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Top Sneaker Influencers Talk Shop

Five of the top sneaker influencers gather for a candid and revealing conversation.

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DJ Clark Kent

Photo By Thomas Iannaccone

Jeff Staple

Photo By Kyle Ericksen

Ronnie Fieg

Photo By Thomas Iannaccone

Why do some collaborations not work out?

VK: One brand in particular approached me about an ambassadorship, where I’d talk about the brand, tweet, Instagram and blog about them. With no disrespect to this company, I felt there was no way I could sign on for it because [the company] totally goes against my beliefs and views and feelings. I had to kindly say no. It’s fine and I’ve [declined] from time to time in my career and it makes sense because a lot of the people who follow me find this natural infusion of [products] in my world. I believe that all collaborations need to be connected. They need to be symbiotic.

JS: I turn down a lot. Plenty. Some of them I’ve been in talks with for four or five years. Most of the time it’s marinating, figuring out when the right time is to do something, and we’ll strike when the iron is hot. The reason it all melts together is because it’s organic, authentic and natural and not forced. That’s why it looks like this mastermind thing when we release our collaborations, but it’s not planned or that formulaic.

RF: Turning down a certain request from a brand is not always a terrible thing. It has to make sense for both parties. If my ideas don’t really make sense for the brand and what they’re trying to do, then the brand will tell me it doesn’t exactly fit. It has to be right for both parties. If it’s not right for both parties, then there’s no reason to make it happen. It’s not about personal benefit; it’s about building and evolving.

Social media is a big part of what you do. How has that changed the relationship between shoe companies and the consumer?

BG: There’s an indirect relationship with brands and the community. Brands can put out what the people want because market research is a click away. The brands also have to continue to push the envelope and give choices that people may not realize at the time. You can’t always listen to the consumer. They don’t know any better sometimes. They’re just following, so you have to listen to the leaders like us who are doing something different.

JS: It’s an extremely powerful tool for spreading your message very quickly and very inexpensively. Many young people who have the power of social media at their fingertips are so enamored with the power they have that they forget they first have to figure out what to say.

VK: It’s connected people much more. It’s an easy way for brands to get to the consumer. It’s weird in a way, too, where now everyone knows what’s going on with everybody else. Information is more readily available and everything has plateaued because we all know the same information. In that sense, it’s an interesting place to be. It’s easier for a big corporation to see what their customers are thinking and talking about.

When it comes to personal use, what are your dos and don’ts for sharing things on social media?


DJCK: The ability to communicate with people anywhere is amazing, but it’s also very responsibility-laden. Imagine all these people are paying attention to everything you say to the point where they may or may not do something different. So I’m very careful on social media. Besides the fact that I don’t want to sound like a fool, I don’t want to banter back and forth with a kid who doesn’t think the way that I think. I see people on Twitter say some of the most horrendous things about me, but how can I argue with a dude behind a keyboard?

RF: To be honest, I’m trying to scale back in terms of the information that’s seen on the Internet. I feel like the formula’s gotten very repetitive, in terms of how people and brands put out their information. I never want to end up in a position where people are thinking and acting as robots, but that’s the way it gets sometimes. It’s very important to get in touch with the people on an intimate level and make them feel like they’re part of something more than just another shop or just another brand.

VK: The rule of Twitter is to make sure you’re not oversharing. You have to think about what you’re saying and how that might affect someone you know or don’t know. That leaves less room to be who you are on Twitter, but I don’t think it’s meant to be your whole person in 140 characters. I’ve been put in a position when I’ve said something on Twitter and didn’t realize who was paying attention to it and offended them. For Instagram, there’s a balance of photos of me and consumerism. I also like to take pictures of friends who might not necessarily have the same following as I have, but to share something about them. You have to be responsible because there are so many things I can Instagram or tweet on a daily basis, but it’s not going to benefit anyone in the larger scheme.

JS: I definitely went through a phase where I thought I should do all these platforms and connect with people wherever they are. Now I’m not going to force myself to be on some things just because people are saying we’ve got to be on it. I’m not on Google+, I don’t Tumblr. I just pick my spots in terms of where I want to be. By doing that, I’ve found the spots that I’ve picked have been successful for me.

How much money is there in being an “influencer”?


DJCK:
If you’re trying to be an influencer, you’re doing the wrong thing. It sounds stupid to people. That’s one thing I would never do.

VK: Creative directing and DJing are sources that keep me going financially. Those are probably the most successful areas for me. It varies. Directing music videos has been an interesting journey. As you know, the industry has changed dramatically over the last few years and I solely thought I’d be a music director and all of that changed.

RF: Money is really not the motivation. It’s really how we can change the marketplace and help change the way people look at this business and this market. There are formulas people try to write. Professors try to find ways to break down and teach steps of what they think would be the best way to make something like this happen. But that’s not the way we do things. It’s not something that professors can teach or I can tell you. It’s based off passion. Unless there’s a course called “Passion,” then I don’t know how people can really learn how to do what it is we’re doing here.

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