo hoodies and track jackets.
Along with his limited Air Jordan collaboration, KAWS also linked up with the Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo to release a collection inspired by the Peanuts cartoons. The affordable T-shirts ($15) sold well, but the item most people were after was the Snoopy plush toy, which featured KAWS’ signature Xs on the eyes. KAWS toys have always been seen as collectibles. Uniqlo briefly restocked the plush toys but only at select stores in Japan and Hong Kong.
“If you want to start a footwear brand and compete with Nike or Adidas, you’ll need the funding of a small country and an army,” says No One founder and designer Mark Gainor sitting in a small studio lined with cobbler tools, shoe-making machines, and work benches in Venice, California.
The 38-year-old Gainor, who’s spent over a decade in the footwear industry working for Adidas, Gourmet, and Creative Recreation, knows a thing or two about designing, manufacturing, and marketing sneakers, and now he’s setting out on his own to bring handmade shoes to the public one pair at a time. But he’s not the only person who’s living the dream of owning their own sneaker brand. There’s been a rise in smaller footwear brands recently that straddle the line between sportswear and high fashion, including No One, Sonra, and John Geiger’s eponymous label. What’s it like launching your own sneaker brand? What are some of the challenges these upstart companies face? We spoke to the brains behind some of these rising companies to find out.
The thought of having your own shoe — designing it from start to finish — has likely crossed everyone’s mind who obsesses about sneakers, but it takes more than just a piqued interest in shoes to bring a piece of footwear to life. There’s sketching the design, sourcing the materials, creating the last (the mold that gives a shoe its shape), finding a place to manufacture the product, and then selling it to the public. And a lot of money.
“Sneakerheads think this is easy, but I was in the warehouses in Italy and they said, ‘If this was so easy, then everyone would do it,’” says 31-year-old John Geiger, who launched his own sneaker brand last year after working with Nike on Darrelle Revis’s first signature sneaker and creating a successful line of custom Air Force 1s with shoe customizer The Shoe Surgeon over the past few years.
Making shoes isn’t for everyone, even if they have an idea in their head that they’ve wanted to execute. “There might be 10,000 who can draw a really fresh sneaker, but only 10 people out of that bunch can go out and make that shoe,” Gainor says. “Doing that in the America, and it’s 10 times more difficult.”
For Geiger, getting his shoe off the ground financially took drastic measures, and it required him to unload his love for other brands’ sneakers to create his own pair. “I funded it, I designed it, and the sole took a year because I wanted an air bladder in it,” he says. “Right before I moved from Pittsburgh to Miami, I sold my whole sneaker collection in bulk to make the sole mold. The sole mold was almost $15,000. A lot of people use pre-manufactured soles. They buy them from Margom. That’s the easier route. I went through, like, a million soles, but they’d send them with no air bladder. That’s not what I wanted.”
Although he didn’t provide an exact number, Gainor says that creating your own brand is going to cost much more than you’ve set out to spend. “You should do your research, talk to as many industry people as possible, then multiply that number by four [to find out how much it’s going to cost],” he says. “It is so expensive and so many things that can wrong. There are so many details that you’re going to overlook.”
Gainor and Geiger have both chose to manufacture their sneakers in the USA, and while it’s a more expensive process than making them in Asia, it gives them the quality and control that they’re looking for in their product. “I want to do something and be known for doing it in the USA, but I want it to have the quality of being made in Italy,” Geiger says.
For Gainor, choosing to make his shoes domestically gave him the control and convenience that he didn’t have with previous companies. “I was flying [to China] 12 to 13 times a year. It got to the point where I was like, ‘Fuck this—if I could do this 10 minutes from my home, it would be a good thrill,’ he says. “You’re not going to get into high-quality facilities in Italy or China with the volume that we’re looking to create as a startup. If you’re able to produce your product domestically, it gives you the right amount of control. Unless you’re going to be a psycho and fly over to China to check on your shoes two times a month.”
Making shoes in the USA seems like a novel idea to some consumers, but they’ll also pay the price, literally, for buying domestically manufactured sneakers. “You’re going to pay so much to make a domestic product, you just have to make that back with marketing the product,” Gainor says. “It’s the only way you can justify making product here. It’s going to cost you two to five times more to make shoes domestically.”
Factories located outside of Asia, whether they’re in Europe or the U.S., aren’t able to pump out the same quantity of sneakers on a daily basis, which presents its own set of problems to those trying to start their own brand. Hikmet Sugoer, who founded German sneaker boutique Solebox and started his own brand after selling and leaving the business, has started his own sneaker line, Sonra, and makes premium running sneakers in Germany. “The biggest problem is dealing with a small factory, because they have a maximum that they can produce per year,” Sugoer, 44, says. “I forecasted a small quantity, and now there’s no possibility to [make more shoes]. You’re dependent on the factory, especially if you want to produce regionally, because there aren’t many factories around. If I were to produce in Asia, it would be much easier, but producing in Europe is much harder.”
Once the shoe is made, selling and marketing it is the next challenge that faces someone who starts their own sneaker company. And it can make or break the brand. The process, however, all starts with making a good shoe, as simple as it may seem. “Marketing and design impact each other. If you nail a design, it’s going to market itself. So the hard work is in developing or designing the shoe that’s truly innovative,” Gainor says. “There are so many silhouettes that look and feel the same that occupy the same space, so the marketing becomes much more difficult. If your product doesn’t stand out, then you’re going to have to put in a lot of work to make people notice it in today’s market, especially with big players like Nike and Adidas making shoes.”
