IDYSM: Hey Joe, how’s it going?. Tell us a bit about yourself, and how and where did your relationship with sneakers start?
Joe: Going great thanks. I’m a self-confessed sports nut and I was and still am an avid follower of the NBA. From the Early 80’s I’ve always been fascinated in the footwear these guys would wear. From the converse weapons in Lakers and Celtics colours to the air Jordan’s IV’s in Black. It was always of huge interest for me to follow. As time evolved the sneaker game rapidly gained momentum with other brands and further icons introduced with the NBA playing a major role in launching these products. In a way this era was the commencement of what we have today within the sneaker market.
IDYSM: Please give us an overview of your career
Joe: My first job was at my local sports store. I was 14 years old but told the owner wasn’t a basketball fan and didn’t know about a shoe called Air Jordan. So when I encouraged him to purchase 6 pairs and they sold out over a weekend he was very happy.
I worked at the local until I was 17 then went across to a bigger and more established sports chain in Melbourne. They asked me to work full time managing a store and then brought me into their head office in a buying capacity.
Adidas eventually asked if I would be interested in joining them in a merchandising capacity primarily responsible for the originals/heritage component of the business. The role enabled me to select assortments for our market here in Australia extensively travelling all over the world with first-hand experience in regards to trending and stores.
After 6 years at adidas and finishing up as the Head of the Sports Performance division for the brand, I decided to pursue my own label. I created a brand entitled 1827 which signifies the year the first ever photograph was taken in the world. My brand creation surrounded photograph’s on footwear. This was a rewarding, challenging and incredibly exciting time which spanned just over 4 years. Apart from the obvious it educated me on footwear production with various trips to factories in China monitoring this process.
IDYSM: Sounds pretty amazing – any stand out moments?
Joe: Career highlights worth mentioning include designing football boots in conjunction with adidas international for the 2006 world cup. Working with some of the best athletes in Australia including Harry Kewell and Ricky Ponting. Meeting icons of sport like Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and for the sneaker heads Stan Smith (who signed my Stan Smiths after I put my foot on his leg to sign them). And getting my own brand 1827 onto the feet of musicians Justin Timberlake and P!nk.
IDYSM: What’s your role in the sneaker game today; both professionally, and personally.
Joe: I joined the cat some 2.5 years ago now in a lifestyle capacity more focussed on sales, servicing the trend and fashion areas of the PUMA business, which gives me a great insight on the industry not only via the brand but also key retail partners.
Personally I still take a close interest in all happenings particularly via social media. If a very special collaboration or re-release is issued, I will add it to my collection but I’m quite particular
IDYSM: Puma’s role in the sneaker game historically has obviously been iconic, how important does the brand continue to be?
Joe: Incredibly important. The performance products of PUMA’s history since its inception in 1948 have become today’s icons. As PUMA continue to develop new and innovative products, in time, these too will become some of the most desirable items of the future.
Furthermore, as a purist, brand heritage is an incredibly important element of a label. The credibility associated with a brand that has legitimate history will always carry special significance.
IDYSM: Do you find that the culture has changed within companies mores these days, where in addition to developing their own innovations, they’re also keeping a close eye on what everyone else is doing too?
Joe: Absolutely! Companies certainly do have their own individual foot prints and feels however; strategies tend to be reasonably similar with the majority across the industry. In the case of a brand owning a particular look or style relevant for today, this can be difficult to follow. But where consistent genres exist, there will often be a number of comparative options for consumers to choose from.
IDYSM: What does Puma offer that no other brand’s can?
Joe: Speed! PUMA is a fast brand via its association with the fastest man in the world Usain Bolt. This is a relationship that has existed for over a decade. In addition to this Puma dominate the field of motorsport with key partnerships with Mercedes Benz and Ferrari.
IDYSM: At a street level, 2 key areas for Puma seem to be Classics, and the Black Label collabs. Do you think this represents where the game is at overall right now; a combination of looking to the past and the future?
Joe: I think that is a relevant summation. Collaborations are great but brands must be cautious that these don’t override their own brand identity. I do believe there must be an element of both old and new in order for a brand to completely capture consumer’s attention.
IDYSM: Has your understanding, appreciation and love of sneakers changed from working in the industry? Do you still get a buzz from picking up new kicks?
Joe: I feel working within the industry has developed a greater appreciation and love of sneakers for myself. In particular being exposed to initial concept/drawings and watching these to production and right through to launch. This is a most exciting thing especially when you forecast a shoe will be most successful and to watch this unfold.
I think the buzz will always be there when something special and rare is released. I’ve been waiting for it to cease for a number of years now but don’t think it ever will.
IDYSM: Are you still collecting?, what’s in your stash?
Joe: I would say I still do loosely collect. Being in the game for some time now sees a number of my special pieces already owned despite a re-release. There are too many to note but the special products that stand out for myself are the adidas x bathing ape original collabs (limited to 100 pairs globally).
From an athlete perspective I have a pair of David Beckham’s customized predator boots (from the 2002 World Cup) which hold a special place. I traded a vintage Man U jacket to get them at an international meeting.
IDYSM: Globally, which territories excite you the most and why?
Joe: So many great places. France from a European perspective. New York from an American angle. But my favorite is Japan. What an incredible market! Innovative. Visionary. Leading. Japan is always an incredible experience particularly from a consumer perspective. Product and customer service in the Japanese market is second to none.
IDYSM: In terms of eras, where will the current age fit into sneaker history?
Joe: I guess time will tell but I feel it will play a significant role in sneaker history. There have been a couple of special new releases which caused a major stir amongst the sneaker community. And the collaborations continue to come from the majority of brands which always makes it interesting. The emergence of lesser known sneaker brands and the reinvention of some old timers also spiced things up. Noting all of this I truly think we’re spoilt for choice at the moment.
IDYSM: What trends do you foresee for 2014 and beyond?
Joe: Looking into my crystal ball I’m not allowed to say. But because you’ve been so kind to talk to me I will state that I’m feeling the need for white. Whether that’s due to seeing too much rainbow or if it’s because I want to start afresh who knows. Always happy with a crisp white pair of something.
IDYSM: I’m certain this will be something stylish and iconic so please dazzle us; what’s on your feet right now?
Joe: Currently wearing a pair of Puma XT2 fresh out of their original green box. 90’s running tech is most exciting right now.