KNOTORYUS TALKS TO AVENUE FOUNDER LINA FREDRIKSSON ABOUT HER VERY OWN ADIDAS SNEAKER, HYPE VS INNOVATION AND THE ‘MEH’ OF THE RESELLER
If you’d do a poll among young fashion killers on IG or Snapchat and ask them what item they’d mostly like to release carrying their own name, surely “a sneaker” would come out as top answer. That dream, but for much more legitimate reasons than “it would be lit AF”, has come true for the Swedish/Belgian Lina Fredriksson. For ten years now, through sheer hard work, dedication and a genuine love for the culture she has been making a global success out of her store Avenue, located in the fashion district of Antwerp. Tonight we’ll be celebrating her first collaboration with adidas: the adidas Consortium x Avenue EQT 93/16 Support. A buttery and luxurious but super clean play on the usually leisurely looking model which comes in two high end colourways: black and tan.
KNOTORYUS: First of all, congratulations! I know you’ve been dreaming about having your own sneaker for a long time and now it’s finally here.
LINA FREDRIKSSON: Thank you! It feels great. The best thing about it is of course that it actually happened, but also that most of the stores who are allowed to sell adidas Consortium-releases placed an order. Which means the adidas x Avenue EQT 93/16 support will be sold in more than 80 of the best sneaker stores around the world.
KNOTORYUS: Tell me a bit about how it all came to fruition.
LINA FREDRIKSSON: Like you said, I’ve been wanting this for years now and I’ve had several talks with different brands, but in the end adidas put up the best proposal and it just felt right. Of course even though we both agreed on collaborating, I still had to convince them of my project and the way I wanted to develop it. Once they signed off on that, it still took a long time to get here. All in all from first stages to us talking today, two years came and went.
KNOTORYUS: So just like owning your own business, releasing your own sneaker is not for the fainthearted…
LINA FREDRIKSSON: (Laughs) I know you know that’s right.
KNOTORYUS: How did you decide on the EQT 93/16?
LINA FREDRIKSSON: For me it was important to have a BOOST-midsole. The first time I laid eyes on a BOOST-release, even before it was available to the public, I fell in love. As far as the model goes, it’s important to choose one that’s in production. Adidas has this enormous product vault, but if you choose something that is not in rotation at the time, it’s an even more complicated and timely process. When my proposal was approved, it was also the first time that adidas would be developing a leather upper on a BOOST-midsole.KNOTORYUS: You worked with product designer Michael Hernandez on this project.
LINA FREDRIKSSON: I am not a designer and you most definitely need one if you are not just merely changing the colours on an already existing sneaker. Sven and I have been fan of Michael’s work for years. He worked at Nike SB during their industry-shifting years when our business partner Gert was there as well. Michael has been working independently since 2014, when he founded his agency ‘The Bruin Co.’
KNOTORYUS: Where did his knowledge come in handy?
LINA FREDRIKSSON: It was great to have him apply all his 26 years of experience to this task, because it hasn’t been easy. It was just really hard working with this type of leather upper. We had to work relentlessly on getting construction and comfort right, while still having it look good. But I think we’ve succeeded.
KNOTORYUS: According to your press release you were also inspired by the work of our legendary Antwerp Six.
LINA FREDRIKSSON: It’s more in the way of how they approached and sometimes deconstructed fashion than: “Oh, I based this part of the shoe on that design from Dries Van Noten”, or whatever. Michael and I wanted to strip away everything that we deemed not necessary and just make a really sleek design. I’ve also looked at my Swedish heritage. I grew up in the late seventies and eighties and during that time all my aunties were knitting, which meant I wore a lot of knitted sweaters. So we looked at popular Swedish knitwear-patterns and used those as an inspiration too.KNOTORYUS: Tell me about the time you moved from Sweden to Belgium.
LINA FREDRIKSSON: I was 22, had just quit my graphic design course in Sweden and started backpacking when I met Sven (founder/owner of Lockwood: the best skate store in Belgium and far beyond, ed. note) and fell in love. I moved here on a whim and thought: “Well, if it doesn’t work out, I can always go back home.” But seventeen years and three kids later, here we are.
KNOTORYUS: Back then you started working at Sven’s first Lockwood store, when did you decide it was time to open a shop of your own?
