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Sneaker Con: What sets it apart

The Peak speaks to co-founder Alan Vinogradov about the popular street culture event.

The Peak has frequently referred to the rising significance of street culture, and its influence on luxury and fashion. Here is more evidence of its burgeoning status: Sneaker Con, a major shoe event that was started by three New York-based sneaker enthusiasts in 2009, will be making its local debut soon. Allowing fans to buy, sell or trade their shoes, Sneaker Con has hosted over a million attendees and vendors in more than 40 cities worldwide and will be the third recurrent large-scale sneaker and street-culture event to be held on our tiny island.

While originally to be held at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre in June, the event has been postponed indefinitely due to the current coronavirus situation.  It would have featured regional streetwear brands, skateboarding and basketball activities, and prominent sneaker resellers from all over the world. We sat down with event co-founder 33-year-old Alan Vinogradov to find out what sets Sneaker Con apart from other street-culture events, and what compels people to spend up to five-digit sums on mass-produced shoes.

 

(Related: How Ox Street carved its online niche in Southeast Asia’s burgeoning resale sneaker market)

 

What are your thoughts on the Singapore sneaker culture?

The sneaker community wants something special. They haven’t got something that belongs to them since Nike dropped the SBTG Dunk (by Singaporean sneaker customiser Mark Ong) in 2006. Sneaker Con will belong to Singapore. And I can bet you that the sneaker culture here will expand significantly after this event. Each time we hold our event in new cities, engagement fires up. When we did Sneaker Con in Shanghai last April, there were maybe two sneaker resale shops. The last time I was in Shanghai two months ago, there were 30.

 

What do you have to say to people who think that sneaker trading is a small, low-value niche?

At a Sneaker Con, I saw someone pay US$40,000 (S$55,554) for the Nike self-lacing Mag. My friend, Jaysse Lopez, who owns (sneaker consignment store) Urban Necessities in Las Vegas and New York, comes to every Sneaker Con – I’ve seen him spend over a half million dollars at an event. He was buying and selling, but he also spends crazy money on stuff for himself as well. I’ve also seen more low-key guys people don’t know spend US$250,000 at events.

 

You’ve been a sneakerhead since young. Why do you think people are so crazy about sneakers, which generally aren’t very expensive at retail and have a certain shelf life?

Sneakers are made using glues and cheaper materials; they are mass manufactured. But that’s all in our wheelhouse. What makes them special is that people associate them with so many stories and moments. My strongest memories in life relate back to sneakers – waiting in a line to buy a certain sneaker, or taking a drive with my brother (Barris Vinogradov, another Sneaker Con co-founder) to buy shoes that have just dropped. The most recent example, which is such a profound situation, is the passing of (late NBA basketball star) Kobe Bryant. I was always big on buying Kobe Bryant shoes, and I value and love them all the more now, representing as they do the great things that Kobe did.

 

What do you feel about the fact that so many luxury brands are now making their own sneakers or collaborating with sneaker brands?

I love it. It’s opening up new demographics and exposing more people to the sneaker culture. I think sneakers have had a much bigger influence on fashion than people give it credit for. Look at the collaboration between Dior and Air Jordan. Nothing else that Dior has made has been so well-known by so many people. It’s a huge deal.

 

(Related: Sneaker Con is coming to Singapore)