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Shoe Palace Taps Sneaker Industry Veteran Frank Cooke as Creative Director

Shoe Palace has tapped one of the most respected talents in sneakers as its creative director.

Frank Cooke, whose resume boasts stints at Jordan Brand and boutique retailer Wish ATL, has assumed the creative director role of the JD Sports Fashion PLC-owned company. In this position, Cooke will be tasked with driving partnerships, working on special make ups (SMUs) and collaborations, and more.

Since leaving Jordan Brand in October 2018, Cooke has worked freelance, helping retailers and celebrities bring their collaborative visions to life. His freelance resume includes work with Shoe Palace, among several others. Also, Cooke has become a prominent voice in the fight for racial equity in the industry, positioned at the forefront of conversations surrounding the barriers that exist.

Here, Cooke reveals to FN why he joined the Shoe Palace team and his plans now in the creative director seat.

During past conversations you’ve had with FN, you’ve said the corporate structure of the footwear industry is difficult to navigate, identifying it as a barrier that exists in expanding opportunities for African Americans. Why did you choose to jump back in the corporate world with Shoe Palace?

“Here, I feel like I have a voice. I feel like this is a way to truly talk to the consumer and give them what’s needed. In this economic climate, changes are going to come forth and I think we need to focus on serving the people.”

What makes Shoe Palace a place you were willing to call your professional home?

“The Mersho family [founders of Shoe Palace] has always been rooted in community. That’s a big thing right now in the footwear industry, but with them it has been truly genuine for years. That’s one thing that drew me into working with them. And it’s cool that not everything is covered. It’s not always in the media or on the blogs or anything like that. Also, a lot of the stores are in neighborhoods that have minority communities, and they authentically serve the consumer.”

Who is the Shoe Palace consumer?

“The consumer it’s the true, genuine, day-to-day consumer actually wearing the shoes and putting them together with daily outfits. I love that the product is lived in, you know what I mean? A lot of the merchandise is lived in, for sure, both footwear and apparel.”

Since leaving Jordan Brand, you kept busy with freelance projects, including several with Shoe Palace. What gave you the confidence that leaving the freelance life behind for this full-time role was the right decision?

“I feel like their consumer and who I want to speak to was a fit. I’ve done a bunch of the boutique specialty things, I’ve done a ton of smaller projects, I’ve done a ton of friends-and-family. Now, it’s just time to kind of expand the palette, if you will. There is no more mall kid to me, you know what I mean? People still try to use that term, but everybody has all the sneaker information. You can’t separate the cool kids from the mall kid anymore. We’re all together, and I’ve always looked at consumers and products that way, that everyone should be able to enjoy it.”

What has been your favorite Shoe Palace freelance project to work on? 

“The [‘Bubba Chuck’ Reebok] Question with [Allen] Iverson [in July 2020]. We were all locked down through the pandemic and shoe sold through during those hard times. Zooming with Allen Iverson, the colorway and the story — it was a pretty cool story, it was super cohesive for the times. People loved the idea of him fishing, and nature was a thing at the time with people going fishing by themselves. It was a lot of fun to work on. We will be working on the 30th anniversary of Shoe Palace in 2023, there will be a whole collection of different things.”

How will you help Shoe Palace further standout in the ultracompetitive sneaker landscape?

“First off, the team — [lead designer] Jo DeGuzman and [product lead] Bryan Tang — they’ve always brought great perspective to all their products in the SMUs. Us three — and [brand collaborations, licensing and partnerships Jason] Dooley — when we come together as a team, it just enhances it, it goes to the next level. I love what Shoe Palace has already done with their platform, having a different perspective, seeing the consumer as one and not putting things in a box, like this is specialty, this is mall kid. Everything should have a story, everything should have purpose behind it not only for the business to grow but for the industry to grow and see things as a whole.”

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