Having discovered a love of sneaker culture during college, Izzy Lugo knew a career in the industry was something he wanted. After years in adjacent worlds, including stints with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Milwaukee Brewers, Lugo found his voice by uplifting the voices of others.
Lugo’s “Strange on Purpose” podcast launched in 2018, beginning as a group endeavor with several of his friends, where they simply interviewed people they thought were cool. However, after assuming control of the podcast in October 2020, Lugo altered its goal, making it a home for impactful stories of people who are “shattering the glass ceilings of culture.”
“Most podcasts these days look to interview the biggest and brightest, but I have always wondered who helped them get there. That’s who I want to have on the show,” Lugo explained. “The DACA recipient at Adidas who didn’t think they’d ever accomplish their dream or the illustrator who started drawing as a form of therapy who now has a book with Jennifer Lopez.”
He continued, “In some ways my original vision was selfish. I wanted to create something for myself. But as time went on, I realized the power of creating this as a platform for my guests, and that’s what pushes me every day.”
Those stories also often put a spotlight on roles within the industry that some may not know existed.
“For so long, I thought the only way of getting into the footwear and fashion industries was to be a designer — and I knew I wasn’t alone in thinking that way,” Lugo said. “‘Strange on Purpose’ shows the next generation of creatives what’s possible through stories from industry professionals who have been in their shoes.”
Although the conversations on “Strange on Purpose” are meant to inform listeners, Lugo said often his favorite moments come from the conversations with guests after the episodes are taped.
“This has happened a few times but after someone reviews their episode, they say, ‘Wow, I really have accomplished a lot.’ Recording with me and reviewing the episode forces guests to stop and reflect on all they have accomplished and it never gets old. I love hearing that,” Lugo said.
Looking ahead, he believes the ways people can consume “Strange on Purpose” will evolve.
“I would love to continue amplifying stories of creatives. Whether that’s on the show or through live events, there are a few ways for the show to grow and also directly impact talent pipelines within brands,” Lugo said. “I just want that next generation of creatives to be in the know about all the different opportunities within these industries because I never knew how many there were.”
This year, Lugo added another job to his resume, joining sneaker trading platform Tradeblock as its head of community partnerships in March.
“I joined Tradeblock because I believed in the vision the founders shared with me on ‘Strange on Purpose’ in July of 2021. The power of a bunch of sneaker connoisseurs to build a platform for a community like us brought me here and I cannot wait to see what the future has in store for the brand,” Lugo said.
Although accomplished himself, Lugo said there are countless Hispanic men and women who have inspired him throughout his sneaker journey, but he offered three names who have been especially inspirational: Nicolle Nicosia Polanco, Adidas assistant category manager of Hype; photographer Oscar Castillo; and Adidas Basketball senior brand strategy project manager Edwin Martinez-Garcia.
Lugo is quick to acknowledge his peers, and looking ahead he said he would like the broader public to educate themselves more on the incredibly talented Hispanic men and women in footwear.
“It might not seem like it sometimes, but there are a lot of us in and around brands, and just because you may not see room, it doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Everyone that I’ve spoken to has been more than willing to help. Sometimes all you have to do is ask,” Lugo said.