These days, we seldom see Kanye West wearing anything except three-striped footwear, with the exception of an odd pair of Vans. But over the weekend, West was spotted in Brentwood, California wearing a pair of sneakers from Finnish brand Karhu.
While some Highsnobiety readers may be unfamiliar with the label, it’s actually over a century old, founded in 1916 much before its biggest competitors, Nike and adidas. But if you’re an avid reader, then you’ve spotted our past coverage of the brand, namely its recent collaborations with London-based retailer Footpatrol and Patta, and mainline releases like the “Birch & Juniper” pack.
Many were surprised to see West supporting Karhu, including us, so we reached out to the brand to hear their impressions of the incident. Check out our conversation with Karhu’s Global Lifestyle Manager Remko Nouws.
To start, what was your first reaction to seeing Kanye in Karhu?
I was having dinner with the team in Paris, since we were showing the new collection during fashion week. While having dinner, I received a DM via Instagram from someone asking me if I saw that Kanye was spotted wearing Karhu. After checking the photo, I was astonished, and couldn’t wait to share this news with the team back home. We were all very happily surprised!
Was the shoe sent to him, or did he choose it himself?
Karhu didn’t seed him product, which is what I know. How he got them is also a question for us. What I do know is that Kanye is well informed, so he might have done some research on Karhu. It could also be that he received them from Boston’s Concepts, since we have been working closely with them in the U.S., and they have been seeding some pairs to influential people for us.
Is this an important moment for the brand?
It is for sure an important moment for Karhu. We have been around for 100 years, so I wouldn’t say that our existence is depending on it, but getting a stamp of approval from Kanye West is huge! It is a big compliment for the brand.
Did you notice any sort of spike in sales, web traffic or social media engagement?
Even though the majority of people found out yesterday and today, we have been seeing a spike in sales, especially in the U.S. The web traffic is linked to the online sales. We also saw a growth on our social media channels, especially on Instagram, it just keeps on growing.
Tell us a bit about the Fusion 2.0, did you receive many web orders for this particular style afterwards?
This shoe is a salute to Karhu’s “Fusion” model from 1996, when it was the top running shoe in our collection. We asked the original footwear designer to update the Fusion and make a version 2.0. We wanted it to be a bit more relevant for today’s consumer, since the shoe originally had some very different features.
The shoes have definitely been selling online, not only on the “Mount Pallas” (Caramel Café / Aegean Blue) colorway, but also other colorways and even other models are getting an online push.
What can we expect from Karhu in 2017?
Since we are a sports performance brand, which also has a lifestyle category, you can expect Karhu to launch new silhouettes on both sides. We are a brand that focuses on inline products, however we will launch some special projects as well. Not only on the footwear and apparel side, but also alternative projects that show our Finnish DNA. I can’t say a lot about it at this stage, but exciting stuff is coming and we’re excited to share it with everyone.
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