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Tons of emerging sneaker brands are today trying to grab a slice of a market analysts expect to be worth $95 billion by 2025. Some upstarts focus on sustainable production to appeal to today's increasingly socially conscious consumer. Montreal's all in, however, was already established as an eyewear and apparel brand before pivoting to footwear.

Currently sold at SSENSE, with more stockists in the pipeline, all in launched its first footwear collection in September 2018 and almost straight away caught our eye with sneakers that feature vivid color-blocking and geometric designs.

Transitioning from one industry to another isn't easy, but for all in creative director Pierre-Olivier Girardot, who founded the brand in 2014, the process has gone smoothly. “We were already acting like a clothing brand, putting sunglasses on rappers, doing pop-ups," he says. "So the transition from eyewear to clothing and then sneakers came naturally.”

Eyewear was a way into the industry, although sneakers and clothing offered more creative potential. But for Girardot, moving into sneaker design was like starting from scratch. “I didn't know anything about how to design shoes, how to design the sole, anything about making shoes,” he says. “My partner and I flew to China in November 2017 and visited over 50 suppliers.”

Just three months later, Girardot presented samples to buyers in Paris. This was also the first time retailers found out all in would be pivoting toward footwear. “It was kind of a surprise for all the buyers but they were all in,” Girardot says. The brand has found its groove since then, with nine colorways and three silhouettes available at SSENSE and more to come. “Right now, we have only one sole, but you will see more this summer.”

Girardot believes logistics and the high cost of entry are the biggest challenges when setting up a sneaker brand. “It’s expensive to develop [the mold] and the minimum [production] quantities factories require are super-high," he says. "Once you have the 5,000 sneakers produced, you have to put them somewhere. You have to ship them somewhere.”

Taking the risk of launching a footwear line reflects the company and Girardot's attitude, as reflected in the name. “all in is about putting yourself out there," Girardot says. "You go all-in on something and just keep going.”

That approach is mixed with Girardot's understanding of how to position the label. Up against brands with gargantuan budgets, it has made all the difference that Girardot could spot the niche all in would fit into, which retailers should carry the brand, and by extension the consumer he wanted to target. And who is that, exactly? Girardot says those looking for something different should be picking up a pair of all ins.

He describes all in kicks as “something that you find in a boutique store where you could easily spend $400 on a sneaker." But according to Girardot, all in customers are getting similar quality for a fraction of the price. "I think our shoes, quality-wise, are pretty affordable.”

A pair of all ins currently cost $125, placing it among more affordable options and competing with brands such as Nike or adidas on price while offering the aesthetics of a high-end, fashion-first sneaker. “Gucci, Prada, Salomon, Raf Simons — we’re going to be right in between those brands,” Girardot says.

While Girardot and his team have their finger on the pulse, the creative director doesn't feel his brand is latching onto trends or following others. “We’re doing our own thing, producing products we think are sick,” Girardot says. “Obviously we don’t want to make [over-the-top] shoes that don’t end up selling out. We still want to be kind of low key and focus on quality and comfort. We’re not afraid to sell our shoes at higher price points than adidas, Nike, or PUMA. We’re our own brand and we’ll do it in our own way.”

These days, the true marker of a brand having really “made it” is that famous yet elusive cosign: the collaboration. Whether with a brand from a different industry or with a more established sneaker brand, a collaborative release puts a different set of eyes on your product. And Girardot has one dream partner above all others: Arc'teryx.

“We don't know them at all," he says. "Maybe they don't know us at all. We have different visions, but I feel like it's a sick, really sick brand.”

Who knows, with new sneaker designs and a wider network of stockists ahead, maybe all in can get together with its fellow Canadian label down the road. But wherever it leads in the end, that road is starting to look promising for Pierre-Olivier Girardot and all in.

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