Global sports brand PUMA and Lola Plaku, music industry power player and Lola Media Group CEO released her exclusive PUMA Nova GRL PWR sneaker on January 18th. The pack is available for purchase on PUMA.com and in select stores worldwide. This is Lola’s first sneaker release as part of PUMA’s Co-Creative platform. “Lola is known for spearheading a mission to empower young women, and this partnership pays tribute to her efforts with a Nova sneaker pack aptly titled GRL PWR,” says Yassine Saidi, PUMA’s Senior Head of Select. “Lola inspires others to create change and push culture forward, making her the perfect co-creator of the new Nova.”
Lola talked with RESPECT Mag about her experiences as a woman who wants to empower other women through the ‘GRL Power’ pack and many other things. She explains the meaning behind ‘GRL PWR’ and why it’s important to continue to empower young women. We also got a chance to speak about her GIRL CONNECTED mentorship program, which pairs aspiring female professionals with her industry colleagues to learn the various aspects of the music business (A&R, creative, marketing, etc.) The full GIRL CONNECTED program will launch later this year. In March, Lola will release her second PUMA Nova iteration and will also be a featured speaker at the annual SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas.
The ‘GRL Power’ pack is designed by Lola, has a bold, 90’s inspired silhouette, rendered with a slim mesh upper with leather overlays and vibrant color blocking. Lola chose distinct color palettes for the sneaker, dropping in two colorways, Black–Surf the Web and Peach Bud–Pearl Blush. Featuring GRL PWR branding on the heel tab, with a lace closure system to finish out the unique sneaker.
Get into our interview below.
How did you feel when Puma reached out to you for the collaboration?
It was incredible. Me and the head of select, Yassine Saidi at Puma are friends and we have been talking about creative things outside of just fashion and people in the creative space for a long time. I think the collaboration with The Weeknd had already come out and a other Puma collabos. We had been talking about just how impactful creatives are and being culture forward not just in the fashion space but in the music space, digital arts things of that nature. Doing marketing, management and working with artist I kinda have to be around people like that alot. I was always the person to reach-out and ask do you know this person or this amazing photographer or this amazing choreographer or stylist or this model. The people behind-the-scenes really know everyone because they’re connected.
Me and him spoke about that very often and the influence that creatives have and when he said I have this great idea I’m thinking of involving creative people on collaborating with Puma not as a collaboration but mostly as a co-creative. You come in and help with the design, the shoe of the campaign and everything and It was amazing. I don’t like being at the forefront of things. I love creating. So to have that opportunity where I don’t have to be the one to be selling the shoe in a sense, it’s not a Lola shoe it is a Lola directed or creative shoe and that’s amazing. Giving me an opportunity that other brands are probably not thinking of giving to people like me.
How was it working with Puma on your first sneaker release under the co-creative platform?
It was amazing. I’m very hands on with everything and they gave me wide range to do everything I needed to do. There was no “this doesn’t fall in line with our vision” or “this doesn’t fall in line with our creative platform”. I used two photographers, one is Jaylin Jackson from Atlanta he’s super young and a cancer survivor. Literally when I created the campaign mood-board I found his photos, It was exactly what I wanted to do. The other photographer for the campaign, is out of L.A, Ro. Lexx, she’s super cool. I had worked with her several times before. Everything was my decision, the models were my decision, where I styled it, where I shot it. It was just very easy-going. It was amazing to work with a brand that wasn’t like “no you’re not going to use these people” and they were very accommodating in a sense that If I needed help or if I couldn’t get any models for this or I need to use x,y,z for this they were really forthcoming in trying to accommodate me. So It was awesome.
What does the pack title, GRL PWR mean to you and women empowerment?
I think “GRL PWR” is women recognizing other women and offering opportunities to other women. It’s the idea that everybody is incredible and everybody can do anything that they want to do without conforming to any single one identity. I love the idea, I find so many inspiring, young women that work in the music business and work in the creative world that don’t always get recognition for what they do. They’re behind-the-scenes they’re the ones who push the buttons, the ones who create the spreadsheet and make s*** happen. Alot of the times the recognition doesn’t really go to them. There are articles and powerful lists where women only compromise a small percentage compared to men.
It was so sad to see that so few women of power are recognized in the workplace/creative/music industry. I know so many amazing women, so maybe we need to empower women so that they can become powerful. The idea was to start a conversation that was very open and very honest about how we can empower women younger, older, behind-the-scenes or the forefront of what genre or career that they’re in to become powerful women. So when a list like that comes out it won’t just include 13 women. That was where ‘GRL PWR’ came from.
Why do you think it’s important to help empower women in today’s culture?
Because, they’re amazing. The way they’re able to get s*** done. The way they are able to make s*** happen. The lack of recognition that goes to some of these women is disheartening. So it’s important because I see women who are afraid to speak up because they don’t think they’re good enough. And that’s sad because they are good enough, just because someone doesn’t recognize you just because you’re not on a magazine or you’re not getting the credit you deserve doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough. So, I think it’s important that we highlight how incredible some of these women are. They’re and that’s why it’s important we need them to do the best they can do.
You also have a GIRL CONNECTED mentor-ship program, when did you realize you wanted to create the program?
I had a lot of women asking me to mentor them or shadow me unfortunately as much as I would want to, I don’t have as much time in the day to go for coffee or go sit down with everybody. I noticed that there was a lack of people who go to school for a particular degree or management or stage design or tour management. You never really know what it’s like until you’re actually in the field. So what young creatives end up doing because I think all of that falls under creativity, they end up doing internships without pay and it’s because they want to get their feet wet and be hands on with things they think they want to do. Then they realize it’s not what they want to do at all and so I though it was important to ramble with some of these amazing relationships that I have in the music industry and say look, these young women who truly genuinely want to get into this line of work, I feel they could use experience with somebody who’s been doing this for a long time and get those pointers, so they can realize if this is for me or not for me. So these amazing women that want to be A&R’s and they really don’t know what an A&R does, until they actually get into a position of an A&R.
So what best way to learn to find out about what you want to do for the rest of your life as a career, until you actually learn from an A&R. Because then you can take all the internships you want because you know that’s what you want to do. Like I have women who say “I want to do what you do, I want to get into tour management or management.” That is exhausting. (Laughs) I’ve been exhausted when I’ve done tour management and I think that it’s important that young people, not just women figure out what it is to do that particular job and not what media highlights on interviews, TV or a live reality TV show. I think it’s important to create those type of relationships where people can sit-down and work hand and hand with the person whose been doing this for years to really learn the ins and outs, the obstacles and challenges and what the job really is. Before they go to school for four years and spend all that money or before they start all these internships and realize that it might not be what they want to do. So the program offers young women a chance to partner with a mentor in their field so they can learn hands-on the industry that they want to get into.
Are you happy with the finished product of the pack?
OMG, Yes! I’m happy with the product and I’m happy with the campaign. I loved how the campaign turned out. I was going to say I wore the shoes on my vacation and I did not take them off they are the most comfortable and I’m not saying that because they’re mine. They really are super comfortable.
Are you excited about your second Puma Nova iteration releasing in March?
Yes and I cannot wait to create an even larger conversation around that release. That is really the purpose for this entire collaboration at least to succeed at conversation. I’m excited about this one and I’m excited about the next one and it’s another take on this exact same conversation. I love the design. It’s not as colorful but it’s beautiful and I’m excited for that campaign as well to roll-out.
Which sneaker from the pack is your favorite?
Both of them. The pink one is so pretty and looks really good when you wear all-black. The black ones look amazing when you wear other stuff. So both, I can’t pick.
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