Student Success: Kade Butler, Nike

Kade works in sportswear and wanted to learn more about footwear to move up in his career. He enrolled in Sneaker Essentials to better understand how the business works. He talks about his student success with Yellowbrick.

The biggest takeaway I have is how many different jobs there are within the industry. There’s truly something out there for everyone.

ON CHOOSING SNEAKER ESSENTIALS —

I’ve only heard good things about the Fashion Institute of Technology. It might’ve honestly been the deciding factor. I enrolled in this online course so I could continue to follow my passion and move up within the sneaker industry. The course covers a variety of topics. They are all essential to the footwear industry and it definitely had an impact. 

 

ON BEING A YELLOWBRICK STUDENT —

My favorite assignment was talking about my grail sneakers. My favorite course was Brand Strategy and Marketing — I loved hearing from Jeron Smith (Chief Marketing Officer, SC30 Inc.).

 

STUDENT SUCCESS IN REAL-LIFE APPLICATION —

The biggest takeaway I have is how many different jobs there are within the industry. There’s truly something out there for everyone. The online course covers every portion of the industry. It sharpened the knowledge that I already had through my work experience.

 

ON THE PAST & WHAT’S NEXT —i

The online course has given me more overall knowledge of the industry. t’s come up in a couple of recent job interviews. I even fell back on my experience with the Sneaker Essentials course in the interview process for my new job with the merchandising team at Nike Headquarters!

What if your sneaker brand gets a cease and desist?

When Warren Lotas got hit with a cease and desist followed by a lawsuit for similar designs resonating too close of the Pigeon Dunk and other sneakers, Nike claimed the creations “are not legitimate customizations, they are illegal fakes.” However, with DIY and custom sneaker design becoming popular artistry in the sneaker world, sneaker customizers such as The Shoe Surgeon, Kickstradamus, and DeMarco Custom Sneakers have built businesses around their creations. However, a fine line crosses between customization and infringement, as with cases like Warren Lotas, Lil Nas X and MSFCHFS, and Ari Menthol 10’s. 

Globalization and technology welcome the inevitable frontier that allows any shoe model to become copied. Sites like Alibaba have made it easy to access blanks or infringe highly inspired modified models of your favorite sneakers. Some have used these models to create their own sneakers through customization. They also have created their own lines, or falsely claim deals and collaborations with sneaker companies. 

The thin line between customs and counterfeits has accounted for some of the most interesting copy infringement cases. For example, the viral marketing incentives around Lil Nas X’s “Satan Shoes” with creative collective MSCHF. These infamous sneakers garnered mass media attention and a ball of Twitter trending topics. Big sneaker brands employ counsel to protect their marks, copyrights, and other intellectual properties. However, what companies and individuals can take to safeguard their intellectual property and designs is a cease and desist.

What is a cease and desist letter?

By definition, a cease and desist letter is a common method used to resolve a dispute between two or more parties. However, it is not legally binding and isn’t filed in court. 

Instead, this letter will be sent to the individual or business to ask them to stop an activity infringing on their rights. A cease and desist letter is also commonly referred to as a “stop harassment letter” or a “demand letter.” This letter is usually sent before an injunction or lawsuit as a warning. To avoid going to court and accumulating litigation costs, cease and desist letters are one of the cheapest and quickest ways to resolve a matter. 

A cease and desist letter also serves as evidence that they’ve given notice to the other party for their alleged infringement. If the other party chooses to continue their behavior after receiving the notice, a stronger legal claim can be made against them. 

What is a cease and desist order?

While a letter comes off as a warning, a cease and desist order is legally binding to the court. Known as an “injunction” or “restraining order,” the order is official and issued by a government agency or a court. A cease and desist order communicates to a person or company to stop engaging in illegal activities, or they will face penalties such as fines or jail time.

A cease and desist letter and order are negotiation tactics giving a warning sign before further legal action occurs. 

