Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Simon Wood - global authority on kicks

sneaker freaker

My Australian content in the June/July issue of WWD FAST - a youth-nosed sportswear magazine - includes a profile on photographer Joan Cameron Smith, some cool fashion product from Andrea & Joen and Marnie Skillings - and a full-page feature on Melbourne-based Sneaker Freaker founder Simon "Woody" Wood (^).

Wood's magazine has emerged as the sneaker bible, with Wood himself sought out for several sneaker collaboration projects.

The cover of issue #11 (below) shows the new Puma x Sneaker Freaker Blaze of Glory colab shoe which was released in April.

Here are some bits and pieces from the original iv which did not go into FAST:

Wood on the magazine's 2002 launch:

“The sort of community aspect didn’t exist then. And I think that’s where the magazine’s strength is. It sort of unites people. You can be into Nike, you can be into Puma, you can be into Adidas...but the magazine is relatively even-handed. I noticed on the opening night, we just let people know. We didn’t even have an email list. And I think 300 or 400 people turned up. That’s when I realized there were a whole lot of other guys, just like me, who were really into their shoes. And they were all so amazed that someone had actually done something.

“We didn’t have anything to model ourselves on. Seven years later, there’s so much in the way of online content. But there was nothing out there. I think there were about three or four websites about sneakers. So we might have been in the first half dozen of those. There’s probably, I don’t know, 2000 sneaker sites now. It’s crazy”.

The magazine's mission statement:

“There’s this age gap between the younger kids who are coming into it and anyone who is in their 30s who remembers these shoes from when they were kids. A lot of our articles are about educating kids about why the shoes were created, what they were used for, the athlete endorsements, what was happening in fashion at the time…. That’s why the Andre Agassi shoe was white/fluoro/pink/black, because he used to wear crazy, acid-wash denim outfits and had a peroxided kind of mullet. We’re sort of creating a history for 30 years of shoe design. It’s a fascinating subject because it is about sport, about fashion, about the fact that kids in Japan were really going crazy for this one thing and then it then gets exported to Europe and then America… Japanese streetwear is a splinter of that. It’s the most dominant force in fashion today. I think every company has a designer going to Japan and just basically ripping off everything that they see right now”.

The sneaker boom:

“Certainly in the last two years, the number of product developments has just gone through the roof. So there’s probably another half a dozen to twelve fads that have been brought back form the dead from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Brands like Troop, SPX… people are getting the licenses again and joining in the boom. It’s a bit like when a gold rush happens or the mining industry goes off in western Australia. Everyone kind of flocks in there and has a go. We’ve just seen so much product. To a large extent I suppose that’s also to do with the affordability of manufacturing in south east Asia, that’s a lot cheaper. But shoes are getting more expensive to make so it’s an interesting time”.

Sneakers which should never have seen the light of day:
“Pretty much every Skecher. I think as I’ve matured into my role as an editor, I’m able to step outside my own feelings and look at something. There are shoes that I’ll never understand and wear. Anything that is very slimline for example”.

On the made-in-Australia factor:
“They [many industry players] are surprised that something of that quality can come from somewhere that’s not America or Europe. On some issues we say where we’re from and on some we don’t. Often all it says is, ‘Made in Melbourne’. It has our website on the front cover and that’s it. We don’t feel like we haven’t been accepted because of it. But it makes us kind of exotic as well”.


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