In one of the hardest markets to penetrate, the Greedy Genius crew, have, within the past year, established themselves as one of the household names in sneakers. Utilizing the power of the Internet, and the needs of a trendsetting demographic for a new, original presence, Greedy Genius uses innovative materials, and designs to catch the eyes of the quickly growing streetwear market. After a successful year, including collaborations with Barneyâ€™s and placement in a Toyota ad spot, co-founder/creative director Mikhayel Tesfaye reflects and projects the future of Greedy Genius, with Format.
“In the future it might make sense for Greedy Genius to team up with a Fortune 500 company because itâ€™s a part of the plan, not because itâ€™s a check.”
Format: What was the initial inspiration for Greedy Genius?
Mik: Independence. Freedom of expression that we created and produce ourselves as entrepreneurs. The meaning of Greedy Genius is the overwhelming desire to achieve success in whatever we do. That says it all right there.
Format: Since Greedy Geniusâ€™s launch, the brand has maintained a bright color palette, often with heavy contrast. How was this particular palette decided upon?
Mik: Colors and inspiration vary from season to season. We based last yearâ€™s palette on a lot of energy colors to reflect Greedy Genius as a brand for our first year. Last year we decided to drop the 3M in bright colors for Holiday. I think we were the first of any sneaker brand to use color 3M material on a sneaker, and it was the middle of December when everyone drops darker color paletteâ€™s but we were dropping neon yellow, bright orange and neon blue. People were thinking we were crazy but then the shoes sold great. Being different isnâ€™t always wrong, sometimes itâ€™s right on time and needed at the time to pump a little life back into the scene.
Format: With many other brands focusing on similar palettes, to what degree are you concerned with over saturation?
Mik: Inspiration for those colors were for that time. Weâ€™re constantly being inspired by new things that bring about new direction and evolution of the brand. You will see in future collections how we diversify our palettes to reflect a different time in the game.
Every business that makes money is saturated and extremely competitive, especially fashion and shoes. Sneakers brands are dominated by a handful of major companies and weâ€™re just a small independent company. The odds to an investor might seem stacked against us but itâ€™s kind of how we like it. We are performance driven and we see a challenge as an opportunity.
Format: Greedy Genius has a strong Internet presence. To what degree do your consumers find out about the brand online, as opposed to in the streets, and how do you feel about this?
Mik: The Internet finds out about everything first. Before the Internet, brands would have to spend millions of dollars on the streets to reach their target audience. Now that we have the Internet, there is a platform for the independent guy to get a shot. It wasnâ€™t until the Internet that all these independent brands could even get a glimmer of a chance because it cost too much for you to get enough people to know the brand to have a decent enough production order. Brands fail because they canâ€™t reach minimum quantities they needed to place an order at their factory. In our case we got crazy support from the sneaker community and some criticism, but either way it helped us get our brand in front of an audience without having millions to spend on advertising.
Format: How do you respond to criticisms that Greedy Genius shoes are just a composite of other, already popular, shoes in the urban market?
Mik: It frustrates me a little but comes with the territory. People who know us know weâ€™re not one dimensional. We came up in an era that was heavily influenced by certain things and your interpretation was more important then the real thing. Our first shoe was a cup sole and we caught some criticism but we got immediate attention and comparisons to some major brands. Itâ€™s interesting because Greedy Genius launched a new level of product that made a lot of brands look at their product and upgrade immediately.
Format: When and why did Greedy Genius decide to move into apparel?
Mik: We actually started with apparel and have been making sample runs since last year. As a brand we make products to compliment our sneaker collection even if we only do it in super small runs like weâ€™ve been doing. We will drop some more apparel pieces this winter and a few choice pieces in the spring. There is also something big weâ€™re putting together for the GN$ ladies so be on the look out.
Format: In 2006, Greedy Genius was featured in a Toyota commercial. Please explain how this was developed.
Mik: We had just launched Greedy Genius into stores and our publicist informed us that a super hot agency that did commercials for Toyota was creating a campaign around entrepreneurs and sneaker culture. They loved the fact that we were a diverse young company with so much ambition in such a competitive environment and created a commercial around a clean cut guy buying sneakers from a young guy selling sneakers on the street. Overall it was a good look for sneaker culture in general and showed the power that the sneaker community has and the realness of entrepreneurial drive that our community represents. For us it was a blessing to be recognized so early by a Fortune 500 company like Toyota. That new Avalon is a nice car, its fast and the back seats recline.
