Sneaker Con has become a certified establishment in the sneaker world. The very first Sneaker Con was held back on March 1, 2009 right here in New York City. Since then, the convention has grown to tour various cities across the U.S. and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Tomorrow, Saturday July 13th, Sneaker Con returns to New York at Basketball City (Pier 36) for their biggest event yet with over 150 vendors. We even heard Dikembe Mutombo was going to be at the event (courtesy of Adidas) and might do a little shot-blocking action (lol).
Either way, so we caught up three of the four founders of Sneaker Con, including William Debord, Alan Vinogradov and Barris Vinogradov – minus Yu Ming who was not available at the time of the interview. But we still had a great conversation and talk a little about the creation of the event, the growth of it and even a little bit about the craziest sneaker releases they’ve personally witnessed in New York City.
Read the interview below…
212: So how did the Sneaker Con brand come about?
Alan: What happened was we sat down with Yu Ming and we decided that due to the growth of the culture, “sneaker heads” needed a place to come together and interact. An event where people could acquire some of the most sought after footwear by buying, selling, and/or trading shoes, as well as meet other sneaker enthusiasts and share their love for kicks. Yu Ming said he had a great name – Sneaker Con. “A con, a convention to gather for that one purpose…SNEAKERS.”
William: This show is mainly about sneakers. The love for them. You go in there [into Sneaker Con] and you’ll find a pair you need or trade one you’re willing to part with. You’ll learn about shoes you never saw or even new released and you’ll make friends that share your interest and hobby.
212: What has been the evolution of Sneaker Con from your first show, which was in New York, to the one that’s coming up tomorrow Saturday July 13th…?
Alan: The first event was in Time Square at the Times Square Performing Arts Center and this building is like a fixture from the 70′s and 80′s era of Times Square where you had peep shows, hustlers, (etc…) and it was just one big free-for-all. So the first show had a pre modern day New York feel. We ran into that venue by accident. Then from there, our venues also evolved as we kept out-growing them with each next event. We moved on from Times Square and went to SoHo. We loved and still love SoHo because the culture itself was born out of SoHo. The culture is fairly new. It was born in SoHo with brands/stores like Bathing Ape and Supreme putting this together here in the U.S. The major players were them and few others. That is why we took it to Soho and then we just eventually needed more space, so we moved the event to Midtown.
William: And now because we continued to grow, with the huge lines of attendees waiting to get inside, in addition to all of our original vendors, we needed to make room for more people and give new vendors a chance to participate. We needed to bring it to a new space like Pier 36 (Basketball City). It’s a huge facility so we’re going to have over 150 vendors this Saturday. Its going to be a lot of the little guys and a lot of the guys that are more recognizable who have been with us from the beginning. We have the space now, so we expect our biggest event to date.
Alan: And its crazy because the first show we did back in 2006 when it was just Barris and I, and before it was called Sneaker Con, we threw an event with 25 vendors and we used to have to beg people to come and vend with us. We were basically giving away space for free and no one wanted to do it. Friends of ours, guys that knew we were pretty reputable with business, still turned us down. It was very difficult. So to now to have it be easy, to sell out of tables every event, and for us to come from that unknown underground culture that it was to what it is now, it’s pretty amazing.
Sneaker Con. A con, a convention to gather for that one purpose…SNEAKERS” - Yu Ming
212: You guys have tried to make Sneaker Con very vendor-friendly and try to make it so that they can be as successful as possible…
William: We know there are high costs when it comes to starting a brand. And these higher end trade shows might even cost you $10,000 to be able to showcase your brand. That’s a big enough investment to cover the costs of production or handle one of your main marketing [initiatives]. It’s very difficult to take on that cost as a small business. So we try to give these brands a more affordable place to show, promote, as well as make sales. Its very hard to get into these retail locations and land these accounts, but when you’re just starting out and you have a product, we feel that Sneaker Con is that place where you can come. Lots of brands show up and travel with us to every city nationwide because they’ve had profitable days at Sneaker Con, they’re followings grow, and they make an impact…so it works for them.
212: What about the flyers, they definitely are unique to the event and the Sneaker Con Brand?
Alan: The first flyer we used resembled the old Broadway playbills. So since that flyer, we always wanted to have an innovative concept, something that was engaging to either the city we were traveling to, the theme of the event or whatever it was. We always wanted to define ourselves by the artwork that was produced by us for the event. Ian Ball has been designing and illustrating them for some time now, you can check out his work at mmm.albinal.com.
212: You guys have been doing this for quite a while now, so I can imagine that you’ve seen Sneakerheads change throughout the years?
