Los Angeles' BAIT isn't your typical boutique. It doesn't go about things the easy way. Instead of stocking the most hyped sneakers, the shop tends to carry sneakers that contribute something new to sneaker culture, and its latest collaboration with Saucony, the "CruelWorld" Shadow Original, isn't the average sneaker.

For starters, it's a vegan-friendly shoe, which presents its own challenges as far as materials and production, but it's also a charitable sneaker. The collab drops on December 2, and a portion of the proceeds go to help at-risk youth in the Los Angeles area. If you're not on the West Coast, you can enter here to purchase a pair. To find out everything else about this release, we got in touch with BAIT, and asked them the vital questions. The shop's owner, Eric Cheng, gave us answers to everything you'd want to know about the release and shop.

Interview by Matt Welty (@matthewjwelty)

You've worked with Saucony before, what's your relationship like and how did this collaboration come about?

Last year, our friends at Saucony helped celebrate BAIT’s flagship store opening with two collaboration projects (‘Blue Apple’ Shadow 6000 and ‘Viridian Burner’ Grid 9000).  We felt it is time to work on another project.   

Why vegan-friendly?

We wanted to create a shoe that can carry and communicate a positive message, while  Saucony had a vegan-line that we felt the sneaker world wasn’t too familiar with. We thought the concept and Saucony’s vegan capabilities were a perfect match for this project. Vegan shoes mean that it is completely animal-free and biodegradable.  It also upholds a standard for ethical working environments. It was a break from the usual suede and leather make-up and we felt it carried a positive outlook that will work well with our concept.

How did you decide that you wanted to give back to charity and what was the process like putting that together?

Since the concept and design of the shoe is to communicate a positive message, we wanted to take it a step further and put it into action by donating a portion of the proceeds. We did some research about which charity to give to, but A Place Called Home made a profound impact on us when we paid them a visit. We loved the fact that they focus on the arts and all its different aspects.  They had one group of kids working on dance, while down the hall a band is in the making within their music studio. They have a computer lab for future graphic designers, while kids outside plant a garden to learn about health and wellbeing.  That is just a glimpse of what they do for the kids of South Central.  They fill a void in the streets and school system, and we wanted to support their cause and play a part in it.

Why the cork insoles?

Cork insoles work with a vegan design. It’s made from cork trees, which can be recycled and are biodegradable.  They are also odor resistant because they draw off moisture and prevent bacteria growth.  Cork insoles will also mold to your feet better because of its form-fitting properties. It had to be done.

It was a break from the usual suede and leather make-up and we felt it carried a positive outlook that will work well with our concept.

What was the biggest challenge about this collaboration and using real leather or glue?

There wasn’t much of a challenge because Saucony took care of all the manufacturing and productions. They have the vegan-approved process down. The only challenge was to break away from their silky smooth suede that we all love. We knew that vegan materials can’t compare.

How do you approach a collaboration, do you have an idea already in mind? Or do you find out who will work with you and figure out what works?

There isn’t a set way really.  One thing that we always do is research.  We exhaust ourselves with getting familiar with the model, the company, the past collaborations, the possibilities, the practicalities, and then something just comes out of that. But sometimes, an idea is already there and we already know what we want to do.  It is definitely an exciting challenge each time.

What is it about running sneakers that draws you to them?

We love the runner models, retro runners to be specific.  But that is not to say we work exclusively on running sneakers. We love classic sneakers as well, Nike dunks, Adidas Gazelles, Converse chucks and Vans New Eras to name a few.  We feel runner models have better paneling for us to work with and to create something unique through the collaboration process.  Runner models are also much more comfortable due to their advanced cushioning technologies.

Out of a lot of shops, your selection is very diverse. How'd you decide to not focus on just one element of sneaker culture?

We like to keep an open mind and explore and experiment with a lot of different interests. It is very important that we provide a carefully curated selection of sneakers, one that showcases the expected and the unexpected.

What's it like running a shop that has a main focus on sneakers, but also focuses on clothing, too?

It is a lot of work. Fortunately we have a great team that makes everything possible. 

Can we expect the shop to blossom into a complete clothing brand in the future?

Yes. We are actually in the works of our cut & sew program right now.  We are looking to focus more on our private label with the New Year coming.  But right now, we have been highly focused on our footwear collaborations.  You can expect more projects to come very soon.

If there were any sneaker you'd love to design, what would it be?

Jordan VI.