Sneaker culture is more popular and widespread than it has ever been. Accessibility to your favorite shops and brands is up, but so are hype-filled options to rock and/or stock. One of the key drivers for both of these ascensions is the continued growth of collaborations. Obviously, sneaker brands have been collaborating with lifestyle brands and retailers since the dawn of time, it seems, but the cookie-cutter formula for these projects is out the door. New innovations, new players and, most importantly, new stories have taken over the predictable formula.
Concepts is no stranger to collaboration. That’s where Creative Director Deon Point has played a key role in the 20-plus-year old lifestyle shop’s growth. He recognizes the importance of collaboration in the sneaker industry, as it conjures up uniqueness and exclusivity—but if the collaboration doesn’t make sense, it’s going to fall flat. Which is why the shop’s projects with ASICS have been so successful, as they’ve each had a story to tell about what Concepts means. Means to Boston or Miami. Means to Deon. Or simply, what it means to the sneaker lover.
We sat down and talked to Deon about the relationship between Concepts and ASICS, the current state of sneaker culture, and how his appreciation for detail directly ties to ASICS’ Japanese roots.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you and ASICS first connect and decide you wanted to work together on a collaboration?
We had been discussing a project for quite some time. I think when I had wanted to do something specific to Boston was when the light bulb went off, and the “Three Lies” project came to light. We pretty much nailed the first sample and made a few minute changes—butchered the second sample, though. Overall, we were very pleased with the final product.
Collaborations have been the "du jour" of the sneaker community for quite some time, which means they sell out quickly. What does it mean to you to see your ASICS collaborations fly off the shelf and result in resale that's double—sometimes triple—the retail price?
I’m not as much of a fan of resale, as I am of the kid who genuinely wants to wear the shoes. Granted, it’s great to see your stock rise, but it’s also a slight that kids don't necessarily want to wear them regardless of worth. Gift and a curse, one could argue. We toy with quantities for that very reason. We received quite a bit of backlash that there weren't enough pairs in the marketplace for the core consumer, yet when you increase supply, the demand falters to the kid that only wanted them for resale. I wouldn't say we cater to one side or the other these days, although I’d be lying if I said we haven't altered our approach at times.
How have the various Japanese style and fashion subcultures influenced some of the work you do on a daily basis? And how do you feel Concepts is bringing their influence unto ASICS?
I have a deep appreciation for commitment to detail. Japan is widely considered the authority in that regard. When we first discussed custom packaging in 2008, it was with the mindset of creating an experience. We also have that same commitment to the details while pushing ourselves to be better with every release. Concepts is still an underdog, so our mentality is always starting from scratch. We have never taken anything for granted, nor do I think we have deserved the right to be complacent. Our partnership with ASICS has always disrupted the marketplace. We will continue to take risks while leaving nothing to chance. I think that has been the formula for what separates us from other partners.
It’s interesting you mention Concepts still being an “underdog.” Do you think you and ASICS share this mentality? For them, I would suspect they feel this way from a sneaker collaborator standpoint, yet both you and ASICS have done some of the best collabs over the last few years, respectively.
I appreciate the kind words. While I can't speak on their behalf, I think for us it's a mentality we adopted long ago. We have the utmost confidence in our abilities to collaborate, however, we approach each project differently, justifiably so. There is no formula, just progression.
We've seen quite a flux in sneaker brands working outside of the category, working with non-sneaker-centric brands, influencers, etc. Do you feel like this helps or diminishes sneaker culture? And do you feel like ASICS has taken the right approach to really stay within those lanes?
Given the current climate, things needed to shift. We scaled back drastically on collabs and have shifted focus in other areas. Concepts carried Gucci, Balenciaga, Lanvin, and a slew of others before even major department stores recognized it meshed with athletic brands. We've always envisioned this to come to fruition, so seeing brands work alongside designers has been a long time coming. I think ASICS has opportunities to create within this space. They have time to calculate their approach should they opt to go that route. Brands often continue these partnerships for far too long so the dilemma lies in topping previous efforts or pulling back while it's still in demand.
What's your favorite ASICS collab to-date and why?
I love the sole execution on the Slam Jam Gel-Lyte III. Patta hit a homerun out the gate, as well. In terms of Concepts, I love the “Tea Party.”
What's in store for the future with collabs? Anything we can expect anytime soon or maybe a little sneak peek into something you're working on—or hoping to work on—soon?
We have some exciting things for Q4. Unfortunately, not much I can share but I can assure you it will be worth the wait. Amidst that, our Concepts brand will be the focus, above all, going forward.