Barris: When we started, we didn’t know what to expect as far as who was coming to the show. At first, we were promoting it as an event where these kids could come and shop with the vendors, but it became something totally different. These kids came in with their own pairs of shoes in hand, keeping in mind that its a buy, sell and trade event and really engaging it that way. We just noticed that it became more of a situation where kids would be holding up shoes, yelling prices, and even selling things back to the vendors. Kids were also purchasing pairs in the early hours of the show, and then reselling or trading them at a higher price in the later end of the show.
Alan: They’ve gotten very creative and its just so natural to them. For example, this one kid had a clear backpack, and did a printout of all his shoes with all the stats and what he wants or wants to trade for – and anyone behind him would see exactly what he was about or was expecting (click here to see a picture of that).
William: The crowd was definitely older in the first show, and now, the crowds have gotten so much younger. I’m talking about kids who’s first pair of sneakers were a pair of Lebron 9′s. Its cool because these kids are learning and getting informed, and its funny because they don’t even know it or realize it. Even parents see it and see their child learning certain things about doing business, investing, and managing their money.
Alan: At Sneaker Con, you will always find someone with a much higher Sneaker IQ than yourself. I will always meet someone at Sneaker Con that will know more than me. Its impossible not to. And Sneaker Con really does teach you a little bit about your business abilities. You don’t just come to pick up shoes, you’re learning how to pick up a pair of new shoes, how to clean up a used pair and make them look good – and then sell them for a profit. Its helping attendees develop some of the skills and abilities that are so important in today’s society, especially here in NYC.
William: The whole idea of Sneaker Con became based off the Stock Market in the 70′s or 80′s. No computers. Just everybody putting up their slips in the air (or kicks in the air in this case), shouting out prices and knowing the market value of the shoes – getting offers left and right.
“At Sneaker Con, you will always find someone with a much higher Sneaker IQ than yourself.” - Alan Vinogradov
212: In your opinion, the biggest sneaker releases in New York City that each of you have personally witnessed are…?
Alan: The Staple Pigeon Dunk definitely changed the culture a lot. But in terms of people actually obtaining and enjoying the shoe for years….the Copper Foamposite is unarguably what made the Foamposite a staple in New York again. It was the biggest release in New York. It was always a popular shoe, but the Copper Foams sold out the day they released and every store had lines down the block. That was New York and still is New York. Its a New York shoe. It works with the colors of New York and its very fitting. The color of the Statue Of Liberty before it oxidized. The color of these old streets. You can take that and roll with it because Nike knew what they were doing in producing this color[way]. Hands down, its a shoe you still see people wearing today that had the biggest sneaker lines I’ve ever seen in Manhattan, EVER. The Foamposite is a New York shoe. And Copper is a New York color.
William: I agree that for New York that definitely was the biggest release. But in general, 2012 was just a crazy year. The Red Foams. The Galaxies. All the Retro Jordans. It (the sneaker culture) is at a place where it never was because of ALL the people in demand for these products.
Barris: For me, I think it was the Tiffany/Diamond SB’s that came out like six months or so after the Staple Pigeon Dunks. Alan and I were actually trying to get a few pairs and we were in SoHo trying to find them, lurking around. Nobody knew when they were going to drop. It was memorable because when you stand in line with people, you really become part of the culture. Then we heard about a mom and pop shop in Queens that were getting them and we hit the subway to check them out. Eventually, we had to go to New Jersey to get some pairs.
212: What do you think is Sneaker Con’s biggest contribution to the city of New York?
Alan: We’re competing with so many different forms of entertainment here. We’re doing the best we can do in trying to cultivate an environment that allows people to engage with other sneakerheads, to build new friendships and connections that will last once Sneaker Con is over. For New York, we developed this buy-sell mentality that has now carried over to other markets in the U.S., and opening kids up to the idea of starting their own businesses on a smaller scale. Our event embraces capitalism because imagine being a new business and renting a space in Manhattan at $15,000 plus per month? So we’re allowing kids and showing them that opportunities still exist and that they can build their own way off the skills they pick up at Sneaker Con.
212: Last question and its a tough one…Knicks or Nets?
William: I was never really a fan of a particular team, I tend more so to follow players. I watch high school basketball, college basketball and I see guys come through the system and I know who’s good individually. So I’m a fan of players. I’m a Melo fan because I went to Syracuse. But I’m from Brooklyn, I love and rep Brooklyn, so now that we have our own team, my team is the Brooklyn Nets.
Barris: Well said. I’m from Brooklyn and grew up in Brooklyn. Its the only thing that’s for me. Nets! We all actually went to their first game right after Hurricane Sandy.
Alan: Referring to the Knicks…how can anyone like a team that just picks up washed up players? Definitely not the Knicks. [Laughs]
Note: So once again, make sure you check Sneaker Con NYC. The event kicks off Saturday July 13th at 12 Noon till 7PM at Pier 36 (Basketball City). Click here to purchase tickets.