Kick Game Proper: Jon Buscemi Talks Luxury Sneakers, Creating A Footwear Brand, Lessons Learned & More

By Ru Porter on
June 27, 2016

In a brief conversation while traveling between Los Angeles, Paris, and Italy, Jon Buscemi broke down the game for all the aspiring sneakerheads on the come up. He recalls his experience with DC Shoes, Gourmet and even shares some of the lessons learned along the way. Continue reading to learn how Jon flipped his passion for skateboard shoes into serious paper.

 

UH: You started off decking out new era hats in sequins back in the day, and with Buscemi you took a sneaker and added a luxurious touch. Is the clashing of urban and mainstream cultures something of importance to you?

JB: Fashion houses have been taking luxurious design and concepts to the street with basketball inspired high top sneakers for years. They’ve been inspired by what I’ve have been doing/ living for decades; I’m just reversing the roles, taking what we do every day and producing it in a luxury type fashion. The clashing of cultures is at the core of my brand.

 

UH: Coming from Wall Street, and the luxury lifestyle that surrounds it—from the private dinners and expensive watches—did that culture influence your interest in fashion at all in any way?

JB: Wall Street didn’t influence my fashion sense or style at all as this was molded way earlier on.  I think Wall Street had more to do with my motivations and aspirations. I was surrounded with people with tons of money and bad taste. Being born with taste was a gift and the streets I grew up in were the real catalyst, not the other street.

 

UH: Your previous post as international product line manager for DC Shoes allowed you to travel extensively across the world. How did those experiences inform your taste for fashion and design?

JB: I owe my entire career to my beginnings at DC. The opportunity that was given to me is beyond priceless and opened my eyes very wide. I think the taste level was set, but when you have read about certain things or have been into certain specific things, and you have the actual opportunity to see them in there native land far from NY, it makes that taste or like become real.

 

 

UH: Describe a typical day in the Buscemi office from start to finish. What is the process like for creating a new collection and where do you source your materials from?

JB: The typical day at Buscemi HQ in LA is filled with our sales and marketing team along with our executive staff meeting and working on our seasonal business. We have 2 other offices, one in Paris which is the hub for our global sales team and showrooms and one in the Marche in central Italy which houses our entire design and development team. We create our new collections in a combination of the LA and Marche offices. Obviously each and every piece in the collection is made from a locally sourced material from Italy whether it is leather or hardware etc…

 

UH: Throughout the span of your career in men’s footwear, you co-founded both Buscemi and Gourmet, and also ran Greats brand. Describe the differences between each company and the lessons learned from working there.

JB: Gourmet was one of — if not — the most amazing learning experiences of my life in business. The epitome of what  not to do when running a business and the most important lesson of life: never do business with your friends. Without this experience Buscemi would not be what it is. I made every mistake possible and learned from them and never did them again.  Buscemi is the clean slate and we have built and hand picked the best talent in the world to run this company.

 

UH: You’re well-connected in Hip-Hop. Diddy and Swizz Beatz are some of your clients, and most recently Ja Rule was spotted in your limited edition 100MM crimson palm print mid-tops,which aren’t available the the public. Basketball players are also huge supporters of your brand. During All-Star Weekend in Toronto, John Wall was seen practicing in what appears to be your first performance based sneaker. Can fans look forward to a John Wall x Buscemi collaboration in the future or will basketball silhouettes be the next step for you moving forward?

JB: John is a friend of mine and a big supporter. Stay tuned we are always working on things together…

 

 

UH: Without revealing your plug, tell me a little about your strategy for purchasing rare finds for your sneaker collection. Do you shop at brick and mortars, online or buy factory direct?

JB: The collection is closed. I haven’t been active other than getting things I like from Nike, HTM and Adidas. Nothing is rare or true finds anymore; the jig is up.

 

UH: Sports and footwear aside, I read online that you drive a 1983 911 SC Porsche Targa. Are you as big of a car enthusiast as you are a sneakerhead? If so, name some of your favorite car manufactures.

JB: I’ve been into cars and researching cars since high school, a little later than the sneaker addiction. I am a big Porsche fan and I do drive one. I also drive a 2016 Brabus G63 G-Wagon as my daily driver and  just picked up a very rare (in the US anyway) 1985 Fiat Campagnola 4×4. It was Italy’s answer to the Defender 90.

 

UH: I am a big fan of luxury sports cars as well as kicks. And what I rock on my feet not only depends on the outfit, but the mood I’m in also. Would you agree that similar rules apply to driving?

JB: Of course, that’s rule 101 when getting the outfit together.

 

UH: Drop some knowledge for aspiring sneaker designers who know nothing about the business except the fact they love kicks and want to be part of the community. What are the keys to achieving success, and what’s the best way to enter the luxury sneaker market?

JB: I cannot think of an answer to this question or be able to answer honestly. I lived to my entire life to get to this point and I didn’t just wake up one day and say “hey I want to start a luxury brand”. It was a graduation from what I was doing before.  I think there are so little brands in the space because the road to get here was so unique. If you are an aspiring sneaker designer I would start at the very beginning where I did.  Work for others and listen and learn. More listening though.…

 

UH: In business, you’re only as powerful as your network of people. Are relationships in various industries the most important thing when achieving success?

JB: Relationships are of course important when achieving success but I think authenticity is what made me who I am.