For many kids who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, summer days were defined by fast-melting Neapolitan ice cream cones, jungle-gym climbing, seesaw riding — and shoes that lit up as they hopped from one playground attraction to another.
Well, the pioneers behind the original light-up sneaker, L.A. Gear, sure hope so.
The brand, founded by Robert Greenberg in 1983 and acquired by ACI International in the early 2000s, recently nabbed rap star Tyga as a brand ambassador and creative adviser and is relaunching in a whole new way, according to L.A. Gear President Lance Jackson.
The Los Angeles-based company has taken several other stabs at relaunching over the years, so what makes this time different?
Jackson says a combination of factors have created the right environment for a comeback.
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Here is FN’s Q&A with the man at the helm of the brand’s relaunch.
What’s new at L.A. Gear as far as styles, concepts and overall branding?
LJ: We’re starting [our relaunch] with the light ups because they’re so iconic — it’s our most iconic style, and we were the first do it. However, in addition to retro, we’re really a fashion athletic brand. For a little while, in the ’90s, L.A. Gear kind of went away from the true image and core. A big part of our relaunch now is about going back to our roots — the retro styles — but also staying fresh. We’re releasing a whole new athletic collection next spring, we’re working on some really exciting collaborations with music artists and celebrities, we have some female ambassadors we’ll be launching with close to the holiday time, and back-to-school will be a huge push for us, with the light-up styles for kids.
Why the relaunch now, and what makes this time unique?
LJ: Two factors: the return of [the popularity of] retro and fan requests for us to bring back iconic styles [we did with] Michael Jackson, Kaj, Belinda Carlisle, Paula Abdul and the Wayne Grezky. We’ve been getting demand for such a long time — we get thousands of emails weekly requesting that we bring back retro styles.
Many brands veer from their core when expanding or relaunching, but we know what our core is, and that’s why it was important that we [provided] organic pieces of the brand’s DNA for this relaunch. With that said, we also wanted to offer fresh styles and bold designs for today’s generation and today’s fashion landscape.
Tell me more about that demand for L.A. Gear’s iconic styles. I heard it took a little digging to get your hands on some of the classics.
LJ: We had a lot of shoes in our archive but had to try hard to get some of the originals. Some of those originals, like the MJ, were going for more than $1,000 on eBay. We are the owner of L.A. Gear, and we actually had to go on eBay and bid on our own shoes, trying to outbid other people. We now have our hands on all of the originals, so we have all the ammo we need for the relaunch.
Why did you choose to partner with Tyga? How much of the relaunch is hinging on Tyga’s endorsement?
LJ: We started talking with Tyga about a year and a half ago. He’s from L.A. and has a great fashion sense, and he shares our vision for the brand. As far as the retro aspect, Tyga is a huge part of it — he’s as passionate as we are. Tyga has a gold album, so we wanted to come out with the gold first to tie in with his image, but we have endless categories in the works.