In honor of Black History Month, FN is recognizing African-American movers and shakers in the shoe industry. From rising stars to accomplished executives, here’s how they’re making waves and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.
Patrick Buchanan didn’t plan on landing a career in footwear. But the business has been good to him since entering in 2009.
After graduating from Western Kentucky University with a degree in journalism and broadcasting, Buchanan moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the field. But when the opportunities didn’t come as quickly as he needed them to, he looked for a job to stay afloat and landed a social media marketing position with then-burgeoning fashion sneaker label Creative Recreation.
Although he believed this would be temporary, he ended up staying with the brand until November 2016, carving out a solid reputation as a valuable resource in the process. Today, Buchanan is a leader at K-Swiss Global Brands, serving as the company’s global marketing director.
What made you want to pursue a career in the shoe industry?
“I never imagined a career in footwear. From early on, I wanted to be a journalist. I moved to Los Angeles to pursue those dreams. Like most of the struggling actors and models in L.A., I needed extra cash and found a ‘temporary gig’ at Creative Recreation. At the time, it was one of the hottest brands out. Every celebrity from Kanye West to Zac Efron stopped by our Sunset Boulevard showroom. I was amazed how much shoes connected us. My team, who I’m still very close with today, became my family. We partied hard and worked even harder — sometimes the other way around. I honestly never looked back. Ten years later, I think footwear pursued me.”
What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced along the way?
“Moving over to run marketing at K-Swiss was a pretty big challenge. I can remember the look of confusion on people’s faces when I made the announcement, like, ‘Why are you doing that?’ I’ll never forget meeting with the K-Swiss president, Barney Waters, and him gushing about the new K-Swiss. It had been somewhat forgotten and hadn’t done very much marketing in the years prior. After eight years at Creative Recreation, it was just the challenge I was looking for.”
How did you handle the challenge?
“We put our blood sweat and tears into an entrepreneur campaign we called Generation K. We highlighted entrepreneurs as the new heroes, something no other footwear brand had done. While other brands were signing big athletes and music stars, we found young hustlers and business people, like Karen Civil and Gary Vaynerchuk. While not the most popular approach initially, the feedback has been undeniable and overwhelming.”
What advice would you give to your younger self?
“I’m grateful to the younger, more energetic — and thinner — me for bringing me this far in my life. I try to live by the advice I give each week on my Dash radio show, encouraging everyone not to overthink it and enjoy the ride. Get your life and live your life.”
Best advice for other African Americans looking to enter the shoe industry?
“My first job in fashion was as an intern — a real ‘start from the bottom, now we’re here’ situation. You can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and pay your dues. It usually doesn’t happen overnight, so be patient and enjoy the process. It is also very important to network and find great mentors who have a seat at the table and can help guide you along your journey.”
More From This Series:
Black History Month Spotlight: Shoe Industry Veteran Noel Hord
Black History Month Spotlight: Naturalizer VP of Design Angelique Joseph