Nothing like the common sneaker brand, Creative Recreation looks towards runways and high fashion around the world for inspiration. Launched in Orange County, California in 2002, Creative Recreation sought to fill a void within the footwear market.
To co-founders, Robert Nand and Rich Cofinco, there was a clear gap between unsightly athletic sneakers and stuffy dress shoes, thinking that it had been a virtually untouched market. The gap was so grand that they didnâ€™t even feel the need to define a particular demographic. â€œWe donâ€™t have a demographic,â€ tells Nand. â€œWe want to be known as a company that makes footwear. We do everything we can to not get stuck in one demographic or another.â€
â€œWe pay very close attention to runway fashion trends. The major reason for doing so is due to the fact that most new materials out are debuted through these shows.â€
Format: â€œWe make shoes for our lifestyle, rather we make shoes for life with style.â€ How do you achieve this?
Nand: The first and most important inspiration for us is our travels. We are in Asia about three times a year, Europe twice a year and New York at least three times a year. Secondly, we really try to be original with every collection. And thirdly, we really try to just focus on creating each line specifically for us.
Format: Who came up with the name and logo for Creative Recreation?
Nand: [The name] just came to us the day we decided to start our “new company.” it was the lifestyle that we were aspiring to. We wanted to have a classy feel to our footwear brand. We wanted people to see us as not just a sneaker company, rather a lifestyle company that makes footwear.
Format: How do you differentiate yourselves from other footwear brands?
Nand: Weâ€™re making new shoes. Of all the big footwear companies out there none of them are putting out new styles. All of the biggest styles over the past five years have been â€œclassicsâ€ by the larger footwear companies.
Format: You recently came out with quite a few metallic styles, something that has popped up all over the runways. How closely do you follow runway fashion trends?
Nand: We pay very close attention to runway fashion trends. The major reason for doing so is due to the fact that most new materials out are debuted through these shows. For Spring 08 we had a nautical, safari, exotic theme. For Fall 08 we went with a futuristic industrial, olives and rusts.
Format: Originality is a pillar of CR. How do you continually maintain originality?
Nand: We just do us. We donâ€™t look to other brands to see what direction their going in. We just follow our own path and make shoes for us.
Format: Some of your goods have been popping up at discount retailers recently. Some may perceive this as a negative that could hurt the brand image. Please comment.
Nand: Ironically, I spent half my day today dealing with that. We’ve been getting a ton of counterfeit and knock off goods both over her in the states and in Asia. Itâ€™s a real downer but we’re trying to do everything we can to stop it.
Format: How do you define your price points?
Nand: We try to be really honest with our supports. Some of the buyers that we work with at the higher end retailer tell us that we should be charging a lot more for our footwear. However we feel really strongly about keeping things the way they are.
Format: What are three significant changes that CR has experienced in the past year?
Nand: I would say the first would be watching the footwear game get taken hostage by sneaker nerds about five years ago. It really changed the shoe game over night. Kids were buying shoes not to wear but to collect. It almost became some kind of cult. We referred to it as Dungeons and Dunks era. It was comedy to us to watch it all unfold from the out side looking in.
All these “sneaker specialty” accounts starting popping up around the country. These kids were so cool that that would not even talk to customers when they walked in their accounts. It was hilarious to us to watch these “sneaker nerds” line up and literally camp out in front of an account for three days to be the first one to [get] a pair of Dunks in a special color that only other sneaker nerds would realize were limited editions.
The second would be staffing up our team/office. Itâ€™s been really hard for us to find a good crew of people that really understand what our vision is over here. Everyone is so used to doing business the old fashion way that they have a hard time understanding that we really don’t want to blow up over night. We’ve been trying real hard to keep distribution as tight as possible.
The third change would have to be finally seeing our brand being taking seriously. Itâ€™s been great this last year seeing all the different ways and looks people rock Creative Rec’s. Rich and my goal was always to be as ambiguous as possible with our brand. We don’t want to fall into any specific category. Itâ€™s a real complement to us seeing our shoes selling in accounts like Barneys New York and Beams Tokyo.
Format: Will you ever venture into apparel?
Nand: It seems only natural that we do but we have no plans to at this time. Weâ€™re doing some light accessories right now. We’re actually getting sales samples real soon. We’re not really going to show anyone until everything is finalized, sorry.
Format: â€œThe footwear market is oversaturated and the bubble is going to burst.â€ Sometimes this questionâ€™s bubble is going to burst. Please comment.
Nand: We do think the sneakerhead footwear market is about to burst and rightfully so. There are a bunch of kids out there that are stuck with a closet full of over priced dunks. We make footwear for almost every occasion and weâ€™re not really worried about the footwear forecast.
Format: When brands become more popular they reach a point where hard decisions must be made about distribution. How do you choose a growth strategy that doesnâ€™t sacrifice the brandâ€™s image?
Nand: Good question. Weâ€™re currently in a lot of really good accounts but there is plenty of room for us to grow upwardly. Weâ€™ve been working with Barneys for a while now and things are going better than ever. Weâ€™ve also just picked up Saks and their first seasons test order went great. We have plenty of time before we have to start opening up or distribution to a wider audience. As for now, weâ€™re going to continue to try to build solid relationships with some of our favorite accounts to shop at.
Format: Does this venture continue to provide you with Creative Recreation or has it become a real “J-O-B”?
Nand: Ha, no joke, almost everyday I realize how lucky I am to be in a situation like this. This is a dream job. It honestly does not get better than this. Trust me we have so much fun over here it should be illegal, actually. Well, never mind. The day I feel itâ€™s a job is the day I look to move on to the next venture.
Format: As a relatively young company, how did CR become so successful in such a short period of time?
Nand: Ha, a short period of time? It took blood sweat and tears to get here. Everyone that works with us is really passionate about what were doing. We have big plans for the years to come.
More Info: http://www.cr8tiverecreation.com/