“Kith is one of those things where if you know, you know."
The brand's founder, Ronnie Fieg, 34, said this days before the sneaker and athleisure store marks its fifth anniversary with a mega-show called Kithland during New York Fashion Week. It's the first and biggest endeavor for the company, and will feature over 75 men’s and women’s looks divided between three collections: city, beach, and mountain. Plus, collaborations with almost 25 different names ranging from Off-White and Bathing Ape to Power Rangers and Rugrats, as well as help from fashion fixtures like stylist Eugene Tong, casting director Kevin Amato, and creative director Nate Brown, who just wrapped up working on the Yeezy and Formation tours. In sum, the event aims to bring the rest of America up to speed with the past, present, and future of the Kith family.
Since 2011, Kith has gained a loyal following at its two stores, which are located in Soho and downtown Brooklyn — the latter also features a cereal bar with sugary concoctions chosen by Maxwell Osborne, Daniel Arsham, and Virgil Abloh. Fieg's original mission was to curate a haven for high-fashion sneakerheads, and he's since gone on to build an athleisure empire with fashionable fans like Gigi Hadid, hip-hop stars like Fabolous, and pro-athletes like Kobe Bryant — the ultimate trifecta for any company.
"I believe that fashion is smarter than ever before," Fieg said. "And comfort plays a huge part in that. But I also feel like the look of comfort doesn’t stand for what it did five years ago. It’s been refined. Kith likes to be right in the middle: The guy that’s super high fashion can come down to where we are to look a little more contemporary and casual, but we would also love to teach.”
Born in Jamaica, Queens, Fieg has made a name for himself as a master collaborator of both people and brands, with over 20 years in the footwear business. At the age of 13, he got in on the ground floor at the footwear chain David Z as an enthusiastic stock boy, eventually working his way up to head buyer. During his time with the company, he introduced new athletic brands like Asics and developed relationships that allowed for exclusive, custom shoes to be stocked. Today, he has had a hand in designing over 50 different pairs of sneakers himself — a number that almost no one else in the business can touch, making him the ultimate collab kingpin.
“I’m almost sick of hearing the word collaboration," Fieg said. As someone who's been amassing a collection of brands since he was a teenager, this now-trendy business model of outsourcing different pieces for a collection, which Vetements did recently for its couture show, is nothing new. "Almost everything is a collaboration," Fieg continued. "But for me, it’s about what hits home, and the Kith brand has a legacy. What the brand stands for is a lot more than we can make ourselves.”
For Spring 2017, Kith is giving customers everything its got. For example, Fieg has sourced the best jacket lining from Nishikawa Down in Japan. He's rebuilding the classic "Bapesta" shoe at a factory in Portugal. And he's bringing Iceberg back to the States. "Rugrats and Power Rangers are such a small piece of the show," Fieg explained. He included these names merely as throwback to the 90s, (the "most influential" years of his life) in order to give a full picture of himself and his taste, which is a direct reflection of the Kith DNA.
"The brand has always been an extension of myself," Fieg said. "And lot of the opportunities to bring brands and styles back have stemmed from my past. This show is a summary of the brand and brings together everything to demonstrate what we’ve become."
Looking forward, Fieg also hopes that this is the beginning of a new retail experience for the brand. “Retail around the world has been stale to me,” he said. “I don’t want to sound arrogant, but our business is healthy. This isn’t about sales. This is about giving back to the people who have supported us and exciting the market and the consumer. I’m always interested in what brands can give me besides product. What sticks in your memory? Products come and go, but good experiences last."
Fieg might be the only man capable of saving athleusire from its anticipated death with a jolt of this scale, but the fashion world have to wait until next Tuesday to see what he's got up his sleeve.