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Clarice Kenny Discusses Air Maxes Relationship With London and Her History In Sneakers

Clarice Kenny Discusses Air Maxes Relationship With London and Her History In Sneakers

Clarice, tell us a little about yourself and what you do

Hello, thanks for having me.

My name is Clarice and I’ve been collecting trainers for quite a while, mainly Air Max but I’ve got a pretty broad collection at this point. I currently work at Crep Protect, it’s great to be able to work in a job that is part and parcel of your interests.

How many sneakers do you currently have in your collection?

Probably too many, 300+, I’ve not counted for a while but easily over 300 pairs.

What’s your favourite pair of sneakers?

My all time favourite ever would have to be Air Max 90 Infrareds, I’d wear that for the rest of my life if I could get unlimited pairs.

You’ve been collecting sneakers for over 10 years, are there any lessons you’ve learnt along the way?

Without sounding cliche, I feel like I was collecting before it was the ‘cool’ thing to do. I’ve always just brought what I liked rather than what was the trend at that moment in time. Nowadays I feel like people buy what's trending or what their favourite celebrity is wearing rather than actually choosing pairs they like. I always seem to manage to grab great pairs in factory stores because some good silhouettes/colourways go totally under the radar because there is no hype about them.

What was it that initially got you into collecting sneakers?

I’ve always been a bit of a tom-boy so growing up I’d always be jealous of my older brother wearing cool trainers, then as soon as I could afford to buy my own pairs it all kind of started! I remember the first pair I’d spent proper money on was a pair of Nike ID Dunk Highs about 13 years ago, though sadly they're long gone now.

Which pair are you still on the hunt for?

I still need to grab the navy pair of the Sacai 90s to complete the pack.

In your size? Collections feature, released in April 2020, you had the OG Air Jordan 2 in there. What do you think of the seemingly newfound hype around the 2s, have you been collecting any?

I think it really highlights the influence of designers within the industry, if Virgil hadn’t chosen a pair of 2s, would people care if Jordan Brand started rereleasing OG colourways? Probably not. Sadly I couldn’t get a pair, they didn’t make them small enough, same with the Unions, no small sizes in the UK! Although I have to say Vashtie is the OG queen of Jordan 2s, I still need to try to get a pair of them too. 

It’s cool to see what can happen just with a fresh outlook to sneaker design, a bit like Teddy Santis with New Balance, he’s brought those silhouettes to a whole new audience.

You’ve been a member of the sneaker community for some time. What to you is the importance of community within sneakers?

I’ve met a lot of good friends through working in the industry, it’s cool to get to know people based on a mutual love for something. It’s cool to be involved in something that so many people have a passion for and I think that is what is important. I feel like I’m in a lucky position where I have the opportunity to work within the industry so I’m fully surrounded by it.

There are platforms like Herstory In Sneakers and Sneakers By Women which are giving women that much-needed voice and influence in the industry that wasn’t always there before. How has your experience faired and have you seen a personal change over time?

100%, it’s wicked to see women being noticed and their voices being heard, the number of pairs I’ve missed out on because brands never made smaller sizes, it’s great to see how many more pairs are inclusive sizing.

Working in a male dominated industry can be frustrating, the number of men that kind of second guess me when I say things isn’t cool, but I feel like a lot of guys are beginning to realise it’s not just a boy's club. Even brands are fully embracing females in footwear and putting out some really exciting women's exclusives and collaborations.

You’re an avid Air Max collector, what is it about Air Max that means it holds such a strong place in your heart? 

I think the fact that pretty much every OG Air Max model has stood the test of time, an Air Max 1, 90 or 95 is equally as cool now as it was when Nike launched the models. And literally anyone and everyone can wear them! I love seeing older people still rocking their 95s because it’s what they’ve worn since day dot.

For Air Max Day 2020, you were a part of Nike’s ‘The Story of Air Max’. I feel like I’ve watched it 100 times over being such a big Air Max fan myself. Tell me a bit more about that experience.

Haha I’m glad you liked it!

It was cool you know, someone from Nike reached out and I didn’t really think too much of it. Next minute I was on a flight to Amsterdam straight to a studio to film all day. It was wicked to be involved in such a mega project that genuinely is something I’m passionate about.

Getting the opportunity to chat about Air Max and its cultural relevance across the globe with some of the sneaker industry greats was an amazing experience.

With regards to Air Max, and a number of other sneaker lineages, it feels like the 90s - early 2000s was the golden era. What’s your stance on current sneaker releases and what can brands be doing better, if anything? 

It was the golden era! Brands currently seem to see a slight bit of interest in one model/colourway then just don’t stop. Don’t flood the market, keep silhouettes sought after. 97s had their resurgence a few years back, the Silver Bullet was a hard pair to get in 2016, six months later and you could pick a pair up off the shelf.

In 'The Story of Air Max’, you talk about how it can feel like some of the older generations are effectively gatekeeping sneaker culture. How important to you is it to give back and teach the next generation coming into the industry?

I think it's pretty different now compared to how it was, everyone can easily find out what they want to know about any shoe straight from the internet, and you’ve got Instagram pages like ArchiveDNA and hartcopy that bring this to light. The industry has changed massively over the years but people's love and interest in trainers is still the same, sharing knowledge is all part of the sense of community.

How do you think the UK, and perhaps London in particular, has been able to have such a close relationship with Air Max culture?

I think the specific music genres synonymous with London have been a massive factor. Grime artists bursting onto the scene wearing Air Maxes, a massive contrast from the head to toe designer aesthetic of Garage; this was something people were able to associate with. Nike tracksuits were much more attainable than a Moschino shirt with matching jeans. The Roll Deep ‘When I’m Here’ video with everyone wearing a full black tracksuit is iconic, then Dizzee in his BWs on the Boy in Da Corner album cover… These are things that people identify as ‘London’ and in turn street culture which Air Max had a massive impact on. I was in Chicago a few years ago wearing a pair of 90s and someone in the Jordan store was like you must be from London wearing those out here. I hadn’t even spoken yet but it shows what an impact Air Max and the culture surrounding them has had globally.

If you weren’t working in the sneaker industry, what would you be doing?

A good question, I have a degree in Graphic Design so I think I'd probably be doing something along those lines. Although once upon a time I wanted to be a jockey, so who knows!

I’m always interested to know, if you had your own sneaker collaboration, what would it be and what would it look like?

I’d love an Air Max 90; maybe all suede, all one tone with the soles matching the uppers and the laces. Minimal but nice still. Or a Jordan 3 would be cool.

What does the future of sneakers hold in your opinion?

I think more and more brands are focusing on sustainability and the part that plays in consumers' choice. It’ll be cool to watch adidas and Nike expand their sustainable outputs and explore materials and their uses, that’s really where the futures at. Along with other outlets that could push customers to become more responsible for what they’re actually purchasing; excessive buying is pretty prominent within the industry at the minute. I’ve definitely been buying less pairs as I become more conscious of these kinds of things.

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