Whenever Drake wears a pair of sneakers, the Internet takes notice. It’s not just because he has a deal with Jordan Brand and has been able to drum up hype around his OVO-branded shoes—he also digs into the archives to find older and limited-edition sneakers that make everyone pay attention. It’s easy for Drake to get sneakers, of course: He’s likely sent pairs by the boatload by Nike. But how does he find the 1/100 Air Jordans or vintage ones that released 15 years ago?
He gives one man a call: Andre Ljustina, better known to the Internet as Croatian Style, who’s amassed one of the largest collections of the world’s rarest shoes by traveling across the globe and has become Drake’s go-to source for rare footwear finds.
“He’s bought a ton of stuff from me, but he also buys gifts for other people,” Ljustina says. “A couple years ago he posted a picture of his closet with Oregon and Tokyo [Air Jordan] Vs, which he bought from me.”
Ljustina is owner and founder of Project Blitz, a footwear and streetwear treasure trove in Los Angeles. He has one of the most extensive Supreme collections, but he’s better known for his days of having 30 of the 202 pairs of the Nike SB “Paris” Dunk that resells for upwards $15,000. He recently made waves when he posted pictures of Drake perusing the brand’s 5,000-square-foot warehouse last week. Project Blitz, thanks to Ljustina, is regarded among connoisseurs as the shop with some of the hardest-to-find sneakers on the planet. From sample Nike Air Yeezys, to the sneakers that Michael Jordan wore in Space Jam to Ray Allen’s player-edition Air Jordan XIs—the store has it all. Having Drake shop there not only cemented Ljustina’s commitment to stockpiling the shoes that can’t be found at other consignment shops—it also confirmed that Drake’s dedicated to being taken seriously in the sneaker world.
Ljustina first met Drake in 2014, and he’s seen their friendship grow through their mutual love of sneakers. He was able to meet the Toronto rapper through a network of friends that were connected to Goodfoot, the now-defunct sneaker boutique in Drake’s hometown. “Some of my friends knew the OVO guys from back in the day who hung around Goodfoot—Toronto’s a small place! Back then I didn’t have a spot, I used to bring shoes to people,” Ljustina says. When he opened Project Blitz, “Oliver [El-Khatib] from OVO came to check it out. We chopped it up, then he told me next time he wanted to bring the boy.”
Drake ended up coming to Project Blitz soon after, and it was like a scene out of a movie or the front page of a tabloid. “Drake came with a big crew,” Ljustina says. “Rihanna came, and it was awesome. She was popping beers; we were drinking Stellas. It was like a party.”
Becoming the guy who puts Drake on to rare sneakers has its perks, too. “Since then we’ve been cool. I’ve been to a couple OVO Fests, and they hooked it up,” Ljustina says. “On a personal level, [Drake’s] really cool and humble.”
Project Blitz doesn’t have as big of a name as some of its competitors, but Ljustina’s goal isn’t fame or even profit. He views himself and his shop as a guardian of the culture that caters to collectors, not just as a business. And that’s why he’s able to attract clientele such as Drake. “It’s cool to see someone like Drake who actually knows his shit about sneakers and streetwear,” he says.
Drake’s appreciation for the stock that Ljustina and Project Blitz offers is what makes him go out of his way to shop there, even if it’s not the most convenient place for him to pick up his sneakers and streetwear. “We’re kind of out of the way for him. The store’s a 45 minute drive from Calabasas with no traffic. I think he’s been to the shop a few times. The OVO guys come through more often,” Ljustina says. “Another time he came in with a list of everything he wanted from the site. We sat down with a laptop and he showed me the Drake vs. Wayne shoes before they came out. He was excited about the project, and I was amazed being able to talk to him about it.”
Ljustina was able to show the public the Drake vs. Wayne Air Jordan IIIs from Drake’s personal collection in late 2015, when he hosted a Project Blitz “RETROspective” in Los Angeles, where he put on display some of the rarest pairs from the shop and his own stash. “I told one of the [OVO] guys, ‘I’m doing this event, and it would be cool if he had his collection in the middle.’ And they said, ‘Absolutely.’” The event also featured the Air Jordan IIIs that Drake wore in the “Anaconda” video when he received a lapdance from Nicki Minaj, as well as the unreleased black-and-gold “OVO” Air Jordan VIIIs. “The event was very rogue,” Ljustina adds. “I didn’t tell anyone what it was going to be. I wished we could have kept it open for a month to inspire sneakerheads the right way, where you can collect and be part of the history and not be a vulture."
Project Blitz recently made news when Drake made an impromptu visit to the shop’s warehouse, with images surfacing of him looking at a shoe wall while wearing a yellow Stone Island jacket. “He hadn’t been in for awhile, and I’ve been traveling, too. It was good to see him. I was talking to him in the Supreme room,” Ljustina recalls. “[I wish] we would have had a dope pic with all these boxes of old Supreme shit. I told him how dope it would have been to have a pic of that, because it would have been us digging in the crates. But it was just me in the store, real late.”
Drake has two new pairs of Air Jordans coming out in the near future, according to what he’s said on Instagram lately. But if we see him wearing anything other than recently released shoes, we know where he got them from.