Format: It has been reported that Greedy Genius turned down a Fortune 500 deal. What is the story behind this?
Mik: Itâ€™s no secret there has been a lot of interest from companies looking to invest in this segment of the market place because of the spotlight thatâ€™s on us right now. Itâ€™s important for Greedy Genius to grow at the right pace so that we donâ€™t make many mistakes. We need to make good decisions based on well thought out strategies and not jump at any opportunity to make money. In the future it might make sense for Greedy Genius to team up with a Fortune 500 company because itâ€™s a part of the plan, not because itâ€™s a check.
Format: September 2007 marks the fifth collaboration between Barneyâ€™s NY and Greedy Genius. How was this relationship formed and what has it meant for the brand?
Mik: The relationship has been great for us. We love what Barneyâ€™s New York is doing as a retail leader in the US. They have a very progressive style and it separates them from a lot of stores. The relationship evolved from us targeting them as a company that we wanted to align ourselves with and for them an identity they felt that worked with their store. Barneyâ€™s is a special account for us and we give them special treatment with the collaborative exclusives we drop with them. Our shoes have been top sellers every drop so itâ€™s a win win for both of us.
Format: Many celebrities have been seen, and documented, wearing Greedy Genius. How important are these endorsements to the brand?
Mik: Its good feeling when your peers and people you look to as trendsetters wear and support Greedy Genius. A lot of artists are trendsetters and definitely have a lot of influence over what people wear. It says something to me when an artist who has so many brands thrown at them and they choose to go buy and support brands like Greedy Genius. We just dropped our first look book and it featured some of the industries most influential players. People like Bun B, Fab 5 Freddy, to a JJ Lin, an Asian superstar, are featured in the book on love. These people support the movement and are apart of something bigger then just fashion. The Root of All Evil, Donâ€™t be Mi$led.
Format: How important are stylists to Greedy Genius?
Mik: The stylists are the trendsetters. Stylist are the agents out looking for whatâ€™s the next hot brand or look so that they can report back to an artist, magazine or celebrity. This group of people have their pulse on whatâ€™s in and whatâ€™s out. Stylist are people just like us as designers, we think eat and sleep fashion so we tend to get magnetized together.
Format: You started your career with Wu Wear, at a time when celebrity endorsed brands were not popular. What was that experience like?
Mik: It was cool I got an opportunity to learn a lot about the business when it was at its peak. And it was dope to work for celebrities that were respected around the world. A lot of people donâ€™t know but Wu Wear was as important to street wear market today as was RUN DMC to hip-hop. What they did was crazy and way ahead of their time.
Format: What celebrity brands within the urban market are doing/have done a good job or bad job, and why?
Mik: Depends how I define a good job. As an entrepreneur, the more you make, typically the better job you are doing and I definitely believe in that to an extent, but you canâ€™t sacrifice quality for quantity and many people did. The sacrifice in quality made a lot of people say, â€œhey there is an opportunity to make better quality goods that share a similar aesthetic and letâ€™s call it streetwear.â€
Itâ€™s crazy how many people that were designers of â€œurbanâ€ brands spun off and started â€œstreetwearâ€ brands. Iâ€™d say almost 98% of all these streetwear dudes have some freelance or full-time experience coming from an urban brand. Most of the successful guys at streetwear now could be top of the game in any genre of fashion. These guys have real industry experience and unbelievable taste levels. They have traveled the world, been in the factories and know whatâ€™s next better then anyone else. We are witnessing a drastic change in fashion, bigger then 1996 when the game changed or 88 when it changed. People are going to remember what happed in 2008 as an era.
So to answer your question from how I see it, if you had the hottest designers and the hottest product you won. We all know who the winners are. They are the biggest, been around the longest and they made the most money.
Format: Youâ€™ve mentioned that there is a certain look that has taken over kids, and itâ€™s one that you were rocking ten years ago. What are you rocking today?
I keep it classic. Classicâ€™s never go out of style.
More Info: http://www.greedygenius.com/