Different types of cease and desist and why you’re getting one

  • Infringement of intellectual property rights. Intellectual property such as copyright, patent, or trademarks gives you certain rights. Someone is breaching your rights If another individual or business uses your protected work without your consent. This is the common use of cease and desist. Sending a cease and desist letter in these situations is often a quick way to get the other party to discontinue this behavior.
  • Debt collection services. A cease and desist letter may be an effective way to get debt collection agencies or attorneys to stop harrasing you through continuous calls. While you can force them to stop contacting you through the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, it is important to keep in mind that the letter does not eliminate your debt.
  • Slander and libel issues. If a person is spreading falsehoods about you that are untrue, your business or your individual reputation can suffer irreparable harm. These cases are far more common in the digital sphere. Slander and libel are forms of defamation, and sending a cease and desist letter could be your first step in stopping this behavior.
  • Harassment. There are various ways that other parties could harass you. While sending a cease and desist letter to a harasser could be a way to stop their behavior, it is important to understand that a cease and desist letter could cause a harasser to react adversely. There are various situations where it may be better to go directly to law enforcement or the courts for a restraining order.

How to handle if you get a cease and desist:

I would say 90% of these cease and desist letters are settled before they make it to court. And they’re either resolved amicably or forcefully outside of the courts. – Kenneth Anand

  • Relax. Don’t panic. A reminder that cease and desist letters and orders are warnings. 
  • Consult with a lawyer. Understand the complete letter or order and what’s at stake. Is there an understanding of what you’re infringing and your rights? Understand your choices? Do you understand the action if not complying?
  • Give a response. Acknowledge that you have received the letter. Orders are certified mail in which there is legal signature confirmation. Understand your choices and respond with what action you’ll be taking.
  • Find a way to settle. So there’s weight to the cease and desist? Acknowledge through settling and avoid taking it to court. Going to court is more expensive in the long run.
  • Do not ignore. Sneaker Law, co-author Jared Goldstein, immediate advice is to not ignore cease and desist letters and orders.

You want to respond to it, because if you ignore it — it can get worst. Ignoring it is not the way to go. – Jared Goldstein

In the newest module in Sneaker Essentials, Sneaker Law co-authors Kenneth Anand and Jared Goldstein break down intellectual property and considerations of sneaker deals. Explore Sneaker Essentials, a course powered by Yellowbrick alongside FIT and Complex by visiting yellowbrick.co/sneakers.

Disclaimer: This blog post is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. The contents of post contain general information and may not reflect current legal developments or address your situation. 

MADE: How Kenneth Anand made a career in sneaker law

PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT THERE’S SUCH THING AS HAVING IT “MADE.” THIS SERIES TAKES US TO THE GRIND, PERSISTENCE, AND DEDICATION IT TAKES TO PREPARE FOR THE RIGHT CAREER OPPORTUNITIES. 

Not all career pathways are the same. What we see as overnight success on social media are archived years of preparation before meeting that opportunity. There are no shortcuts to studying, obtaining a law degree, or passing the bar. Each year of experience counts in building a career in law. Kenneth Anand took a traditional pathway in practicing law and dedicated years to a law firm. Then, he used his experience to understand sneakers and fashion. This led to creating a law firm representing creatives and designers who drive those industries.

Fifteen years were under Kenneth’s belt before being aligned with an opportunity to be the General Counsel for Yeezy, Kanye West’s clothing and sneaker line. He created his own lane, year by year, which led him to a dream opportunity. Today, he is a lawyer, author, consultant, and business owner of streetwear brands like JustDon and 424 Fairfax. To celebrate the launch of the newest module in Sneaker Essentials featuring contributors Kenneth Anand and Jared Goldstein, Kenneth speaks with Yellowbrick about the different milestones he experienced in his career and how they led to creating Sneaker Law.

Sneaker culture is all about being your true self. And so we wanted to create something that embodied what that was about in education.

