Breaking Barriers with 10. January (Part I)
The $300 threshold is a bridge too far for most sneaker enthusiasts. For retail, only the most limited, well-packaged, and high-quality sneakers garner a price over the three-bill mark. As the bridge between high-fashion and general retail has become more pronounced figures like Kanye West have propelled the Yeezy brand and others such as Jerry Lorenzo to retail their sneaker models at or above $300. Brands like Maison Margiela, Common Projects have become more commonplace with their $350-600 lifestyle sneaker offerings, while more high-end associated names like Alexander McQueen, Raf Simons, and Saint Laurent have migrated downward offering somewhat cheaper, yet more widely available lifestyle sneakers. For retail, being well-known seems to be the surest path to success.
Resell for highly sought-after sneakers has often eclipsed the $300 mark but only the most hyped and limited sneakers have managed to continually reside above the $300 mark (if retail was originally below $300). For most, $300 is a hard price to justify for a sneaker that either will get worn consistently or that will be worn a handful of times but mostly reside on a shelf most of the time.
Enter 10. January, the fledgling brand from Jamie Kravetz. With an anticipated initial release scheduled for early May, I ‘sat down’ with Jamie to hear about his bold vision, history, and why his 10. January brand doesn’t give a damn about the traditional sneaker industry pathways to success above $300.
Who is 10. January?
The obvious first question is who’s behind the brand and where the name comes from.
“Myself, James Kravetz (jamiekravetz). It’s my birthday, and at one point maybe in like mid-2016 or so I was trying to come up with names for my brand just to kind of give myself some direction in terms of like what this is supposed to look like as a whole. So, I bounced a lot of ideas around and I remember thinking I wanted something close to home, that if you knew me you’d have no question as to where it comes from. I also loved that the phonetics of “ten January” sounds high fashion, and I think that will provide a lot of growth direction for us. I have a lot of awesome people around me though that wouldn’t be labeled ‘founders’, but they’re so important and vital to 10. January that it would be impossible to even imagine it without them. I’m so incredibly fortunate to stand on the shoulders of the giants that I do, that I feel obligated to mention it. At 10. January, I don’t like to think of myself as the boss, I like to think that everyone involved in my brand from the development of the sneakers to the influencers helping market my brand are all equally important and deserve to be heard on all issues. I think there’s a lot of energy in that. The shoulders of giants.”
The first thing you should know about Jamie is he’s a sneaker guy. Not a fashion guy who recognizes the relevance in sneakers now, or a snap a photo of his latest pair for the gram, or a business guy who wants to make sneakers profitable sneaker guy, but an “I would wear this so I’m going to make it” sneaker guy. His words on inspiration sound like a conversation in your average sneaker group chat.
“Brand inspiration is a huge thing for me. Probably my biggest inspiration is my own unhappiness with the current landscape of shoes. Time and again you see some copycat brand ripping off Stan Smith’s or whatever, slapping their logo on it, and then turning around to tell you that ‘they just wanted to tell stories with their shoes’. That’s some PETTY ego bull****, and clearly the lie these guys tell themselves so they can sleep at night. So, I decided to take it upon myself to start something truly magnanimous, that did more than just ‘tell stories’. Something that would represent more than just the American dream, but YOUR dream, no matter where you live, or where you’re from. At 10. January, we want to give voice to you and your people, your city, your traditions and customs, your story, and with a sneaker that’s dope at that. And that’s why my first year has such a variation of themes throughout. It’s something I hope people can appreciate and call their own. We took so much time trying to make each one of these what they are, and to go balls to the wall with each project, putting brand logo’s and insignia second to the specific project imagery. I’m especially proud of that part of it.”
When pressed on design, aesthetics, as well as the shoes that have meant a lot to him personally, it’s not hard to see where his initial releases design cues come from.
“On the design side, I’m inspired by so many different parts of different shoes that I’ve been lucky enough to see come and go on the market as I was collecting shoes for 10 or so years prior to starting 10. January. One of my favorite designer brands for sure is Givenchy, everything they do is so clean, and they almost always hit the mark for me style-wise when it comes to sneakers (and sweaters). As far as shoes go that inspire me the Diadora N9000, the Asics gel-lyte series, the NB 577 made in UK, and Givenchy’s line of runners all heavily influence me. Honorable mention to Alberto Khorde (Barzanos) and his work with Diadora, I’ll NEVER get over the purple tapes. Ever.”
Beyond the aesthetics and current climate of the sneaker market, Kravetz has a desire to share something more than sneakers; a cultural experience.
“I’m inspired by the customs and traditions of foreign lands bar none. I love that every single culture has these awesome traditions and celebrations (and FOOD) that I can basically learn about infinitely. It’s such a large world to discover. When you finally step off the edge and immerse yourself in just how much the world has to offer, you find yourself unendingly curious about the next thing and wanting to learn more and more. I think that’s one of the biggest challenges and the biggest rewards of what I do. That need to be consistently learning more and more and implementing that knowledge as strongly as possible via the shoe design, theme, imagery, materials, etc. is EVERYTHING.”
