Ronnie Fieg is inarguably one of the most influential figures in sneaker culture today, but the Kith founder and CEO’s gift for product extends well beyond athletic kicks — a fact he proved this year with a diverse set of head-turning collaborations.
There was a sandal hybrid with Filling Pieces and a military boot with Fear of God, plus a series of luxurious Fracap hikers that debuted on the Kith Sport catwalk in New York in September.
Other highlights from the wide-ranging runway collection included collaborative styles with Clarks, Vasque, Moncler, Timberland, Asics, Nike and Adidas.
“I was really passionate about shoes from such an early age that I have love for all types of footwear, which makes me unique in the marketplace,” said Fieg, who will be honored tonight at the FN Achievement Awards as Collaborator of the Year. “The market is a fickle place when you step down from doing things for the right reasons. So it’s always a common factor in everything I work on that it needs to come from the right place, it needs to mean something.”
One project that was deeply personal for Fieg was his Nike collab. The retailer and the athletic brand united for the first time this year to reimagine two signature sneakers worn by NBA icon Scottie Pippen: the Maestro II and the Pippen 1.
“I grew up in Queens [in the 1990s], and me and my friends were very passionate about Scottie because everybody was representing Jordan, and we thought we would create our own vibe by wearing Scottie shoes,” recalled Fieg.
He noted that over the years, Pippen’s basketball silhouettes had never been translated into hit lifestyle shoes, so he set that as his task.
“The way the Maestro II was shaped was a bit outdated, so we wanted to narrow the last, refine the upper,” said Feig. “But at the same time, we designed the upper for asymmetrical lacing and a medial side zip, and we extended the collar.”
He also developed a strong narrative around the shoes, choosing design elements that referenced key moments in Pippen’s career. And as a promotion, Fieg directed his first video, which aired on ESPN and starred Pippen and his son in a tale that bridges past and present.
“It’s that nostalgic feel that goes into every collaboration that I work on, which brings more meaning than just a product,” said Fieg. “There’s a story behind everything we do.”
Charles Williams, VP of Nike Sportswear footwear, praised the Kith founder’s deliberate approach: “He feels a responsibility, as do I, to add on to the culture and make sure that the things we’re doing are going to be received favorably and will stand the test of time.” Williams added that one reason for Fieg’s success is keen attention to detail. “[With the Pippen project], he had a point of view on how the most minute detail was going to come to life. And I thought: That’s what creators do.”
Steve Gardner, GM of lifestyle at longtime collab partner New Balance, agreed, adding: “In working with Ronnie, we have seen someone who has a great vision of the future, with a strong affinity for the past. His knowledge of the business, combined with his closeness to the consumer, makes him a unique force in the industry.”
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