As a novice…

Having a strong interest in sneakers as a kid, it was a wrap when Kenneth discovered Jordans. Turned sneakerhead at only seven years old, he dreamt about wearing coveted sneakers and building his collection. It wasn’t until several years later when his parents gifted him his first pair of Jordans. He was hooked from then on. Over the years, Kenneth was a sneaker collector and always looked towards a career in sneaker law. He took the necessary steps and a traditional pathway, graduating from Brooklyn Law school and practicing employment law.  

As an expert…

Day-by-day, Kenneth put on a suit and stepped into the courtroom arguing cases in state and federal courts. After years of pursuing employment law, Kenneth started his law firm and developed clients in the creative space. He began to represent sneaker designers and brands, offering cost-effective representation across the employment, IP and entertainment fields. Then, Kenneth realized how much more time he wanted to devote to supporting streetwear, fashion, and sneaker brands through law. 

Kenneth Anand, co-creator of Sneaker Law
Kenneth Anand is a Sneaker Essentials contributor for Module 7, Sneaker Law. Source: Miami School of Law

The opportunity…

In 2017, Kanye West’s sneaker and fashion line, Yeezy, offered Kenneth a General Counsel role. And for two and a half years, he dedicated himself as their head lawyer. This role turned into Head of Business Development, in which he spearheaded developing new and existing lines of business. When speaking about his time at Yeezy, Kenneth recalls, “as somebody that grew up loving sneakers and hip hop and fashion, this was the perfect storm job for me. It was probably the most hyped I’ve ever been in my career.” While it took 15 years for Kenneth to work hard, arguing court cases routinely, it prepared him for Yeezy. 

As somebody that grew up loving sneakers and hip hop and fashion, this was the perfect storm job for me. It was probably the most hyped I’ve ever been in my career.

As notorious as the opportunity and time at Yeezy, Kenneth didn’t stop there. He returned to school to get his Executive MBA in Business. This helped him expand his knowledge, and support his next step in his career before Sneaker Law. After leaving Yeezy, Kenneth co-founded 3 8 0 Group, a fashion licensing company specializing in manufacturing and distributing premium apparel, footwear, and accessories. 3 8 0 group currently owns the licenses to leading streetwear brands such as JustDon, 424 Fairfax, MSFTSrep, and Bel-Air Athletics. Kenneth is also an advisor and consultant to many sneaker companies answering questions around the sneaker business and law.

The creation of Sneaker Law…

When Kenneth met Jared Goldstein, a legal intern for Complex who contributed articles around sneaker law, they began to think of ways to collaborate. As a result, they started the four-year-long process of writing Sneaker Law. A textbook that explains the facets of the sneaker business, Sneaker Law is the first book of its kind. It was important for Kenneth to create something that embodied the culture. Sneaker Law is a book for people to learn and understand the sneaker business. “I felt like [Jared and me] didn’t fit in [law school]. Sneaker culture is all about being your true self. And so we wanted to create something that embodied what that was about in education.”

Sneaker Law inspires courses around the subject matter in colleges and universities. University of Miami Law School, Georgia State, Parsons, and Rutgers use Sneaker Law as an official reading requirement. With FIT and Complex, Yellowbrick has added a new module into our Sneaker Essentials course, Sneaker Law. This module covers the sneaker business, intellectual property, and considerations when making a sneaker deal. Check out our Sneaker Essentials course to get a comprehensive overview of the sneaker industry and sneaker business.

Want to explore becoming a sneaker lawyer or other careers within the sneaker industry and how to get started? Explore our Ultimate Sneaker Career Guide.

Student Success: Michael Pardovany, New Balance

Michael has worked in the sneaker industry for years and saw an opportunity to learn other parts of the business. As part of his student success journey, he’s been able to implement his learnings at New Balance.

I wanted to expand my knowledge as much as possible and equip myself for my next journey within the footwear industry, and this course did that for me.

ON CHOOSING SNEAKER ESSENTIALS —

The Sneaker Essentials online course was right up my alley because I’m a Product Developer for Lifestyle at New Balance. I wanted to expand my knowledge as much as possible and equip myself for my next journey within the footwear industry, and this online course did that for me.

