A musician who goes platinum with their debut album. An actor who nabs an Oscar for their first role in a feature film. An athlete who wins Rookie of the Year. No matter the profession, instant success is often both a gift and curse. In our fast moving, "What have you done for me lately?" society, not much time is given to newcomers to celebrate victory before people begin to question what's next. The same can be said for being a fresh face in the sneaker industry, much like Sean Wotherspoon was in 2017.
Those heavily involved in sneakers and streetwear had already known of Wotherspoon as the founder of Round Two and from his legendary thrift digs, but he exploded on a global level when he was crowned winner of Nike's Vote Forward Air Max Day contest with his layered 1/97 hybrid. The runner, a blend of Air Maxes 1 and 97 as the name suggests, stood out due to Wotherspoon's use of wear-away corduroy and soft pastel colors. It was a rare instance of taking something that exists and making it feel like something entirely new. The Air Max 1/97 SW eventually released widely last year and quickly sold out everywhere. Resale prices jumped to about 10x the retail tag and the shoe was a mainstay near the top of various Sneaker of the Year lists, including the No. 2 spot on our list.
Since the 1/97, Wotherspoon has worked on some friends and family sneakers and secret projects, but sneakerheads are eagerly awaiting his next big release and expect something on the level of his first. Joining the Sneaker of the Year panel at ComplexCon along with Lil Yachty, DJ Clark Kent, Aleali May and host Joe La Puma, Wotherspoon spoke about the challenges of releasing his follow-up design.
"It's your dream, but it's also your job, so it's stressful," said Wotherspoon about trying to follow the Air Max 1/97.
That doesn't mean Wotherspoon is running from the challenge. Last week, he took to Instagram to tease a shot of what appears to be a corduroy-constructed ASICS Gel-Lyte III co-collaboration with Atmos. Wotherspoon confirmed that he's working on a project with Atmos and ASICS at ComplexCon and revealed why he decided to leak an image himself.
"I get anxious and I want opinions. I wasn't sure if people were still on the corduroy thing, but I am."
Wotherspoon continued to explain what runs through his mind when he's working on a sneaker, pointing out the personal nature of the projects.
"It's like your life is on the shoe, so you have to get every detail right. You can't fuck it up at all."
Fellow panel member DJ Clark Kent, who's worked on a long list of sneakers for various brands, chimed in on what's important to him when he drops a shoe, emphasizing that it's all about seeing your designs on the feet of the people.
"That's a Grammy for me. I make the shoes to be worn," he said about seeing his collaborations worn by people like LeBron James and Aleali May. "I don't want big resale numbers. I want big wear numbers."
"I can't relate," joked Lil Yachty.
As of now, a release date for Wotherspoon's shoe with Atmos and ASICS hasn't been announced.