RESPECT. Interview: Authors Alex French & Howie Kahn Talk About New Definitive Book “Sneakers”

Image Credit: Sneakers

Sneakers is a book that will go in-depth with the hype behind “Sneakers” with over 100 interviews featuring Kobe Bryant, Alexander Wang, Serena Williams, Jeff Staple, Ronnie Fieg and many more. Alex French, writer at Esquire and Howie Kahn, a contributing editor at Wall Street Journal Magazine come together to give us the best info on what creates the billion dollar industry of kicks. Designed by Rodrigo Corral, the book comes in handy with a sneakerhead. Sneaker Freaker calls the book “The new Sneaker Bibleand CNN Style says the book is “A definitive guide to the culture that surrounds [sneakers] and the creative visionaries who bring them to life..reflects the evolving, complex world of sneaker culture.”

The Book is consisted of 320 pages that include photos and interviews with the industries biggest playmakers, athletes and designers in the sneaker world created by Rodrigo Corral. You will explore the cultural phenomenon of sneakers, you can purchase a book here or you can check out a sampler here (best viewed in full screen mode).

Find out what Howie Kahn, Alex French and Rodrigo Corral have to say about the inspiration behind creating the book, developing the cover art, and who takes the crown as the Sneaker MVP of 2017. Get into the interview below.

Q&A with Howie Kahn, Alex French, and Rodrigo Corral

What made you guys want to create a book like “Sneakers”?

Howie Kahn: Almost all of sneaker media is digital at this point. But sneakers are actual objects: things people love for their physical appearance and the stories that ultimately brought them into their physical form. We love sneakers and we thought, wouldn’t it be great to make a book that’s as cool and enduring as the objects themselves? We wanted to make something to covet, not just to click on, and we wanted to do it by combining art and storytelling in all new ways that would feel both fresh and timeless.


What was the instant inspiration behind creating the book?

HK: Committing to making a book about sneakers isn’t about instant inspiration. There was no single aha moment for us. It all goes back a long way: favorite sneakers from childhood and following sneakers all through our adult lives–the way they inspire, the way they bring people together, the way they make culture, the way they change while still hitting that nostalgia button. They’re powerful. It’s the long-term awareness and study of that power that put the book into motion.

How hard was it developing the cover art for the book?

Rodrigo Corral: It was pretty tricky because sneakers mean so many things to so many different people.  We played around with shoelaces, unboxing, soles–basically the entire anatomy. You either say it and don’t show it or show it and don’t say it. We wanted it to say “sneakers” and we knew it needed to grab your attention and then allow you to make it personal. I think we landed in the right place. Each person can decide what’s in our white box.

What do you guys feel street culture has been lacking in the sneaker industry?

HK: One of the things the book gets into is the way the street influenced sneakers in the 70s and 80s, and how that ultimately trickles down to where we are now. Bobbito Garcia, one of the legends in our book, started seeing that sneakers could be a way to express identity and style by watching his older brother customize his basketball shoes. Bobbito then took control of his own colorways and influenced a lot of people. Back then, you had to do it yourself. And because so many people did it themselves, brands saw the appetite for more variety. Now, brands give more to the customer. More colorways, more drops. But you still see people adding their own touches all the time. The street always feeds the industry. The industry wouldn’t have grown to this point without the street. And the industry is always watching closely.

The photography in the book were awesome, was it hard incorporating those images and personal interviews in the publication?

RC: We worked with some very gifted photographers, with tons of experience. Combining beautiful photos, with great stories, and incredible shoes makes for an epic experience for readers.

What do you feel designers like Ronnie Fieg, Virgil Abloh and Jeff Staple have done for the culture of sneakers?

HK: All different things. Jeff Staple proved that good design can make any story compelling. He made a shoe about a pigeon years and years ago and everybody still wants it. People are losing their minds for the new version of that shoe right now. And it’s all because he was audacious enough to go deep into a narrative that nobody else was approaching with any kind of insight. Ronnie Fieg can collaborate with anybody and because he does he always makes the culture look like a family. People respond to that and want to be a part of it. This is an emotional culture. Some of the heat is actually about feelings, not just looks. Virgil Abloh put out ten shoes this year that captured everybody’s attention – but the cultural payoff of all that isn’t just the shoes, as beautiful as they are. It’s the work that went into them. Think about the hustle behind a ten-part release like this one. We all watched it. The lesson? Go hustle like that. Go hustle while making beautiful things. That’s our takeway.

Which sneaker was the topic of discussion for 2017, in each of you guys opinion?

HK: Because we were writing this book, and talking about sneakers with each other deeply and constantly, it wasn’t just a matter of following drops. We talked about sneakers in a way that considered history, culture and biography.In terms of what was going on in my shopping cart, early in the year, there was a lot of NMD action or attempted action. I had a big Air Max phase in the middle of the year, especially after visiting Nike HQ and seeing their archives. But, for me, and you can read about it in the book, 2017 was the year of the Mars Yard, which the artist Tom Sachs designed. It’s the sneaker I’m wearing the most and telling the most stories about, too.

Alex French:  What excited me more than anything was the quality of work being put out into the world by independent designers and smaller brands. Jerry Lorenzo and No One and Buscemi are doing really unique and thrilling work. As I write this, Daniel Bailey, the super talented British sneaker futurist is, like, days from debuting a new line that I think is going to send tremors throughout the industry. 2017 was the year we saw Dominic Chambrone AKA the Shoe Surgeon become a superstar with global reach. The same goes with Salehe Bembury, Versace’s new head of footwear design.

Who is the Sneaker MVP of 2017?

HK: Based on individual output alone, and attention for that output, an depth of the output, it’s gotta be Abloh.

Every brand will look at The Ten as a case study and say, how can we do that?

It’s genre defining for a designer collab.

Will we receive a Sneakers Part 2?

HK: There are definitely enough stories, and inspiration for enough art, to fill another book.  No doubt.

Image Credit: Sneakers

Image Credit: Sneakers

Image Credit: Sneakers

Image Credit: Sneakers

Image Credit: Sneakers

Image Credit: “Sneakers”

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