It was huge for me because back in college, I visited the Fashion Institute of Technology to see a guest speaker, and it was motivational and inspiring. FIT has a great reputation. I was also attracted to the program right away because Complex defines and expands on Lifestyle culture, and it’s a brand that I faithfully follow.

ON BEING A YELLOWBRICK STUDENT —

I enrolled in this program so I could further my education and career in the footwear industry on the Brand Strategy and Marketing side.

STUDENT SUCCESS IN REAL-LIFE APPLICATION —

My biggest takeaway was being able to obtain the knowledge that was given and apply it in my current role. There were things that the program covered which I did not know even existed. The course put me in a better position to market myself in the footwear industry.

ON THE PAST & WHAT’S NEXT —

As I was taking this program, I noticed a few things I did not have any knowledge of. I brought a few of these things up to my manager at New Balance and I was able to apply and implement them to my role — not only for myself but for our entire team. This program also solidified my decision for my next career step in the footwear industry.

To keep up with Michael and his work at New Balance, follow him on Instagram @mikenificent777.

Student Success: Victoria Marie Hoppe

Victoria is a Miami-based street culture connoisseur who enrolled in Sneaker Essentials because she wanted to pair her love of fashion with industry knowledge. Here, she discusses her student success and how the Sneaker Essentials online course has influenced her.

Gaining a better understanding of everything that goes into creating a single shoe makes you respect the process so much more from top to bottom.

ON CHOOSING SNEAKER ESSENTIALS —

I wanted to better myself as a person learning about something I love. I was really growing into my sense of style and interest in sneakers when I found this online course. It felt like a great opportunity to learn a little more and better myself. It was important to me to know that the program was backed by an accredited college. The backing of a school like the Fashion Institute of Technology made me feel like it would be thorough enough to be worth the time and money.

ON BEING A YELLOWBRICK STUDENT —

I really loved learning about sneaker design and manufacturing. Gaining a better understanding of everything that goes into creating a single shoe makes you respect the process so much more from top to bottom. The partnership mattered to me also since Complex is a major cultural media outlet that’s very relevant to me and many others.

STUDENT SUCCESS IN REAL-LIFE APPLICATION —

It’s given me more confidence to pursue paths within the industry that interest me, and a better understanding of how many different paths there are. It can be overwhelming to know how many talented people there are within this field. A course like this makes me feel like I can compete for that job or hold up in that interview. 

ON THE PAST & WHAT’S NEXT —

I did pick up a part-time job at Nike before the pandemic, and I think this gave me the confidence to do so. Prior to the course, I was afraid of how taking a retail job would look after college. I realized that there’s no fast track to get to where you want to be. I learned a lot during the time I was there and loved the environment. It was really special to me to get to be around something I enjoy daily. I also have another job as the Marketing Director for Miami’s Best Graffiti Guide, the top street art tour company in Wynwood, Miami’s Art District. It’s engaging and keeps me well connected to street art and culture.

To follow Victoria’s journey beyond Yellowbrick, follow her on Instagram @vickyhoppe.

Student Success: Ebony C. Watson

Ebony is a digital creator who wanted to combine her knowledge of art with her love of sneakers and footwear so, she enrolled in Yellowbrick’s Sneaker Essentials online course. Here, she discusses her student success.

The program prepared me to actually create a portfolio as I went along with each course. With this portfolio, I can submit to companies and seek employment within the sneaker industry.

ON CHOOSING SNEAKER ESSENTIALS —

The breakdown of the courses had a great deal of information which educated me every step of the way. It’s like a “Sneaker Bible” in encyclopedia form. Great source of information to prepare you for the sneaker game. 

I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology a while back, and I’m aware that the school is known for its phenomenal education curriculum in the fashion industry. The bonus is that I am deaf/hard of hearing, so the subtitles/closed caption solidified the deal of me taking the program. The accessibility feature program is amazing.

ON BEING A YELLOWBRICK STUDENT —

I really liked the course that specifically teaches you how to communicate with wholesale companies and keep a strong relationship with your sneaker design supplier.

