It’s a tall order to suggest that you can re-shape the sneaker world, yet that’s exactly what Greats is setting out to do. Spearheaded by Ryan Babenzien and Jon Buscemi, Greats is motivated by the desire to shift the landscape in the footwear industry by giving the consumer access to high-quality selections at the lowest prices in the game. With a vertical integration style, a direct sale method best seen in the success of eyewear upstart Warby Parker, these shoes up the ante even higher by producing some models in Italy and preparing to have others crafted right in the US. The objective is simple: reinterpret the classics with upscale, luxe details at a price point that can’t be beat. And with their August 2013 releases taking just 90 days to sell out, they’ve proven that consumers are ready to buy direct.
Their latest Greats release is a performance chukka called the BAB, after the surname of one of it’s founders, Ryan Babenzien, who came from a marketing background with Puma. Jon Buscemi, the other half of the brand’s braintrust, has footwear-specific experience with DC Shoes, Oliver Peoples, and Gourmet. With technical know-how and market awareness, the duo is plunging into an industry dominated by multi-national corporations and big-box retailers. With a unique pricing strategy for the BAB–one pair for $59, two for $109, and three for $149–the consumer gets a value-packed model stocked with technical and aesthetic pop. Each pair is crafted from a monochromatic HFD (high frequency weld) nylon mesh upper atop a lightweight white EVA midsole. Similar models for competitors can cost twice as much, with much of the markup funneled into the retailing process. This chukka is aimed to honor a classic silhouette without cutting corners on materials and details.
Other brands may have marketing plans with budgets the size of some countries’ GDP, but Greats is beginning to see trends that provide hope for the consumer who doesn’t need a storefront to notice the quality of an offering. With the BAB, the Royale, and the Wilson, Greats’ award-winning website displays the shoe’s deconstructed components, providing the buyer with the ultimate transparency. For their luxe Royale model, the outer boasts a supple deerskin leather, while the liner is comprised of a butter-soft calf-skin. Similar models from the likes of Del Toro and Lanvin can triple the $99 price tag on the Greats shoe, showing why the company is making waves across the industry.
With models that have been custom made for Kevin Durant and a visit and inspection of the goods by Kanye West, the duo seems poised to shake things up. We got the chance to see the duo in action and learn about a company whose bold coup d’etat in the sneaker world could have long-lasting benefits for fans of fine sneakers. In our chat with Ryan, we learn about the brand philosophy, the exciting challenge of battling the big dogs, and how early exposure to sport culture led to his passion in sneakers. Click through to get a look a company whose kicks you may find your feet in soon.
- Produced by: Dan Hwang | Interviewed & Written by: Jesse Carr | Photography by: SamAlive