Interview by Alan Ng
Words by Ryan Goldade and Cornelius Suen
Photography by Alan Ng
Location: Halifax[Show Text Only Version][Hide Text Only Version]
In Halifax, justalilhype! met up with Alex and Patrick of Soled Out Sneakers. For a small city in the Maritimes, it’s an unusual sight to see a sneaker boutique. While sneaker boutiques are typical in the bigger cities, they are a rarity elsewhere. Soled Out, however, has managed to dig into a niche market within their city and they maintain a strong hold on the local culture. These sneaker heads have even been visited by some of urban music’s elite, like Lupe Fiasco, Kardinal Offishal, and Kanye West. Soled Out is known to feature products ranging from limited edition kicks all the way to locally designed graphic tees. The store’s name is a play on words about going corporate, but they make it very clear they aren’t willing to sell out and sacrifice their integrity.
Please introduce yourselves to our readers.
Alex: My name is Alex. I’m one of the owners of Soled Out. I grew up in Montreal and then I moved here about 15 years ago. I have been doing this for the past five years. Before that, I went to St. Mary’s University and then I got into business after that.
Patrick: My name is Patrick and I’m a Halifax local. I went to school here, have lived here my whole life, and now I run the business. It’s been a good five years.
What are the origins of Soled Out?
Alex: Patrick and I have been friends for a long time, and we have always had a love for sneakers and clothing. Patrick sort of put me on to some of this stuff. There was just a lack of options here as far as shopping goes, and online shopping was always terrible. This was especially true five years ago because it wasn’t like it is today at all. We decided we needed a place to get stuff for ourselves and provide that service for other people in a smaller city that couldn’t otherwise get that sort of product.
What is the origin behind the name?
Patrick: We were just bouncing ideas back and forth and coming up with ridiculous names.
Alex: Yeah, you should have heard some of the names we came up with. I won’t mention them, but some of the names were pretty out there. One day, late at night, we just sort of picked that name and it stuck. It’s been that way ever since. We’ve gotten a lot of compliments about it too.
You’re store is mainly a sneaker boutique, but there is also a wide array of items that you carry too. What can people expect to find at your store?
Alex: On the sneaker side of things we specialize in rare, limited edition collector items. Even for some of the more general release sneakers we’ll do colors that you generally can’t find in a big box store. We also do t-shirts, cut and sew, some hats, and etc. We have a lot of complementary items for the kicks. We never really focused on the clothing; it’s always been about the sneakers. Anything you find in here from Stussy, A-life, our own line, and some local designers is all just basically geared towards that sneaker purchase and perhaps the sale of an extra item.
Patrick: We’ve always done vintage, at least for the last few years, and now the snapback hats are huge. I’d say that’s probably the number one seller aside from the sneakers.
Alex: We do a lot of vintage originals. We work closely with a vintage collector and we take items from him and put them in the shop. Sometimes we’ll do vintage pop shops where we’ll have all vintage Starter jackets, Adidas sweaters, you name it. We go off with it sometimes and it works.
What are some of the brands you’ve been working with locally?
Alex: First and foremost I would say ours. We’ve always sort of put that sneaker flavor into what we’ve been doing for our own clothing line. Estate Family Guilds are really good friends of ours and they just started out about a year ago; their popularity is growing. They do really limited edition runs. We have a few other people who are up-and-coming and who we try to help along and give some advice or wisdom to. They’re just starting out though, you know? Everyone has to start somewhere.
Patrick: The designer for Estate Family Guilds was actually our designer for our last few years. A lot of the Soled Out designs for the last few years have been designed by the guys who designed Estate Family Guilds, so we fully back it.
Alex: One of the designers actually hand makes jewelry. He casts it all himself and it’s all one of a kind, so look out for the Estate Family Guilds jewelry line. It’s done by BJ Fougere.
Over the years you’ve had big artists visit the store, like Lupe Fiasco and Kardinal Offishal. What kind of message do these visits give you?
Patrick: And Kanye too.
Alex: Yeah, Kanye came by when he was here with the Rolling Stones for a concert. It’s always a good thing because artists who come here are kind of blown away. They don’t expect much from us, being on the east coast and being in the Maritimes. There’s not that much stuff around here similar to what we carry, and I think they’re just looking for something to do when they hit the city. It’s just a bonus for them to come to a city and find something that they’re comfortable seeing. A lot of them are coming from New York or LA so they’re used to seeing stuff like this. I wouldn’t say that they’re amazed with what we have, but they’re amazed that we have stuff like this here, stuff that is on par with some of the boutiques in the bigger cities. They always come through and show love, and whenever we can hook them up with something, we always try to get them into something from the shop.