STUDENT SUCCESS IN REAL-LIFE APPLICATION —

The program prepared me to actually create a portfolio as I went along with each course. With this portfolio, I can submit to companies and seek employment within the sneaker industry.

ON THE PAST & WHAT’S NEXT —

I’m in the technology field with Apple, but I want to break barriers and change the game in the footwear industry. The future is in a deaf/hard-of-hearing female like me.

To keep up with Ebony beyond Yellowbrick, follow her student success on Instagram @premiumgeek.

Student Success: Kieran Coyle, The Sole Supplier

As a long-time sneakerhead based in London, Kieran wanted to turn his passion for talking about sneakers into a career. So, he enrolled in Sneaker Essentials to kickstart his journey. Yellowbrick spoke with Kieran about student success and what he’s up to now.

I was assured that I would be receiving a quality course in not only its structure but also the instructors.

ON CHOOSING SNEAKER ESSENTIALS —

I had been into sneakers for 25 years, but I wanted to learn about the various segments of the industry. Seeing the list of the content that would be covered in the online course, I knew it was going to supply me with knowledge on a range of areas.

Seeing that Sneaker Essentials were working in conjunction with the Fashion Institute of Technology added a level of credibility. I was assured that I would be receiving a quality course in not only its structure but also the instructors. With Complex being well-known and well-respected in the sneaker industry for providing quality content, it ensured the content that we would receive throughout the course would be quality as well.

ON BEING A YELLOWBRICK STUDENT —

The Sneaker School work throughout the course was valuable. Creating the Top 9 list made you research and narrow down your grails. It also forced you to use things like Photoshop, Canva, and more to create your content for social posting. Creating your own sneaker made you think about functionality, design, color, and marketing.

STUDENT SUCCESS IN REAL-LIFE APPLICATION —

With the aid of the Sneaker School Group on Facebook, I was able to see the spectrum of people trying to break into the industry, their different skills and interests. That helps you understand where you could fit within the industry, and at what level your actual sneaker knowledge is. It also was really helpful hearing directly from those in the industry about how they got to where they are.

ON THE PAST & WHAT’S NEXT —

I’m now a Content Writer for The Sole Supplier in the U.K. I started an Instagram account writing and posting about sneakers, and then used that as a springboard to apply for roles at The Sole Supplier. I’m currently working on multiple articles per month for The Sole Supplier website and looking forward to providing more varied content in the future.

To keep up with Kieran beyond Yellowbrick, follow him on Instagram @allthatsneaks.

MADE: How Jared Goldstein made a career in sneaker law

PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT THERE’S SUCH THING AS HAVING IT “MADE.” THIS SERIES TAKES US TO THE GRIND, PERSISTENCE, AND DEDICATION IT TAKES TO PREPARE FOR DREAM OPPORTUNITIES. 

When thinking about attending law school, you usually wouldn’t correlate sneakers with it. But Jared Goldstein always had a vision for meshing his passion and love for sneakers. He paired this alongside his interest and intellectual curiosity for the law. Jared found a way to make his dream come true with relentless passion and application. Once a sneakerhead and reseller, Jared is now a lawyer and co-author of Sneaker Law — the first textbook made to teach the sneaker business. 

Before Sneaker Law, Jared put in years towards school. He deepened his knowledge of sneakers and the law. Then, he applied himself with a viable internship at Complex before landing the right opportunity. To celebrate the launch of the newest module in Sneaker Essentials featuring contributors Jared Goldstein and Kenneth Anand, Jared speaks with Yellowbrick about the different milestones he experienced in his career and how they led to creating Sneaker Law.

To that date, nobody has ever written about the lack of legal protection for sneaker designs. So, with extreme passion, Jared wrote over 40 pages of explicit legal content around sneaker designs.

JARED GOLDSTEIN

As a novice…

Jared instantly saw himself as a sneakerhead when he heard Nelly’s 2002 hit, Air Force Ones. To explore his newfound obsession, Jared read Complex’s now-defunct print magazine, specifically articles by Joe La Puma.

