What do you want this to become? What do you—or what does Patrick—see this becoming? Where is it headed? Obviously you guys started primarily in the New York area, but people everywhere seem to be waiting for this re-launch.
Well, we started in New York because Patrick’s career started in New York, he had his greatest success in New York. He’s extremely popular in New York—and he lives in New York, just outside of Manhattan. It rolled out in New York, and it’ll roll out nationally in 33 doors—obviously we picked that number intentionally. And it’s gonna go international. And I think, what happens when people brand products there’s a tendency to try to blow it out, and frequently it dies out immediately. You have a little supernova and it lasts a short period of time. Our goal is to try to do the opposite. We want to start slowly, we want to limit the amount of production and distribution of the shoe in hopes that we can grow it over a period of time. The original Ewing Athletic was doing really really well, it stopped because there were internal problems with the distributors and there were some trans shipping problems, but it was doing phenomenally well. And so we’re not looking—we’re very confident that the people that we’re with understand and agree that this needs to be carefully managed. It’s like owning a lot of real estate. I own a beach home in Kiawah Island, South Carolina, it’s one of the most successful golf resorts in America and they release very few lots every year. They have tons of lots, they don’t release but 15 or 20 a year because it maintains the value. If they released 100, they’d flood the market and the value of the property would go down. We’re going to go slowly and build the demand, and I think that there’s a strong connection between not only people who remember Patrick while he was playing, but a strong connection between people who really love the color and style of the shoe, who are shoe collectors—we think there’s going to be a broad-based market. But it’s gotta be managed carefully.
I think you’re right—there’s been a lot of brands that have flared back up and gone away just as fast.
And yeah, I think the other thing that’s interesting, because Patrick’s son just signed to play in Germany, we hope that he’s going to be able to wear the shoe—we think there’s a very strong market in Europe for this as well. We think when Patrick Jr. wears and promotes the shoe in Europe it will energize the younger audience.
We know there’s a strong demand for the shoes, the test is can we grow it, can we grow it and maintain it?
But you asked the question whether it will appeal to people who didn’t see Patrick play—when I grew up, and I’m old, the shoe was Chuck Taylors. I never knew who Chuck Taylor was. I’ve been teasing Michael for years that there’s gonna come a time when kids buy Jordans 20-30 years from now who won’t even know he played. It’s just gonna be a great brand.
I assume he disagrees with that.
[Laughs] Yeah, he never wants to accept that. I just tease about that—I’m half serious. But I say “you’re gonna become Chuck Taylor. People are gonna say ‘great shoes—who was Michael Jordan?’” Hopefully that never happens, I’m just teasin’ him—but my point is that when you want to create a brand, the brand has to supercede the individual. That’s what it almost means to become a brand, that it assumes an identity separate. And if we’re successful re-launching the brand, Ewing brand, then it won’t be as important that people saw him play or knew how good a player as long as they like the shoes and the design and quality that the shoes stand for.
How many people know who the guys Mercedes and Benz were? How many people know Olds, the Oldsmobile? How many people know Pontiac was a guy? Nobody. Most people have no idea those people were individuals. When you say “I’m gonna buy a Benz,” do you get it because you like the guy, or because you liked the cars he designed, or because you liked the way he drove? Ferrari. How many people know who Enzo Ferrari is? How many people know there is an Enzo Ferrari? And I’m not saying that to be comical, I think it’s important. I think that Patrick is young enough—he’s still coaching, he’s still visible, he’s still young enough that people remember that he played—but as far as selling shoes I think what’s important is that people look at Ewing as a quality brand at a popular price at a time when shoes are becoming extremely expensive. They have a very clean design, and if people know Patrick Ewing was the progenitor of the shoe, great, and if they don’t, but they think that Ewing stands for quality products, that’s great as well.
Do you see this expanding beyond the initial retro product— do you see there being new Ewing designs at some point?
I mean, initially I think you can’t be offering all things to all people. We’ll initially start with re-launching some of the previous models and depending on how the demand goes it’s certainly possible we could design new shoes. But to do that you’d probably have to have younger players wearing them, because Patrick’s better days as a player are behind him.
It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.
He definitely is gonna be extremely involved in the brand—he’s been to nearly every meeting. Patrick is a very bright individual. And he’s keenly aware that his name is not only on the shoe, it’s on the door of the company. So he wants to have quality control and stay involved. We’re very excited about the idea. We probably could have done this three or four years ago, but we were just taking our time vetting the different groups that were proposing to re-launch the brand. And that’s just my nature—sometimes it’s better to wait to do a good deal than it is to rush and do a bad deal.
The test is not—we know there’s a strong demand for the shoes, the test is can we grow it, can we grow it and maintain it? That’s one of the amazing things about Jordan Brand, it’s going into his 28th year and it’s as strong, stronger than ever. We’re not here to compare Ewing with anyone, Ewing has its own niche, it always had its own niche, it’s not part of a $20 billion company. And we think that there’s a strong demand for Ewings, and we hope we can satisfy that initial demand and grow it. They’ve done a really good job, I’m very happy with the job they’ve done, and I think Patrick, because he’s an owner of the company—this is not an endorsement, he owns a significant portion of the company, so he’s going to be totally involved in trying to make sure it’s successful.