A collaboration between 8 shoe brands—both iconic and rising— and the Barneys New York team, spearheaded by our senior buyer of men’s footwear and resident sneaker expert Chris Pepe, BNY Sole Series will roll out over the course of six months.
First up: Limited edition Stan Smith sneakers for men and women, which feature a clean, all-black leather upper and laces, a white midsole, and a Barneys New York logo stamped on the tongue in gold. To share the inside track on the series, Pepe sat down with Hypebeast editor (and fellow sneaker enthusiast) Josh Davis to talk shop and reveal what to expect from the project.
Josh Davis: What exactly is the BNY Sole Series?
Chris Pepe: It’s a series of collaborations that we worked on with some of our favorite contemporary footwear brands. We’ve always had a spirit of collaboration with our designers and have been executing exclusives in various capacities for a while. We thought it would be fun and interesting to create an actual ongoing series of monthly drops to really highlight each style instead of releasing them all at once.
What’s special about this series?
We focused closely on the design elements—not just adding a new color way to a design that existed. The Stan Smith that we have is asymmetrical, which is really unique. The traditional Stan Smith has perforations on both sides to represent the adidas stripes, but ours only has the perforation on the medial side.
Are you able to shed some light on the brands involved so far? Which ones are you most excited about?
The series will include adidas, Vans, Filling Pieces, Diadora, Timberland, Converse, Brooks, and Common Projects. I’m looking forward to all of them—it’d be like choosing a favorite child! But, I will say, I’m excited to see the reaction to the Vans. It’s based on a material I found when cleaning out the sample closet next to my office, which is where we keep sample shoes and any designs we’re developing in Italy. It took a couple rounds to get it right—the whole sneaker is made out of the same material, but both sides are utilized to make something unique. Meanwhile, with the runners, we tried to use little details like plastic or 3M technologies, which are traditionally smaller elements found on running shoes, and bring them to the forefront.
Brooks is surprising—that’s awesome. What drew you to them?
We wanted to include a true heritage running brand. We were debating between a few, and felt like Brooks really fit. It’s one of the top running brands for avid runners, and we wanted to apply that technology to a fashion sensibility. Part of the allure with Brooks was that it hadn’t been out there in the fashion world.
What’s happening right now in the world of footwear that you’re tapping into?
I feel like we are in a sort of footwear renaissance. There’s a bunch of really great, small brands coming up. For example, Filling Pieces is an awesome Amsterdam-based sneaker company that is making shoes for the 2015 guy who might not skate, but still wants that sleek, more well-rounded look. They’re actually part of BNY Sole Series too.
What sneakers are in your own daily rotation?
I’m actually fairly basic and classic when it comes to sneakers. Currently in my rotation, you’ll find Gianvito Rossi Black Low-Tops. He just started making men’s sneakers this past spring and they are so clean and simple. Also, Barneys New York x Adidas White Stan Smiths, grey and black Common Projects Achilles Low-Tops, and Jordan 1 NYC.
What are some of your favorite color ways and collaborations over the past few years?
In terms of other collaborations, I loved the Wings + Horns New Balance from last year—super clean, all black and Gor-Tex. Years ago, Alife did a collaboration with Saucony, and I still wear mine from time to time! We also did a collaboration with Converse on a couple color ways of an unstructured rip stop Chuck T Lows, and they’re still one of my favorites.
Do you consider yourself a sneakerhead? Do you identify with that culture?
I’ve been big into sneakers since I was a child. I remember begging my mom to buy me the latest Jordans, and I was the first kid to have the Reebok Pumps when they came out in third grade. I even gave the class a demo on how they worked! I’ve definitely been part of that community for a long time. I’ve probably been checking your site on a daily basis for the past 10 years, and in many cases I’ve found a lot of styles that we’ve carried in the store from being up on Hypebeast!
How does the BNY Sole Series assert Barneys within the sneaker community presently, and what is the hope for the future?
Aside from this being a great series of releases, we also want our customers to be aware that we have these types of special projects and capsules. There’s been such a strong focus on exclusivity, limited edition, and collaboration over the past few years, but we’ve actually been doing it for so long that its genuinely part of our DNA. We want people to know we are more than just beautiful, artisanal leather footwear and designer shoes and sneakers. We also offer unique items that will attract the sneaker collector. I’m currently in Paris seeing all the runway shoes and runway brands, so it’s cool to have that kind of influence, but also be able to apply it to the shoe brands like adidas and Vans that are part of this series.