Experience in the sneaker industry will help you launch your own sneaker brand, but having a recognizable name in that same space will get more people to pay attention at the start. Sugeor’s had his hand in some of the most coveted sneaker collaborations over the past decade and has built a cult-like following, where he’s applied his older colorways to his new shoes. The same people who craved his old sneakers wanted a pair of Sonras. “Without proving myself with my work in the past, this wouldn’t be possible,” he says. “It’s not easy to put your sneakers in top-tier stores. I sell my shoes at Hanon, 24 Kilates, and Patta. This wouldn’t be possible if people didn’t know me. It’s because they know me from my work that I did while I was at Solebox.”
Designing a great shoe, selecting the right materials, and finding the right marketing strategy are what it takes to make a successful shoe, as well as a little bit of luck, financial planning, and the right co-signs. But you’re not going to make it far within the footwear industry without hard work and, ultimately, a passion for sneakers. “If you work in this industry, it’s a given that you’re passionate about sneakers. To deal with everything that’s going to happen, you’re going to need a real love for footwear. The downside is that it might make you crazy, thinking you fucked up a colorway,” Gainor says. “I’ve learned to go through my design process and live with and accept my mistakes. I realize that we’ve made the very best shoe that we’ve made today. We can all make a better shoe tomorrow.”
Tinker Hatfield’s most controversial sneaker ended up proving to be his best. When legendary Nike designer Hatfield, who went to school to study architectural design, got inspired by the Centre Pompidou in Paris to create visible Air on Nike running sneakers, the brand wasn’t excited about marketing it. He proved all of them wrong, like he’s constantly done throughout his career, and made the Air Max 1. Today everyone knows how revolutionary the shoes are — Nike has a month-long celebration of it this year, which is officially celebrated today — but its impact on the sneaker industry is more than a one-day holiday: The shoe may be the most important design Nike ever created, even more so than the Air Jordan 1, the sneaker that, to many, started it all.
When it first released in 1987, the Air Max 1 was unlike anything else on the running market. At the time, the majority of shoes were tame in their design. Sneakers from the mid-'80s and earlier were exercises in incorporating dull shades of suede and mesh and giving older white guys something that wouldn’t kill their feet during a job. But the Air Max 1, with its white/red (and white/blue) colorways was noticeable from afar, whether the shoe had a glaring, see through portion of its midsole. But what makes the Air Max 1 the shoe it is today, and something that stands the test of time, isn’t just that it broke through a dull, dry market, but it was the genesis of the running sneakers as a lifestyle culture.
Nike had made the Cortez, Pegasus, and Tailwind before the Air Max 1, but the fanaticism that built around that one shoe was enough to launch a full fledged subculture 20 years after its first release. Not to mention, without the Air Max 1, the Air Max line, which is still going strong, wouldn’t be around today. No Air Max 95s, no VaporMax.
How can the Air Max 1 be more important than the Air Jordan 1, the sneaker that launched the Air Jordan series, which, undoubtedly, is the most revered line of sneakers of all-time? Well, it was all about planting a seed of thought and seeing how it grows.
It’s not controversial to say that lifestyle running sneakers have overtaken that of signature basketball shoes in 2017. Just look at what the Adidas NMD and Yeezy Boost have been able to do in the past year or so. But none of this would have been able to happen if it wasn’t for the people who harped on the Air Max 1, even if it was designed by a different brand.
10 plus years ago, there started to grow a renewed interest in the Air Max 1, thanks to collaborations with the likes of Atmos and Patta, as well as people digging for rarer, older models. But the people who gravitated towards these shoes, who were typically European, would help build a foundation of the athleisure-like movement that’s swept the footwear industry. Brands such as ASICS, New Balance, and even Adidas, wouldn’t be having the resurgence they’re having if the Air Max 1 didn’t make it inherently cool or aspirational to collect and wear running shoes. I know that there were high-end running shoes, coveted by hustlers and hip-hop, before the Air Max 1, but this shoe was the best to do it, and it still is. The same people who helped the runner overtake the high-top were the same people who were freaking out about the shape of their Air Maxes and how they looked on their feet. The Air Max 1 looks better with jeans than the Air Jordan 1, with its slightly puffed tongue and lower cut. Not to forget they’re infinitely more comfortable, without being bulky or sacrificing aesthetics for function.
The Air Jordan 1 — designed by Peter Moore, who also launched the Adidas EQT line — started the idea of signature basketball shoes being more than a one-off thing. Without it, there wouldn’t be the basketball footwear or lifestyle industry there is today, even if sneakers like the Air Force predate it. But dig deeper for a second. Look at what the Air Jordan 1 has directly influenced, as far as its design language: the first thing that comes to mind is that it's essentially a Nike Dunk that's inspired high-fashion knockoffs of the shoe; a luxury industry based off of the best basketball sneaker ever. It’s a timeless design, as cliche as that might sound, but the concept of the shoe is stuck in the ‘80s with its simplicity, which will never die. The Air Max 1, on the other hand, helped breathe in Nike and Hatfield’s innovative ethos. A year later he’d follow it up with the Air Jordan III, which some would argue is better than the Air Jordan 1. But the Air Jordan III, with its Air unit and cement print on the toe, borrows more from the looks of the Air Max 1 than its predecessors, as awkward as that is to imagine. It’s the shoe that kept Michael Jordan from bolting to Adidas and, literally, cemented the Jordan legacy in footwear.
Everyone knows the Air Max 1 is a great shoe. We sing its praises every March 26, where a lot of people pretend to revel in the shoe’s genius. But without it, sneaker design may have never truly broken through to the next level, where brands competed to out innovate each other, rather than slightly update last year’s model with minor tweaks. The amazing thing about it is that Tinker had to look outside of the sneaker world to find its inspiration, much like he’s continued to do his whole career. While the world knows him as the man who made Michael Jordan the footwear icon that he’s become, he should best be remembered for putting an Air bubble on a running shoe, and the ripples that it was able to create.