Hikmet and Sonra
As initial photos of 10. January’s initial release have begun to circulate, a handful of enthusiasts have popped up questioning whether Jamie’s design is original or just a rip of German brand Sonra. In this mid-article detour it felt necessary to address the concerns. Looking at the shape of 10. January’s first shoe and any of Hikmet Sugoer’s Sonra releases it’s not far-fetched to see the similarities in aesthetics, however aesthetics are simply one aspect of a shoe and a holistic understanding of sneakers and sneaker history reminds us that visuals tell only one story. As noted by Mike Dabbs (theCamp0ut), “in sneakers everything is derivative, and nothing is (wholly)original.” Runner silhouettes in the lifestyle market today have deep roots in 70’s and 80’s footwear. Running shoes like the original Nike Tailwinds, Saucony Jazz, and early Asics models reflect heavily in modern silhouettes like Sonra’s and 10. January’s first release. Aesthetic resemblances are both unavoidable and similarly unconscious homages to sneakers both past and present. For now, both Sonra and 10. January occupy different markets, with 10. J focused squarely on making a stateside splash while Sonra has been resigned to Germany and surrounding European countries. With both brands offering a total of less than 5,000 shoes a year, combined, I think it’s safe to say aesthetic similarities do nothing to deter fans of either and Jamie feels the same way.
“As far as our shoes looking the same, I would say that that was an inevitable comparison based on competitive shoe models between our companies. Not for one second do I think my shoe will ever take away from his sales, and in fact I would buy some if they weren’t so popular, haha.”
“I think what he’s doing is incredible and (he’s) given us who know about him a clear understanding that sneaker companies can be started even in a small capacity. Hikmet’s inspiring me for sure in that regard and I would definitely never discount the fact that he’s been someone who’s really shown everyone what can be done.”
About Being Different
Being the hippest, most market successful sneaker brand isn’t something you think about when you hear Jamie talk about the brand. There’s an awareness about the product and a curated knowledge about materials, production, and overall quality that he wants you to appreciate. His description of what his upcoming releases are bringing to the table reminds you that you’re buying a sneaker, not a lifestyle, not a celebrity or high-end fashion name brand, but a sneaker.
“10. January isn’t skipping steps, so we can bring a shoe to market and sell it to consumers. That’s outright wrong in our book. Instead, at every step of the way we take a review and critique approach. The color of each stitch, the full suede lining inside of each shoe coupled with our suede insoles (as well as a few other shoe-build secrets I can’t give away) are all things you’ll find that 10. January has spared absolutely no expense in trying to bring to our consumers the highest quality shoes that we can, bar none. In fact, my shoes are made at the same factory as Balenciaga, Alexander Wang, Filling Pieces, etc., so I’ve never had to deal with setbacks construction-wise in terms of the shoes because my guys stay SO up to date technologically. It’s a beautiful thing and I’m incredibly lucky to be working with them. They’ve really given me the platform to have every single one of my releases be a completely different flavor but at a world-class level. That’s something I think other brands have really lost touch with, so I’m quite fortunate to be in this position. This is what I would want as a consumer with an incredibly critical opinion, so to be able to deliver a shoe to the market at this level is such a blessing, without question.”
While each sneaker is special in its construction, production, and material offerings, the sneakers are targeted at a more humbled consumer.
“My brand is geared towards sneakerheads, but mainly the maturing sneakerhead who has a love of the game and statement-making pieces. They may be getting to an adult point in life to where, understandably, their shoes need to be ready for the investment meeting at the office. We’ve taken ALOT of time to fine tune that versatility so that they can be worn with clear distinguishability both professionally and casually.”
This Year, the next, then the next, then the…
Even before their first official release Jamie has helped to lay out both a short-term and a long-term strategy for 10. January. There’s a passion and connectivity Kravetz exhibits when describing his brand goals that makes you feel more like an investor than a consumer.
“For my first year’s run we have 6 different pairs of shoes coming out, as well as a matching line of French Terry socks for each pair. Each project has its own individual theme that will hopefully resonate with the people living both in and outside of the locales we’ve based them on. I can’t tell you everything, but my first two projects are ‘Los Angeles’ and ‘Florence’ (Italy), which are the only two places I’ve called home (college in Boston but I moved back to Los Angeles immediately). Each pair comes with a custom dust bag, an extra set of insoles in case of half-sizing issues, and multiple sets of lace colors. I personally number and sign each box as well and include a thank you note inside.
Long-term, I want to bring 10. J to a point where it can sustain multiple styles of shoes (runners, casual, etc.) as well as a clothing line that is rather expansive. Maybe these goals are a bit far away for now, but long-term it’s nice to think that we could dress you well for all occasions: spring, summer, fall, or winter. We’ve been brainstorming some really cool ideas for how to grow the brand by staying really hands-on with the community through events, so hopefully we’ll get to move forward with some of those creative endeavors sooner than later.”
The First Release
Timing is everything and Jamie has a planned not just the first release but a few other things along the way.
“The Los Angeles ‘Gennaio’ releases May of 2019, and a new shoe drops every 60 days thereafter. There will be a website with a super easy to use sales platform that will explain every shoe in detail but isn’t bogged down with all the bull****. Sweet, simple, and right to the point. We’re putting that together the finishing touches with Shopify as we speak.”
What does Jamie want you to know about 10. January that you wouldn’t other than talking to him?
“At the end of the day I want people to know that we’re trying to deliver a product that has everything you’d expect/want from a brand selling 300€ sneakers, and that every detail matters to us. I know that ‘perfect’ is impossible (and in the eye of the beholder no?), but I at least like to believe that we aren’t skipping steps that a quality shoe deserves, that YOUR quality shoe deserves.”
By David Blackmon / @jusdave3_2