He knew at eight years old that he wanted to fuse his passion for sneakers and the law but didn’t exactly know the pathway to do so. The usual track was to work in-house for a sneaker company or a law firm that represented a sneaker brand — both limited with opportunities taking years and even sometimes a lifetime to achieve. Millennials and Gen Z expect rapid progression in their careers. 

According to research by PWC, millennials hold particular characteristics such as “ambition and desire to keep learning and move quickly upwards. . . as well as their willingness to move on quickly if their expectations are not being met.” In addition, like with Gen Z today, creative achievers want to feel their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are recognized — and fast. 

During law school, Jared researched and discovered law reviews, scholarly journals, or periodicals that focus on various legal issues. One of the requirements to become a law review member is to make a note (or a thesis) that is unique and has never been written before. After submitting your note, it’s judged before a panel to determine if it will be published in the journal. 

Jared saw this as an opportunity for his career in sneaker law. To that date, nobody has ever written about the lack of legal protection for sneaker designs. So, with extreme passion, Jared wrote over 40 pages of explicit legal content around sneaker designs. Proud of his work, Jared submitted his note. However, the panel rejected it. Upset, he went back to the drawing board to figure out his next steps.

As an expert…

Just a short time after his rejection with the law review, Jared landed an internship at Complex as a legal intern. After years of reading Joe La Puma’s articles and following his career, he couldn’t believe that he was in the same office as him. Landing this dream internship was a pivotal moment. With a stroke of inspiration, he came up with an idea. He would use the opportunity at Complex as an avenue to get his law review note out to the world. Jared pinpointed the missing gap in the sneaker industry. He knew his 40-pages of legal content was valuable information for the sneaker industry. 

While fulfilling his duties as a legal intern, Jared pitched his idea to Complex Sneakers Editor, Matthew Welty. Matthew loved the idea and proposed a new challenge for Jared — turning 30,000 words of legal language into 1,000 words for sneaker aficionados alike. After a couple of all-nighters, Jared completed a 1,000-word piece, “Here’s What Happens When a Brand Gets Sued for Ripping Off a Sneaker Design.” After that, he wrote a couple of more articles for Complex about legal areas around shoe design and sneakers. 

Jared Goldstein. Sneaker Essentials conributor
Jared Goldstein joins Sneaker Essentials as a contributor to Module 7, Sneaker Law.

Sneaker Law opportunity…

Sneakerheads and industry professionals consume your work when published in a massive media platform like Complex. And Kenneth Anand (previously General Counsel for Yeezy Apparel) was one of them. At the time, Kenneth was a partner for a law firm and reached out to Jared to meet him. They met at an Au Bon Pain, where they talked for hours and hours at length about sneakers. Jared couldn’t believe that he had met someone with similar interests who also practices law. He became inspired by Kenneth and wanted a career like his — to rock sneakers to work and practice law that he’s passionate about. 

They began thinking of ways to collaborate, including writing law articles around the subject matter of sneakers and the law. Instead, they found an opportunity to write a book together about the many facets of the sneaker industry. On the side of building their law careers, they worked together for four years on what would become Sneaker Law.

But the opportunity doesn’t stop there. Adopted as an official textbook for colleges for University of Miami Law School, Georgia State, Parsons, and Rutgers, Sneaker Law inspires sneaker law courses. Kenneth Anand and Jared Goldstein have also been invited to lecture at Harvard. They continue developing their retail strategy to get Sneaker Law into the hands of sneakerheads, creatives, entrepreneurs, and law professionals. With FIT and Complex, Yellowbrick has added a new module into our Sneaker Essentials course, Sneaker Law. This module covers sneaker business, company structures, intellectual property, and understanding sneaker deals. Check out our Sneaker Essentials course to get a comprehensive overview of the sneaker industry and sneaker business.

Interested in careers like corporate sneaker lawyer and how to get started? Explore our Ultimate Sneaker Career Guide.

