Perhaps most suitably named the footwear industryâ€™s rollercoaster brand, L.A. Gear has seen extreme success and extreme failure since its inception in 1983. Endorsed in the past by athletes including Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, and artists Michael Jackson and Paula Abdul, L.A. Gear grew to $830 million in sales within seven years. The brand fell apart just as quickly declaring bankruptcy in 1998. Owned by ACI International (who also owns Original Penguin, Perry Ellis, and other fashion brands), L.A. Gear is trying to make a come back by relaunching retro styles from 1989-1990. Behind the project is Lance Jackson, son of L.A. Gear owner Steven Jackson. Working with the company for just under two years, Jackson Jr. is staking claim over this retro-surgence, but will he bring L.A. Gear back into the limelight?
“Authenticity is the single most important aspect of this project.”
Format: How are you involved with L.A. Gear.
Lance Jackson: I am the Director of Specialty Product for L.A. Gear. Since I started working for L.A. Gear two years ago, I took the initiative and pushed to bring back some L.A. Gear originals. And here we are today with some of the classic styles from the â€˜Unstoppableâ€™ line being re-launched at Sportie LA.
Format: How did your personal relationship with the company come about and how long have you been with the brand?
Lance Jackson: My personal relationship with the company is with my father, Steven Jackson, who has been the CEO of ACI International for over thirty years. I have been working on L.A Gear for almost two years now.
Format: Youâ€™re reproducing L.A. Gearâ€™s â€˜Unstoppableâ€™ sneakers featuring stitch-by-stitch reproductions.
Lance Jackson: Yes, we have reproduced these styles stitch-by-stitch from the â€˜Unstoppableâ€™ line. Authenticity is the single most important aspect of this project. I wanted to bring back the same L.A. Gear shoes that existed back in 1989-1990. When I first looked at the catalogues and the old shoes we have in the archives, I was completely intrigued and ready to wear these shoes.
Format: How did you team up with Sportie LA for this collaboration?
Lance Jackson: L.A. Gear and Sportie LA are both located in Los Angeles. Sportie LA is the coolest shoe store in LA and they have a great feel for the history of L.A. Gear. Sportie LA just seemed like a natural fit for the relaunch of L.A. Gearâ€™s â€˜Unstoppable.â€™
Format: Youâ€™re coming out with the Fire High, the Star Shooter High, the Flame High and the K.A.J. Which one of these relaunches is your personal favorite and why?
Lance Jackson: It is tough for me to decide which of these styles is my favorite because, when choosing which styles to be included in the relaunch, I decided to use many of my favorites. But if I had to choose just one, I would have to go with the Fire High because of it being the most iconic and historic style along with its extremely unique look.
Format: What does K.A.J. stand for?
Lance Jackson: The names of the sneakers are exactly as they were in 1889-1990. K.A.J. stands for the initials of a famous basketball player sponsored by L.A. Gear at the time.
Format: Why did you feel like it was time to bring these classics back?
Lance Jackson: Many of the major brands have run their course in bringing back their retro styles. We did not fall in the trap of doing retro just for the sake of doing retro. We feel like now is an appropriate time as it is the 20th anniversary of the â€˜Unstoppableâ€™ line. It gives consumers who were too young at the time a chance to experience what L.A. Gear is all about. At the same time, it is very exciting for consumers who owned and had a passion for these sneakers to be able to rock them again.
Format: L.A. Gear has seen major success and major failure. What is the most important thing youâ€™ve learnt from your industry experience?
Lance Jackson: I have learned that the tradition and history of L.A. Gear is the single most important aspect of the brand. I have learned that if we stay authentic and true to the heritage, you can create a lot of excitement and anticipation for the relaunch of many of L.A. Gearâ€™s iconic styles.
Format: L.A. Gear has lost steam over the years. What is up with the resurgence right now?
Lance Jackson: We are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the â€˜Unstoppableâ€™ line right now and feel like it is the right time for the relaunch.
Format: Talk about the license plate tag. What have made these tags such a tradition?
Lance Jackson: When L.A. Gear started in the 1980â€™s, it created a California license plate hangtag. It became a collectorâ€™s item and something to be expected on many L.A. Gear shoes over the years. Again, we are keeping the authenticity of the brand.
Format: Talk about L.A. Lights. Please describe the relaunch and when will these be released?
Lance Jackson: L.A. Lights is among one of the classic L.A. Gear styles and perhaps the most memorable. The topic of bringing back L.A. Tech (light ups) creates amazing excitement and anticipation among consumers and fans of L.A. Gear. The relaunch of L.A. Tech is currently in the works and we plan to release in the next L.A. Gear line.
Format: What are you working on right now at L.A. Gear? What project are you most excited about?
Lance Jackson: Currently we are working on bringing back additional styles from the â€˜Unstoppableâ€™ line and some other classic styles that came about in the early 90â€™s. I am most excited about the L.A. Tech project as it is already receiving a lot of hype.
Format: Where will L.A. Gear be in 20 years from now?
Lance Jackson: L.A. Gear will be celebrating its 40th anniversary of the â€˜Unstoppableâ€™ line 20 years from now.
More Info: www.lagear.com.