PUMA brings to India the first ever edition of Sneaker Pimps in the country in Pune and Delhi.
For the first-time, Indian sneaker heads & street culture will witness an event of this magnitude. The Sneaker Pimps Tour was founded in 2002 in Sydney, Australia by Peter Fahey. The world’s most popular sneaker exhibition and street based art show, Sneaker Pimps has toured the world over 14 times, produced more than 500 shows in over 63 cities with more than 500,000 people attending its events, which has made it one of the most famous cultural events for urban youth worldwide.
You started 16 years ago, and here you are now. How has the journey been?
Super incredible. And it’s going through many different phases. Initially when we started, it was very small and all about displaying sneakers like a museum, similar to an art show of sneakers. And eventually the event evolved into this multi-faceted thing where my goal was to bring to life the energy that made people want to collect sneakers. So these events bring together the things that make up sneaker culture in my mind such as skateboarding, graffiti, street art, hip hop, and basketball. So we had all these amazing artists be a part of this event and also got to work with some incredibly talented people. It’s been an incredible ride so far.
When you started, did you have a sneaker collection of your own?
Yeah. I did. Since the age of 10 I’ve been a skateboarder, and when you skateboard you rip shoes in days. So since then I was always looking for shoes that will last me more than two weeks. And then it just became an obsession. I bought shoes until it got to a point where I was a full blown sneaker addict. When I started the first event, I called some friends and we collected shoes. I was a skateboarder so I brought skate boarding shoes; my friends were into basketball so they brought basketball shoes. We all mixed it together.
How many shoes did you start with?
Not many, say 30 or 40. And now we have around 1200 or so. Maybe more. I don’t even know anymore.
Did anyone ridicule you in the beginning? Something like ‘It sounds like a very crazy idea, it won’t work’
Yeah of course. Firstly, my mother still doesn’t know what I do. She thinks I’m a travelling shoe salesman, and that’s the easiest way to explain it. I mean when we started it, lot of how we do this is being financed by companies that see the vision. Sometimes people ask us, “Do people really collect these? We thought this was just sport, this was just whatever.” So yea, there was a lot of initial, not backlash, but more of “What the hell is this?” But now it’s starting to become pop culture. So people understand more.
Have you been to India before? For maybe a vacation?
No never. I always wanted to come here. And when I started Sneaker Pimps my goal was to go around the world and do this at as many places as possible. And India was always on my target. We were going to do it back in 2006. But it never happened because it was just too early. No one would’ve even known what I was doing. So we waited and then finally I was talking to different people and here we are. This is my first time here. I’ve been here two weeks now. I’ve travelled around the country.
What are the vibes that you’re getting? Are you excited or nervous?
Yea I’m excited. My excitement is based on the people’s excitement here. So since announcing this tour we’ve had a lot of people emailing us, hitting us up on social media and saying, “Oh my God! It’s so rad you guys are coming! This is amazing finally we’re getting an event like this.” The feedback has been extremely positive. What’s amazing in India is since it’s such a new thing, there is genuine pure excitement. Like when we travel to New York, they’ve seen it a million times. We’ve done New York City like 15 times.
What can we expect to see at this edition of Sneaker Pimps?
So we have an amazingly curated collection of Puma sneakers, which I personally went around the world and collected. I’ve got my own stuff, and went to Japan, and a guy form Siberia, from Washington DC and Mexico. We’ve got his collection of Puma sneakers that represent the early vintage ones through to the mid-nineties kind, the beastly boys hip hop era. The younger kids want to see collaborations. So there’s an amazing sneaker museum. We have a very well respected and legendary graffiti artist doing a live painting, Futura. We have a DJ named DJ Neil Armstrong who’s been a DJ for Jay Z, which is rad and he played at a bunch of our events and he’s an amazing DJ to watch. And then we have some local artists performing too. We have live sneaker and t shirt customizing in the event. When you come into the show what I’d like to do is blow people away with all these things that are going on. So it’s not just coming and looking at shoes, you see music, you see customization. Overload the senses basically.
Street culture is still emerging in India. Also, Mumbai is more advanced in the fashion industry than Pune. Why did you decide to hold the event in Pune?
We really looked at all the cities. We’re already doing Delhi, which we understand is the main centre. And then we were thinking of doing Mumbai but a bunch of people said there’s a very good scene in Pune that’s emerging. A lot of students and college kids who are artistic enough and creative enough to understand a concept as crazy as this. We were told that this was an emerging city and that’s the energy. So why not come and do something different.
Did you have a dream of becoming something else before this concept of Sneaker Pimps ever came into your mind?
A Stockbroker! It’s a true story, and I did it. Although it’s complete opposite of what I’m doing, it’s coming in handy now. A lot of my friends have started sneaker posts in stock exchange and now these companies are becoming huge. I started out in finance when I was very young. I remember I got a job in the firm and I worked there for seven months and it was so boring. I thought I can’t do this for the rest of my life. So here we are.
Did you have any fear when you started out?
No I never had any fear. I was doing events I’d never done before so no one was telling me how to do it. It was a process of learning by trial and error. I’ve always loved doing it. I was a skateboarder at heart. You go out there and you hurt yourself, you try new tricks and you fall. It’s the same kind of energy when you’re doing something like this when you’re not trained for it. It was wild and amazing. I’m from Sydney. So back in the early 2000s, we didn’t get a whole lot of pop culture getting there from the US. So all these artists that we’re listening to, they would never come and play shows in Australia. So when I got to do Sneaker Pimps, I got to book a lot of my idols that I grew up. Futura came and painted in one of our shows in China in 2014, and I was a massive fan of his. It was a dream come true.
What kind of sacrifices did you have to make to get this thing where it is right now?
Initially it took a lot of work to build up a name. And the only sacrifices might be the meaningless ones like, “Oh I can’t go out and party with my friends because I need to arrange this. I’ve never done a show in Hong Kong and I don’t know anyone there, how am I going to do this?” But when I got over the hurdle, this is like a non-stop party while travelling the world, doing exactly what I want to do every day. I feel like Peter Pan. It’s incredible, it’s really amazing.
What has Sneaker Pimps taught you? How have you grown along with this?
It’s taught me that the world is much smaller than you think. You would think it’s different doing a show in New York City than doing a show in Pune, and of course there are differences, but at the end of the day, human beings are same all over the place. The challenges are very similar, it’s like doing an event anywhere, and it’s the same type of thing.
If you had to describe your entire journey in one or two words, what would those be?
If there was a fire and you had to run away with just one pair of sneakers, which one would those be?
Puma Clydes! Anyday, anytime!
Sneaker Pimps was hosted in India in collaboration with PUMA to celebrate the 50th year of their iconic PUMA suede shoe.