Success in Streetwear According to Jeff Staple

Success is a term and topic that weighs on Gen Z. Their inherent desire for success is accompanied by a weight of expectations. Despite generally having a success-oriented mindset, Gen Zers experience extreme pressure to be successful and a need to be perfect. Streetwear has a primary youth audience, mostly under 25 years old. And a point of wonder when it comes to starting a streetwear brand is how to measure its success. Does this look like going viral? Selling out a product in minutes? Is it getting someone influential to recognize or wear your brand? 

What makes a designer or brand have success in streetwear?

The streetwear market is volatile and saturated like a modern-day version of garage bands. Many falter, and few survive to make it in the mainstream. Some brands become a viral success with a signature design (CC: Anti Social Social Club). However, some have taken years to carve out their brand story and lane. Take, for example, Staple Pigeon, a lifestyle brand started by Jeff Staple. He’s also built his career by making history with the Staple Pigeon Dunk, hosting Hypebeast Radio’s podcast Business of HYPE, among hundreds of collaborations — making him a household name within streetwear. 

Jeff Staple, Streetwear Essentials contributor
What makes a streetwear brand successful? Jeff Staple shares his advice.

Now a contributor at Parsons x Complex’s Streetwear Essentials course, Jeff imparts his teachings and wisdom to the next generation of streetwear designers. What makes a designer or brand have success in streetwear? And how do you balance creativity with business? During a virtual fireside chat featuring Jeff Staple and Aria Hughes, Jeff was asked about achieving success from a current Sneaker Essentials student:

Regarding success in streetwear:

For up-and-coming brands, every designer wants to take their brand to the next level. But often, you feel as if you’re hitting the ceiling. So what’s a good tip to break through and hit the level of success you want to achieve?

Immediately Jeff Staple looked exasperated and replied, “that question — there’s so much pressure involved. I felt anxiety just hearing that question because there are two ways of thinking about it if you’re a creative artist.”

Just as success varies from person to person, this goal is influenced by the type of creative you are. Jeff says, “There are two types of creatives: one who wants to create and tell their story, and one who is more data-driven and considers trends, numbers, etc., when making.” For new designers, Jeff challenges how you determine success with “what the question sounds like.”

If a designer focuses on numbers, quotas, followers — metrics, in general, they operate on the challenge of growth. “It could be money, followers, views, likes — it could be any metric. But, if we did $1,000 this month, how do we do $2,000 next month?” Jeff breaks down. So, again, it’s about asking how a business can double its effort for the future.  

There are two types of creatives: one who wants to create and tell their story, and one who is more data-driven and considers trends, numbers, etc., when making. – Jeff Staple

Jeff isn’t that type of designer. He’s the designer that focuses on the product and story. With no account for performance, they operate on execution and the final product. This question could look like, “what’s the story I’m telling in my collection, or how many designs or products are in the next drop?” He advises that “in the beginning, the number one priority should be that your voice and message are pure.” 

Protecting the pure, unfiltered creativity will not only free someone from the pressure to perform but helps discover who you are as a designer, what your brand is about, and who it’s for. The more you can identify these three things, the more you can understand how to make the data or numbers work for you. “In the beginning, the priority for new or up-and-coming designers is to protect the creative process,” Jeff concludes. Then, once you begin to tell your story and understand the community you’re building, you can tap into the business side. 

Complex alongside Sneaker Essentials hosted an exclusive virtual fireside chat featuring Jeff Staple. Hosted by Aria Hughes, the hour and a half conversation dived deep into the streetwear industry from topics such as design, marketing and branding, retail and distribution, and entrepreneurship. Access Jeff Staple’s top tips for new streetwear designers here. 

Made in America: Sneakers Manufactured Locally

Sneakers are a big business. The footwear industry is the second most important fashion segment within retail behind apparel, and sneakers accounted for 16% of footwear revenue in 2019. In 2020, the total global footwear market was valued at $70 billion, projected to increase to $102 billion by 2025. Led by Nike, companies based in the U.S. dominate the market. With American brands being such a pivotal player in footwear sales, it’s surprising that very few brands manufacture their products locally. 