LINA FREDRIKSSON: I officially became a partner at Lockwood in 2002. Sven and I had started collecting sneakers around that time and that’s when my love for them really took off. It’s almost hard to grasp for young sneakerheads, but you and I both know that back then there was nothing. Nowadays you have at least 6 or 7 releases per week that most of the time drop in one store per country, but back in 2002, 2003 you had to take a plane if you wanted to get your hands on a pair of special sneakers.KNOTORYUS: I remember being in Berlin when Married To The MOB’s AF1 Dunk was released. I was so happy, because there was no way I would’ve gotten my hands on a pair otherwise. And that was in 2008.
LINA FREDRIKSSON: There were no online stores back then. But when Patta opened its doors back in 2004 in Amsterdam, which is not that far from Antwerp, I slowly started to believe that I could make my own sneakerstore work, too. I just really felt that there was a void in Belgium and in Antwerp particularly that I could fill. I opened Avenue in 2007.
KNOTORYUS: You just mentioned the amount of releases per week. Does it feel overwhelming from time to time to deal with that amount of hype continuously?
LINA FREDRIKSSON: It doesn’t overwhelm me, but it’s for sure a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I feel like the sheer amount of back-to-back drops makes it almost impossible to focus on some of our inline or seasonal product: you know, those releases that aren’t surrounded by noise but very often are really innovative. And what happens is that because of the fact that they aren’t hyped up, people aren’t willing to pay full price for them and they wait till they go on sale. Because those items don’t go out of stock until end of season, brands often think the product isn’t good enough.
KNOTORYUS: And that might lead to more focus on hype instead of innovation.
LINA FREDRIKSSON: I think it’s a possibility that might turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy if we’re not careful. But as I said, it’s a blessing as well, because these special launches are good for business and they do liven things up.
KNOTORYUS: Speaking of livening things up: for stores like Patta and Supreme it seems to get increasingly more difficult to do in-store launches for security and safety reasons. How are you experiencing this?
LINA FREDRIKSSON: We’ve learned throughout the years what works and what doesn’t. Our neighbours aren’t too keen on overnight camp-outs so that’s not happening as much anymore. Although I do insist on having a couple of those per year, because I’m old school, I still think an overnight queue is still the most beautiful way to drop a sneaker.
KNOTORYUS: Last week I went by the Raf Simons stocksale when things had quieted down a bit and I overheard some of the young employees talking about how resellers are ruining the business. See, I’m old school when it comes to that. As a student I worked Saturdays and school holidays in one of the best shoe stores in Belgium and there I was taught that it doesn’t matter who you sell to as long as you shift product. And I agree. That whole “fashion has become too accessible” complaint drives me nuts. Like, b., do you want to sell your designs or not? I try to buy the items I want when they drop, but for instance back when the “Black Palms”-collection came out, I didn’t have Raf-money, so I’m glad that there’s such a thing as a reseller, because when I want that cute tank top now, I know I can get it at my doorstep in less than three days.
LINA FREDRIKSSON: I understand what you’re saying but as a storeowner for me there are two types of resellers. You have your guys who are only in it for the money. There is no love for the product and definitely no love for the stores. They wait in line but can get really aggressive when something is sold out or they harass other clients offering them money when they walk out the shop. You had that happen to you.
KNOTORYUS: I’ve walked around with more cash than that, but I’ve rarely felt as anxious as when I was walking around with that bag carrying those black YB750s.
LINA FREDRIKSSON: But then you also have those people who sell off a valuable pair just so they can save up for another pair they really want. I’ve got no problem with that. There used to be a time when brands really got on our case about resellers and looked at it like it was our fault, but fortunately that’s in the past. Which is good, because I’ve already got enough on my plate. (laughs)
KNOTORYUS: That’s what I thought! Ok, I’m going to let you get back to it, but tell me: what do you want most out of this #adidasxAvenue collaboration?
LINA FREDRIKSSON: As I said, my sneaker is launching in eighty adidas “Consortium accounts”, meaning the best stores that get to choose from the top tier catalogue. I am really grateful that all of those stores actually ordered. I’ve talked to you about this over the years: I find it frustrating that so much brand focus is going to big cities like London, Paris and Amsterdam, while Antwerp and therefore Belgium are being overlooked so often. With this release and hopefully many collaborations to come I’m hoping to change that and put our little country on the map.
KNOTORYUS: Good luck, my friend and massive congratulations!
LINA FREDRIKSSON: Thank you!PRE-RELEASE
June 3rd 2017
Images: Kelly Fober for Avenue