Posted on 9 Sep By Visionarism
In the realm of sneaker / streetwear, there are a few people who might not be celebrities, actors, or music artists, but whose name still rings a bell to those who are in the industry all around the world. Some would call them influencers or taste makers; we would like to see them as visionaries of our community.
Francky B (@francky.b) from Paris is one of them. From collecting sneakers for over a decade to running Sneakerness Paris since 2014, Francky has created a strong network and manage to make things happen with hard work and perseverance. As we believe that he is part of those who drive the community in a positive way, our Managing Director Thierry (@t.mcfly) went to Paris to have a chat with him to talk about his background, his views on the current market, and the upcoming 3rd edition of Sneakerness Paris…
Francky, you are known for your incredible sneakers collection and for being a well connected entrepreneur. For those who don’t know you yet, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m 34 years old, proud Parisian, multi-disciplinary entrepreneur, and a street culture lover who enjoys life in every possible way.
Talking about sneakers, what is the shoe that started it all for you? And what is your all time grail?
The sneaker that started it for me would be the Air Jordan 7 Raptors. I kept asking my dad who was traveling often to the US, to get me sneakers, and anything Basketball related. Regarding my all time grail, I’d say my Jordans from 1985.
As mentioned before, you seem to be a very well connected person. Does it have anything to do with your passion for footwear and fashion?
I would say majority of it is networking and friendships I have built along the way with people who share the same passion. I have supported most of my friends even before they launched their own brand such as Ronnie Fieg with KITH. For me, having all those connects has just been about maintaining those friendships and relationships built through time.
When and why did you decide to turn your passion into a business with Sneakerness?
Everything kind of happened organically. I have been supporting Sneakerness throughout the years, and attending the sneaker trade show in different cities. Eventually, I became good friends with the founders. While going from one event to another, I started to imagine bringing the concept to Paris, and thinking about how to make it different. One thing leading to another, with my project management skills, the rest is now history. Voila, that’s how Sneakerness Paris came to life. Due to my connections in the arcade I run (La Tete Dans Le Nuages) in Paris, my mind was able to quickly see and think “production”, “games”, and “installation”. Making use of my marketing degree and network with brands, I feel like I built it from scratch. However, ironically I never really saw it as a business. More than anything, I think of it as a community that I have created for people to just share the same passion, and all of this, in my hometown.
With the 3rd edition of Sneakerness Paris, what is new or different from the previous years? What are the lessons learned from the 1st and 2nd edition?
Good question! Let’s put it this way, we went big this year for the anniversary. First, we moved to a whole new location: “La Cite De La Mode et du Design” which speaks to the street community with its industrial architecture, and walls covered with graffiti. It will bring a whole new vibe and the French touch, as it is located by La Seine, with an open space. My team also went further on marketing this year. The campaign alone was very neat and clean which featured dancers to promote the new “Patriot Pack” Collab with Puma. For branding, I went all in with pins, branded treats such as chocolate, lollipops, cookies, and a lot more. Each friends and family package from Crep Protect were sent with a small trailer video inside. Then of course, there was the two footwear collabs I designed with Puma to pay tribute to the Paris tragedies, and to represent French patriotism.
How do you position Sneakerness within the “Sneakers Sell / Buy / Trade events” market, and how do you differentiate yourself from the others?
The difference is rather simple. As opposed to going into it with a classic business concept, we do it for the passion. The whole experience we want to give our visitors is the feeling of being part of a community, where guests can really have the opportunity to network with brand reps, influencers, and shops during the event. Instead of the usual walk through, where you make your purchase or trade, and walk away with nothing more than the new shoes you just bought. Not to mention that Sneakerness has turned into quite a global thing. We get people from all over the world, coming together to make our range of available products even more diverse.
You just said that you are partnering once again with Puma on a footwear collaboration. How would you describe the journey of working with a major brand such as Puma?
Puma is a brand which I have been supporting for a while, and the connection started a few years ago when I ran the Kith x Puma “COA” pop-up store in Paris during fashion week. I maintained the relationship ever since, and they were the first brand I wanted to collaborate with for Sneakerness Paris
Is Sneakerness Paris a “One Man” operation? If not, how many people are working on the event and how important is their contribution in the process?
Sneakerness is definitely not a one man operation! (laugh.) It’s a small team, but a lot of work goes into creating this event. And considering that a lot of them are not based in Paris, there were quite a lot of Skype convos and train tickets to invest on.
I also want to mention that my best asset in this whole operation which is the little French team I have around me : Tebar , Laura and Jaja. They are the real Sneakerness Paris army, and I love them for that.
Apart from Sneakerness, we understand that you have your fingers in many pies, how did you develop your hardworking and business mindset?
Nice way to put it. I like that one. Especially because I love pies. (laughs.) Well, aside from collecting sneakers, and many other things like art pieces, I’ve got involved in many things such as real estate, running a bar, and even selling/importing golf carts. Some ideas worked, some didn’t. You can’t be good at being an entrepreneur unless you experience failures. Currently, I am the director at the biggest arcade room in Paris: La Tete Dans les Nuages. Regarding my business mindset, it partially came from my education. As mentioned before, I’ve got a MBA in Marketing and Publicity. No surprise here. (laughs.) I guess I don’t like to be standing in one place. The more projects I have, the better I feel with myself.
According to you, how important is “networking” for an entrepreneur in the fashion/streetwear/sneakers industry?
I’m just going to say that with a good network, you are already half way on the road to success.
We just mentioned social media earlier. What is your view on the use of social by brands, and how important are tools such as Instagram in their success and strategy?
In my opinion, I think Instagram is like we say in French “genial”, meaning “genius/amazing”. Seeing everything on one platform is just a game changer. As for branding success and strategy, I think it works well. You are able to track your market, plant seeds, and get inspiration. Thanks to social medias, I have been able to show love to brands I have been supporting, and even received courtesy gifts in return. (smile)
You are part of those who we can call “taste makers”, what are your favourite brands at the moment and what are the upcoming brands you are looking at?
Well, until the day I die, all my love goes to Supreme. However, I support all kinds of brands which have been founded by friends of mine, such as Kith, Filling Pieces, Harmony, etc. Lately, I have been really into Margiela.
As a business minded person, we believe that you must always be steps ahead in every situation. What is your next move?
Bravo! I would say you are 100% right on this one. Aside from already prepping for Sneakerness Paris 2017, I am working on a new concept which will involve food, art, and street culture. I won’t say anymore than that, as I don’t want to spoil it for you.
The 3rd edition of Sneakerness Paris is just around the corner. It will take place in La Cite de le Mode et du Design, from August 10th to 11th 2016. Is there anything you can tell us about, to give a little preview to our readers?
Tell your bank manager that your credit card will be accepted at Sneakerness Paris, and that we will have a lot of fun together.
Sneakerness Paris 2016
La Cite de la Mode et du Design
34 Quai d’Austerlitz
All images by Yassine Hajji (@Laguezz) for @Visionarism.