By: Emily Kim
Photography By: Luis Ledesma
Last night, the team made a trek up to New York University’s Kimball Hall for a special “State of the Culture” discussion presented by Sneakers for Success. With Samuel del Pilar and Christian Waterman at the helm of Sneakers for Success, the organization strives to inspire and empower youth by coupling sneaker culture and academics. Through various classes and workshops, students are able to meet their full potential toward higher education by engaging in the crosswalks of sneaker culture and footwear industry.
The evening revolved around sneaker culture and its permeation in society and the world’s economy. What once was a niche subculture has exploded into a global, multibillion-dollar industry. Hosted by the legendary Bobbito Garcia, the discussion featured four panelists: Mellany Sanchez, Jason Faustino, Matthew Ting, and Jon Lopez. Through their individual positions and careers, they each play a role in the overarching sneaker culture, which allowed them to offer valuable insight.
Bobbito harped on the fact that unlike his generation of the ’60s and ’70s, we are living in a complete unprecedented era of sneaker culture. He explained that the capture of New York City is so crucial because it is the epicenter of this culture. Key players of this industry used to be brands, distributors, and stores; whereas now, brands are gearing their attention to us: the collectors, the enthusiasts, and ultimately, the consumers. We should feel empowered because we are the ones influencing brands and the products they push. The panelists talked about this relationship between brands and consumers, especially during a time when supply and demand is often the driving force in whether a release will fly off the shelves. Mellany expressed that this whole concept of supply and demand is so attractive to consumers because a limited product will make you feel like you are a part of something. We are all too familiar with those people who notoriously purchase sneakers purely for the exclusivity and hype – only to resell it to the next consumer for an inflated price. But that reality is just a byproduct of the evolution of this industry. Resellers aside, there is so much more to members of the sneaker community. Many of us look to footwear as a vehicle for self-expression, often tying distant memories to certain models or colorways.
Check out what our cameras caught on-feet.
Apart from the economics of this industry, another hot topic of the evening was how to cross the bridge from being just a consumer to a participant within the culture. All the panelists agreed that no matter your age, you could always do better at being better by separating yourself from the average consumer and launching a career within this ever-changing industry. But how? Rather than just exchanging money for shoes, we should look for opportunities to exchange and share our own knowledge within the many career avenues of this industry: accounting, communications, design, marketing, research and development, just to name a few. Jon stated that such a career should start with a passion for sneakers in order for you to determine how you can take this knowledge and give back somehow. Scroll on to find out the speakers’ key pieces of advice.