Ronnie Fieg is taking his love of Clarks Originals to the next level.
In an FN exclusive, the Kith founder and longtime Clarks fan and collaborator, reveals the details around his biggest project yet with the iconic shoemaker.
Fieg is launching 8th Street, a label within Clarks Originals that will feature original silhouettes of his design, highlighting its time-honored craftsmanship. Carrying the title of category creator, he details the first of two silhouettes — dubbed the Lockhill and the Sandford — slated for an April launch.
The collection’s name plays off Fieg’s history in the shoe business and his powerful connection to the Clarks’ name.
“8th Street is where it all started for me. If you ask anyone over the age of 35 who lived in the city, that was the epicenter of footwear in New York, maybe even the world,” said Fieg, who got his start in the David Z stockroom at 13 years old. “It was a very influential block where people automatically knew to go when they wanted to see the newest footwear that was offered. And it wasn’t necessarily something that they shopped for that they knew they wanted. It’s where they went to see new things. There was no social media, so you would have to go in person and ask, ‘Hey, what’s new?’ It’s such a f**king crazy thing to think about today.”
Fieg told FN that period has informed his work ever since.
“I was very fortunate to be part of that era of helping some of these stars before they were megastars, just shopping and not necessarily having their styles set but creating their style on that block,” he said. “I was there, helping Lauryn Hill with her first pair of Gore-Tex boots, I was there helping Wu-Tang buy all of their Wallabees, I was there when Diddy and Ma$e bought the Dolomites that they wore in the ‘Been Around the World’ video and Jay-Z was coming every week to buy a new pair of Timbs, and Big Pun was coming in with Fat Joe. This is an era that I will never, ever forget.”
As he spoke about the new project, Fieg revealed that Clarks has been a constant inspiration for him since the beginning.
“I was in love with Clarks since day one in 1995, it was a passion for Clarks specifically because it had all different groups of people, nationalities,” Fieg told FN. “The people who were shopping on 8th Street back then was a mix, it was a melting pot of different nationalities and styles and groups of people, and it was really inspiring.”
He continued, “The Jamaicans would come in for the Desert Boots and the grungy, alternative kids would come in for the Desert Treks, and everyone was coming in for Wallabees — the hip-hop community was coming in for Wallabees, specifically. I was helping Wu-Tang, Raekwon and Ghost were coming in and getting them custom dyed up the block. We were getting this incredible ethnic mix, everyone was buying into Clarks but were buying into the brand for a different reason.”
The new 8th Street color palettes are sure to resonate with both Kith fans and Clarks’ longtime consumers. For starters, Clarks Originals fans will recognize the maple suede — reminiscent of the sand Wallabee suede — on some of the silhouettes. Also, Fieg used colors Kith consumers have loved during its first 10 years of business as well as hues reminiscent of those used on his special projects while at David Z.
Fieg also revealed to FN the highly-detailed touches that will define 8th Street. Styles released this year will feature a Pegasus logo, which represents the 10-year anniversary of Kith (a nod to the Kith Academy collection from 2014), graphics on the shoeboxes that serve as nods to important cities in the Clarks Originals timeline, the return of Clarks’ “Trek Man” emblem and more.
What’s more, Fieg told FN that the new collection echoes his under-the-radar World of Niché, an appointment-only space he opened in 2016 which sold silhouettes he created without using his name. Similarly, the partnership with Clarks Originals offers Fieg a platform to deliver luxury product through his lens, a desire that had not waned since World of Niché.
“In 2014, I had this idea of starting a collection of footwear that was the bridge between shoes and athletic footwear. Handmade shoes in Portugal and Italy, I wanted success to be built off of the product itself and not of marketing, as social media was starting to peak,” Fieg explained. “I had this idea of building a space and selling a collection of nine SKUs — three different silhouettes and three colorways of each silhouette — every season, every quarter. I would make a limited amount, I think I was making 100 pairs per SKU, and it was appointment-only in the space that I built with Daniel Arsham. This is the first time I’m telling this story, no one even knows that it was me because I wanted no affiliation, I didn’t want people to buy the product off of any affiliation. I wanted people to buy the product for the product itself.”
He continued, “I opened up the space in 2016 and it was the most incredible feeling for me because it was the first time I did that on my own, it was the first footwear project that was mine that I was fully designing and in control of, and it taught me a lot with shoemaking. It was taking up a lot of my time and it did really well, the shoes sold really well, all the shoes sold out, but at the time the apparel for the brand was taking off, men’s and women’s, kids’ was just starting, the in-house apparel was really taking off, so I decided to close it down after a year and focus on Kith product. I believe that was ahead of its time in the sense of what people were looking for in footwear.”
Under the deal, Fieg said he will create two new silhouettes each season. The Lockhill and Sandford will debut with in colorways each, and will arrive in all Kith doors and via Kith.com on April 16. Retail price for the shoes is $220.