London-based sneaker store Footpatrol
has been a fixture in the city’s sneaker scene since 2002, with a relocation to its current site in 2010. With a focus on new and classic sneakers, limited editions, Japanese exclusives and rare deadstock, Footpatrol’s array of styles has everyone covered, from hardcore sneakerheads, to first time buyers. The store’s unique design features a store within a store that is inspired by the tiny, hidden boutiques in Japan, and is located in London’s quirky Soho district. We caught up with Brand Manager John Brotherhood for a discussion on London’s sneaker culture, the state of the footwear industry, the store’s collaborative projects and more.
What sets London apart from the rest of the world when it comes to sneaker culture?
London has always been world renowned for it’s varied fashion and music scenes. I’d say the sneaker culture is similar, from the guys into the basketball styles, to the guys chasing the exclusive releases, the football casual guys, right through to those into the fashion end of the market. We’ve also seen these styles merging with kids queuing to buy retro runners wearing high-end sneakers. It’s this vast variety of people wearing a vast array of styles that sets London apart. There’s also a different kind of hunger for product over here, it’s on another level at the minute – with guys and girls, young and old, camping out for days to get their hands on the exclusive drops. It’s great to see that everyone has their own take on it, with their own taste and style! We’re happy to welcome everyone through our doors whether they’re a sneakerhead or not.
Has your audience changed in the past few years? Supreme’s opening, size?’s expansion and the growth of streetwear have made sneakers more popular than ever.
We definitely have a core group of customers who shop with us regularly – but it has certainly changed in the last few years as everything does, and people old and new, come in and out of the scene for various reasons. Personally I think it’s great to see the old heads not losing faith, while the youth and new people are getting into it. It’s proof of how big it’s become, and it just keeps growing. Supreme has certainly helped refuel that hunger for collecting again.
Do you think the market could reach saturation point? There are so many limited runs, themed packs and collaborations coming out that it could start to feel stale.
It can certainly feel that way sometimes, with the plethora of collaborations, exclusive packs and reissues on a constant flow, and regularly releasing on the same day, some weekends we can have five to ten different releases in one day, with guys queuing for some or all of them. It’s the nature of the beast, with the growth of the whole scene the brands continue to push more and more products, I think it’s a good thing though, as it makes the brands work harder on the next big thing, and it also pushes the like of us and other collaborators to bring it to the next level!
Do you find retro releases or avant-garde innovation more exciting, and which are more popular with your customers?
The retro re-issues definitely account for the bulk of our business, but the new innovation works. Take the Nike Free Orbit for example, that took me by surprise, an avant-garde style that flew off the shelves! It is really important that brands invest in these innovations, to set the pace of things to come, as without these new styles coming through there are never going to be any future classics, just an endless recycling of what ‘was’ cool. I mean just look at the Nike Inneva Woven – there’s a future classic right there!
How do you approach your collaborations and what do you bring to the table on such a project?
Each project is different; each brand will offer certain restrictions and freedoms on any given project. Also each working relationship is different and that can have a huge effect on how something turns out. We love what we do and working on collaborative projects can be one of the most enjoyable parts of the job, especially when you love and work with footwear.
I’d like to think we always try and bring something fresh to the table with a focus on attention to detail, you may notice common themes within some of our projects but we try to make sure we do something different every time but something that all of our customers want a piece of that remains relevant.
What has been your favourite collaboration to date?
Now that’s a question! I like some more than others for various reasons, if I name one I’ll be upsetting too many other brands! I think this question is better suited to ask our customers. Let them decide.
What do you make of the current craze of luxury sneakers? Many fashion houses are appropriating classic street footwear for a high fashion customer.
This is another facet of the scene that is not going anywhere soon and shows the growth and depth of the culture as a whole. You see the major brands reaching out to the designers with a name and also really big fashion houses creating their own ‘take’ on sneakers – some with more plagiarism than others! I think it all has a place and a customer.
You have a small retail space – what makes a product appropriate for the store and how do you choose which product to stock?
It is a modest space, but you’d be surprised at what we can fit in! We try and represent the best and most relevant product from the brands that we stock in-store, but we’re also not afraid to support the new brands, those that not everyone has heard of, and those that we feel are right for us and our customers. It’s a delicate balancing act!
Finally, top 5 sneakers of all time?
In no particular order:
Nike – Air Max 87 Urawa Red
Asics x Footpatrol – Gel Saga
Nike – Pocketknife
Clarks x Footpatrol – Tawyer
Converse – 70’s Chuck