It didn’t take long for him to make waves in the footwear industry. With the encouragement of business partner and NBA agent Sean Davis, John Geiger, a Los Angeles transplant, launched his eponymous lifestyle brand in 2017.
Since then, his sporty-yet-luxurious sneakers have become favorites of today’s most stylish athletes and musicians. NFL star Odell Beckham Jr., Los Angeles Laker Kyle Kuzma and singer Teyana Taylor are just a few names on his celebrity client roster.
His rapid ascent, however, hasn’t come without challenges.
Geiger realized wholesale isn’t for him, for instance. After a few months, displeased with the nuances of retail, he pulled his shoes from Barneys’ shelves in Japan, New York and L.A. Now, his brand is strictly direct-to-consumer.
And the designer has weathered accusations of selling shoes too aesthetically similar to those of other designers.
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Here, Geiger addresses criticisms, gets candid about retail and shares a glimpse into the future of his business.
Footwear News: Why produce your footwear in L.A.?
John Geiger: “Because I’m a madman and I have to go there every day. I’ll sleep there sometimes. I had production in China and I moved production to Italy one time and I was like, ‘This isn’t going to work.’ I get to change things last minute — within minutes of releasing. Being hands on is the No. 1 thing.”
Will you ever deviate from your DTC strategy?
JG: “I’m not saying no, it just would be on my terms. I would maybe do a Yeezy or Jerry Lorenzo type of thing where, if you want the footwear, you have to take the full collection of clothing.”
Are there plans to open branded stores or pop-ups?
JG: “Right now, [stores] would go against everything I believe in about retail. I believe retail is dying on the route that it’s going. You walk around SoHo [in New York] and see these stores and you’re like, ‘How are they paying rent?’ The foot traffic is not there. If we did do it, instead of being a flagship store, it would be a creative or co-working space. I just don’t believe in straight retail.”
How did you get embedded in the athlete and celebrity world?
JG: “That’s the most organic part of the brand. I never pushed it on these people. I never messaged or emailed a stylist and said, ‘Let’s get these on this person.’ Ninety-five percent of the celebrities you see wearing [my shoes] paid for them. Sometimes, I’ll go into the orders and I’ll see the names and they’re buying five pairs. Then I’ll see a video of them handing the sneakers out in the locker room. I’ll email them and be like, ‘Hey, here’s a discount code for next time.’”
Who were the first big names to wear your shoes?
JG: “I would say Wale and Teyana early on.”
How do you deal with copycat criticism as your profile grows?
JG: “Just ignore everybody. I’ve built a very tough skin. No guy making shoes is going to say I copied him or copied this and [it would stop me from selling] the shoes. What they’re saying is not real, so it never holds up. If I hand you a sole and you hand me the same sole, I can look at it and say, ‘I can out-design you and outsell you, I guarantee that.’ I don’t let those things bother me. I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing and keep proving everybody wrong.”
Who do you measure yourself against?
JG: “The people I look up to businesswise are Jerry Lorenzo and Mike Amiri. What Mike Amiri has been able to do over the past two years — that’s mind-blowing to me. [And John Geiger] is direct-to-consumer, made in the USA, independent. It’s the same with Jerry, so I respect him.”
What are your plans for Paris Fashion Week in January?
JG: “I’m showing the [first] full John Geiger collection — clothing, accessories and footwear. I’ve been wearing a lot of it in [Instagram] pictures, so people are starting to catch on.”
Do you plan to launch new categories outside of footwear and apparel?
JG: “I’m going to work on furniture and I’m currently working on hotels. I’m going to be an owner [and] I’m designing the lobby and a couple of rooms. It’s basically a co-working space with a hotel [and we’ll] have releases at it. We’ll probably start in Pittsburgh because that’s where I’m from and the land there is really cheap. It’s Pittsburgh, then L.A. and Miami. We’re going through the whole buildout now and [planning to open in] 2021.”
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