After losing his father to HIV/AIDS in 1994, Rise co-owner Chase Ceparano vowed to bring awareness of the disease however he could. The head of Huntington, N.Y.-based sneaker retailer teamed up with Puma for the New York Is For Lovers release, reimagining the brand’s Blaze of Glory silhouette to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS. The shoe retails for $145 and arrives today, World AIDS Day, via a New York City pop-up shop (345 Broome Street), Rise and the retailer’s website, rise45.com.
Ceparano shared with Footwear News why Puma was the brand to help spread his message, choosing the Blaze of Glory shoe for the collaboration and why raising awareness for HIV/AIDS is ingrained in Rise’s DNA.
Why team up with Puma for the release?
This is not your everyday collaboration. When we originally sat down with Puma, it was a very personal thing. All the feelings communicated were visceral because it’s my story and a poignant story. More important to me, though, it’s a story that a lot of folks out there have to deal with and live with. It’s not the easiest topic of conversation to have, but it’s a reality that we live with and it’s important that attention is shined on this cause whenever possible, in my eyes.
What was Puma’s reaction when you approached them with this project?
Shock and awe. We were at a dinner in Vegas. I had the presentation ready weeks prior. When I saw the opportunity, I had my iPad with me, I said, let’s go for it. While sitting with them, I set the table, I prefaced the conversation with, “I have a very important story to tell, and I would love for you guys to be a part of it and help me put this message out there. You’re a company I have a tremendous amount of respect for.” Once we got to look at what we had mocked up, I also gave them a mini presentation of the marketing strategy and how we would launch it. I don’t think it’s something brands see very often, it’s usually something generic and dumbed down, and the fact that I came to them with a properly executed presentation with visuals of what this project could be, I think it was something they were impressed by. When we got into telling the story and I was able to communicate my background and how it lent itself to this story, they were impressed. We got working on it shortly thereafter.
Why did you choose the Blaze of Glory silhouette for the collaboration?
It does happen to be my favorite silhouette from Puma and one of my favorite sneakers ever produced, retro and present day included. That heel panel where we inlayed those perforated heart shapes, as many projects that have been done on this particular shoe, no one has gone to town in that area of the shoe. The first thought in my mind when I looked at it was, “we can do something new and interesting to look at.” Couple that with the fact that we backed it with 3M, so when a flash hits that panel of the shoe, it really glows and makes those hearts extra vibrant. It goes back to the message of the shoe, and from a design standpoint, it’s something that Puma hasn’t done yet to that product, and we were super-geeked about it. We have the premium leathers on the upper — it was important to me that the quality was top-notch.
Why did you also team up with amfAR for the release? How much of the proceeds from the shoe will be donated to the organization?
We’re going to be writing a check between Puma and myself for $15,000 to go straight to HIV and AIDS research. amfAR was the best partner for this because of their foundation; it’s a company that was founded by a good doctor [Mathilde Krim] and Elizabeth Taylor and utilized celebrity and the idea of community and influence and all things beautiful to tell a tragic story to make sure that it got the proper attention it deserved. It was the best organization that we could align ourselves with to properly get this out there and make sure that folks understood what the message was and how this disease affects people near and far.
Was dedicating yourself to this cause and incorporating it into your business something you thought of when opening Rise?
Absolutely. I had some trials and tribulations as a kid, as so many of us did, and the measure of a man is what you do with all of that. You can fold and take your ball and go home and let things be what they are, or you can make a concerted effort to go out there and do everything you can to change the world.