Most of the household names in athletic sneakers outsource production to other countries to lower overhead costs. In 2019, China was the world’s leading footwear producer, with 13.5 billion pairs of shoes produced. India, Vietnam, and Indonesia joined China that year to account for more than 75% of footwear production worldwide. 

The rise of exported manufacturing has led to controversy. Brands can cut production costs by taking advantage of unregulated labor markets in other countries. This has led to allegations of unsafe working conditions and severely underpaid workers. Over the past few years, there’s been an effort to rebuild domestic manufacturing by brands old and new. Here are the best brands producing athletic sneakers made in America. 

THE INDEPENDENT BRANDS

Carson Footwear

Carson Footwear specializes in minimalist running shoes. Marketing executive Everett Carson launched the brand in Milwaukie, Oregon after years of frustration with wearing uncomfortable imported shoes. Since its launch in 2013, Carson Footwear has expanded into producing shoes for cross-fit and gym shoes. Although some of their models contain leather products, consumers can request vegan construction during the ordering process. 

Opie Way

James Court Lo, $428.00 (Picture courtesy of Opieway.com)

Opie Way releases canvas and leather casual sneakers for men and women. They embrace a slow fashion ethos, touting high-end luxury with a handcrafted approach. Founded by Justin and Amanda James in 2019, all shoes are constructed using materials sourced within the U.S. and produced in their North Carolina-based micro-factory. While Opie Way isn’t vegan, the brand has incorporated some sustainable practices, using vegetable-tanned leather instead of the chrome-tanning method standardly used on leather. 

San Antonio Shoemakers

Journey Mesh LT Lace Up Sneaker, $199.00 (Picture Courtesy of San Antonio Shoemakers)

Terry Armstrong and Lew Hayden founded San Antonio Shoemakers in 1976. It’s one of the oldest brands producing and selling sneakers made in America. The brand produces a range of footwear — from athletic shoes to dress shoes to walking shoes — in their factory based in Del Rio, Texas. Pairs are personally handcrafted in-house and distributed in twelve countries. 

BIG BRANDS

Adidas

Speedfactory AM4, price varies (Picture courtesy of StockX)

Adidas is the second most popular sneaker company in the U.S. after Nike. The brand had worldwide footwear sales of $13.7 billion in 2020. With that type of production, Adidas attempted to establish a manufacturing factory in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2017. 

The plan was ambitious: set up speed factories in two of their biggest markets — U.S. and Europe — that relied on robot automation to quickly produce small batches of customized shoes. This would allow distribution to those critical markets at an expedited pace. 

By 2019, Adidas had announced both factories would close within a year, and the technology was relocated to factories in China and Vietnam. The Speedfactory AM4 was one of Adidas’ more successful releases during the time. Although Adidas is no longer producing the shoe, it is still available on secondary resale sites like Goat and StockX.

New Balance

Made U.S. 990v2, $174.99 (Picture Courtesy of New Balance)

As of 2021, New Balance is the only major sneaker brand maintaining a production presence in the U.S. The bulk of the New England company’s manufacturing happens overseas. Select sneakers in America across five factories as part of its Made Collection, which also has a factory presence in the U.K. 

Still, there have been some questions about how much of its production is happening in the U.S. The company designates a pair of New Balance shoes as “made in the U.S.A.” if it has a domestic value of 70% or more. In other words, New Balance can claim a shoe is “made in the U.S.A.” even if it is partially assembled overseas or made with imported materials. In 2018, New Balance expanded its Made Collection to include select styles from its subsidiary, P.F. Flyers. 

If you’d like to learn more about the sneaker manufacturing process and want to explore career paths in the industry, check out Yellowbrick’s Ultimate Sneaker Career Guide.

To learn how to produce sustainable athletic footwear and the future of footwear production, also check out the new Yellowbrick Footwear Business Foundations class.