What are some of the projects you have lined up for your fifth year anniversary?
Alex: For most of them you’ll have to wait and see because we want it to be a surprise, but we do have a few collaborations in the works with some local brands. One that’s been working with us and printing a lot of our stuff is called EC Lips. They’re an east coast mainstay. They’ve been around for ten years and they’re DJ’s and surfers and stuff. We’ll probably do a collaboration with Estate Family Guilds. We also have a mixtape dropping that we’re doing with Petey Punch and General Mills for our fifth anniversary. It will have a lot of local talent on it. It will be sneaker themed. We’ll also probably do an art show and party around the time that the students get back.
What got you interested in sneakers?
Patrick: I think in the beginning, it was my uncle. He worked at a big sports store and he was an athlete who always loved the Air Jordan shoes and the Reebok pumps. He would always buy me shoes for cheap from the store so I would always have shoes, but I didn’t even know what they were. Looking back at it, they’re ones I wish I still had.
Alex: I think the reason that I’m so into it now is because when I was younger, I wasn’t able to get those new shoes all the time. I always had to have a hole in the kick for my mom to buy me a new pair. I think I might be overcompensating a little bit now by having the pairs of shoes that I have now. I came on a little bit later than Patrick did, but I think I’m just trying to catch up.
Out of your whole collection, which pair do you cherish the most?
Patrick: I don’t think there’s any pair I cherish more than the others.
Alex: I could say my favourite is probably the Cement 3s. Three is my favourite retro. I’ve had other kinds, like I’ve had twelve colors of 5s at one point. I think the pair that probably means the most to me at the moment is the black, red, and green Gucci Spizikes. We went to New York a little while ago and found a hidden Foot Locker. We were waiting in line for those with a couple of buddies that we usually visit. There are a lot of guys in New York that got us deeper into the sneaker game and we connect with a lot of guys up there. So that whole experience of being downtown in Manhattan maybe made those kicks a little bit more special.
There have been a lot of retro releases lately and a lot of the big businesses are re-issuing older sneakers. What are your views on the current state of the industry?
Alex: A lot of the big buys that are happening at Champs and Foot Locker are really gassing up the designers that work for these brands and it’s really starting to water down the collections. They usually put out a new obscure color Jordan that was never made as the original. They’ll tease people with that and then they’ll hit them with the original. They’re really trying to dig into the pockets of people and I think they’re tricking a lot of people by putting bright colors on things and making them think that it’s limited or it’s rare and hard to find. I think sneaker designs are really getting watered down these days, especially the Jordan brand.
What are some of the brands that you see having potential in the next few years?
Patrick: I’d say that we have a really good, solid list of sneakers brands and we don’t really need to jump on any new ones. We’re confident in the ones we already have, like A-Life. We’ve had it for five years and it’s always a good seller. Vans is relatively new to us, but that’s something we’re going to build an understanding of, more and more. We like New Balance and Asics too. Also, there will be more clothing, like Undefeated.
Alex: I think the trick to it is finding those core brands that are timeless and stick with those. There a lot of flashes in the pan. We’ve been through a lot of different sneaker brands in the past five years. It’s one of those things where you can’t jump on the band wagon too quick. You have to go for quality and price point before anything. Don’t believe the HYPE basically.
Patrick: We’re lucky because we jumped on them first and we built really good relationships and have really high accounts with them now. So basically when other stores try to open up, they can’t really do what we do and that’s kind of why we’ve stuck around.
Alex: I think with the exception of A-Life, you have to pay attention to the brands that do what they do best. A lot of clothing brands get some sneaker sales and they think that they can start doing sneakers. Unfortunately, their focus is on the brand and the image more than the footwear, so those are the shoes that tend to fall apart. Those are the ones that you know for a fact aren’t going to be around in two or three months.
Where do you see Soled Out in five years from now?
Alex: For any business these days, you have to look at the online business as being part of your portfolio, but I still think that brick and mortar shops are where it is at. Franchising is a big big no-no as far as we’re concerned. There may be other locations but they will always be run by us. We can’t put our baby in other people’s hands. We don’t want to trust other people with what we’ve built for the past five years. If we do the online thing, we’ll be shipping them out by hand. The staff may grow, but we’ll always focus on maintaining that ‘local hidden shop’ feel of our business and keeping it a small little place in the neighbourhood that you have to look for, but where you can always go to pick up some gems. We don’t want to start watering it down. We want to stay true to what we started in the beginning.
What is HYPE?
Alex: HYPE is like a wave. It builds and builds and builds until a lot of people catch on, and then it dies.
Patrick: HYPE is just people getting excited.