Jay Z made sure you knew who Emory Jones was through song while Jones was incarcerated on drug-related charges. Now a free man, the Roc Nation lifestyle specialist wants to build his own name and reputation within the fashion industry.
Jones earned his nickname “Vegas” scoring big on a Las Vegas trip during his hustling days prior to Jay Z’s rap superstardom. His collaboration with Puma, dubbed “Bet on Yourself,” is an attempt to use winning big as a theme to inspire a positive mindset and encourage people to take a chance on themselves.
“I got the name ‘Vegas’ for all the wrong reasons,” Jones told Footwear News. “I want to send a positive message. I thought about who ‘Vegas’ was and flipped it — casino, gambling, bet on yourself.”
The two-shoe collaboration is executed on Puma’s retro tennis silhouette, the Star, and the Ignite cushioning-infused Dual running style. The project, which also features apparel, is available now on ycmc.com, in Shoe City doors and at the Puma Lab inside Foot Locker’s latest New York City store in Times Square.
The Star and Dual retail for $69.99 and $99.99, respectively.
Before his scheduled speaking engagement on Friday at 5 p.m. ET at Foot Locker’s NYC store on Broadway, Jones spoke with FN about how the association with Jay Z has impacted his perception in the fashion industry, his shoe choices for the “Bet on Yourself” line and the consumer he thinks the collaboration will resonate with.
Footwear News: What kind of consumer is buying the “Bet on Yourself” collection? Who is this made for?
Emory Jones: From the feedback I’ve been getting, it doesn’t have a demographic. You’ve got the corporate guy, for example, like a good friend of mine who owns Eboost, [Josh Taekman]. I help him see sneaker culture through me. Then you’ve got the young kid who sees the message of betting on yourself and says, “That resonates with me.” Females, too. Some of the biggest support I’ve been getting is from females.
You didn’t choose Puma’s most popular silhouettes for this collab. Why opt for the Star and Dual styles?
EJ: It’s easy to go with what’s working. This is about showing people something different. The Star is so strong for them, but I don’t think they realize how strong it is. And I love the Dual sneaker because of Ignite [cushioning]; it’s a comfortable sneaker. Puma was surprised because they never had anyone do a technical sneaker like that; it’s always been a running shoe, and they never thought of it in lifestyle.
How did you come up with the look for the shoe?
EJ: The colorway came from the era I grew up in, the late ’80s and early ’90s, when we wore fatigue jackets and camo [camouflage]. The green is the core, and the blue is the base; I used the blue because it’s like a pair of good blue jeans you could wear with anything. And the red was because it needed a subtle pop.
How has being around Jay Z helped you professionally?
EJ: To have a lead and a brother that has set so much tone for us in culture is a plus. To soak that energy up, to be around him and see how creative his mind is, see how smart he is, is like still being in school. It’s like having the professor with you every day. All you have to do is give me the information and I’m going to run with it. That is a blessing.
Do industry insiders see you as just Jay Z’s friend or do they take you seriously as your own entity within fashion?
EJ: They’re getting to know me personally and how I operate; they’re starting to respect me and understand that I’ve got my own mind, that I’m my own man. But it is a blessing for me to have [Jay Z] as a support system.
How, if at all, do you use your affiliation with Jay Z to your advantage?
EJ: I think sometimes I don’t utilize Jay and my team the way I should. I’m still trying to prove myself. I’m not walking in the door saying, Roc Nation Jay Z. You’re not getting that from me. If you’re looking for that when I walk into your office, I’m walking right out of your office. I’m not using him to my benefit. I stand for something. What we’ve built with our friendship stands for something, and I’m not jeopardizing that.
Did you ever think that you’d be here now, working with Roc Nation and collaborating with Puma, after your incarceration?
EJ: Yes, because that was just a situation; that’s not who I am as a man. Everybody who goes through that type of scenario isn’t a bad person. When I did my time, I never let it discourage me from becoming who I was going to be.