Brian Spar aka Chef of GourmetKickz

So, you think you’ve seen it all? Just because it’s fashion week doesn’t mean much, my white tent veteran friends. There’s more to the wardrobe than meets the catwalk. Beyond the couture lies something similarly coveted and equally limited edition. Enter the sneaker savvy Brian Spar, better known as Chef, of GourmetKickz, a Connecticut-based company specializing in custom creations for the feet. His Nike Air Force Ones boast bold designs and vibrant color palettes, perfect for kicking it with confidence. Walk proud in these made-to-order, fashion-forward delicacies.

Recently, this culinary kicks wizard teamed up with 1800 Tequila, enhancing their Essential Artists campaign. These special bottles will feature nine winning works of original art; Chef was brought on board to add a little sole to their already creative step. GourmetKickz is spicing up the liquor brand and expanding the promotion from stationary store shelf to active streetwear. Talk about 360º marketing!

“I paint all day and am too much of a perfectionist to let other people take on too much in the preparation of my ‘meals’.”

Format: Regarding this 1800 Tequila collaboration, there’s so much I don’t know about it; everything I’ve come across on the net is just a general explanation. Who came to whom? Were you involved from the inception?
Chef: I give a lot to credit to 1800 for keeping the whole campaign under wraps. I didn’t know anything about the Essential Campaign and their limited edition bottles until a PR agency approached me about ‘making some kicks for their corporate client’. They involved me from the very start, right before the billboards went up. When they showed me the art, I loved it immediately.

So, I went back to the ‘kitchen’ to ‘cook up’ some ideas. When we met again, I sat everybody down, like a maitre de and showed the team some comps – in menu format – of GourmetKickz, showcasing their campaign’s artwork and representing some of the sickest shoes I would design to date. I kinda mentioned the opportunity to bring to life this GourmetKickz Creator that I had envisioned but hadn’t had the time, energy or resources to develop myself and, much to my surprise, they actually ran with everything. Pretty much everything I proposed is now becoming a reality. Together, we’ll be breaking new ground by combining the worlds of art, sole and spirits.

Format: Can you expand on this GourmetKickz Creator?
Chef: Users can come to my site, launch [the Essential GourmetKickz Creator Sponsored by 1800] and create their own custom sneakers that will be themed around artwork from the 1800 Essential Artists campaign. The [design combination] possibilities are endless.

Format: Can you explain the limited edition aspect of GourmetKickz and this promotion in particular?
Chef: There’s 36 styles. I really don’t see any one style being recreated more than ten times. That there are gonna be several one-of-a-kinds within this series of 36 is very safe to say. Initially, the sneakers will only be available to some bloggers, influential sites, editors, and celebs. After that, I will be offering them in limited quantity through [] and perhaps a couple other online sources.

Format: Can you choose a favorite work from the nine pieces?
Chef: Of the first nine [pairs] that I did, the Hannah Stouffer piece – which has wildlife, a lion, a tiger, a panther, a jungle woman on a swing, a monster red truck – was the toughest to let go of. She’s got the wildest piece and the colorway just came together so sick. I just love them!

Format: How much will these sneakers run?
Chef: When the Kickz Creator launches, you will be able to step into a pair, I think, for as cheap as $165.

Format: I know you use the AF1s Nike provides, but I think it’d be cool if in the sole you could incorporate the 1800 logo so every time peoples’ foot prints, you know, you could push it out even further.
Chef: Easy young Jedi! As soon as my light-saber or laser-engraver arrives it’ll be done!

Format: [Laughs] And, are you literally hand-making these yourself? You have no other help?
Chef: I have a couple of ‘sous chefs’ who help with general tasks. But for the most part, I paint all day and am too much of a perfectionist to let other people take on too much in the preparation of my ‘meals’.

Format: I just can’t picture you, as you get bigger and bigger, hunching over your desk to make these yourself. But it’s very authentic, and I love that.
Chef: I intend on keeping my operation this way. It never will be mass production. It will always be a niche product that has a specific person in mind, low production, and it’s always going to be a high value type of product.

Format: Gotcha. So, what’s this entire experience been like for you?
Chef: Long nights, 1800 tequila hangovers, sore fingers, and a lot of fun! It’s always great to be the innovator in any field and [I think it’s safe] to say that the right guy has teamed up with the right company yielding just the right product.

Format: And it resonates with so many different people. There’s so many different people it can touch and effect.
Chef: Absolutely. I realized that when I went down to the H-Town Sneaker Summit in Houston at the beginning of August. I did a ‘sneaker-peak’. The reaction I got from the crowd was ridiculous. [People] see the bottles and the sneakers as a great collectors’ piece. I’ve had so many sneakerheads hittin’ me up, like, ‘when do they release, when can I get a pair, how much are they?’

Format: Is this the biggest thing that’s happened to you since the inception of your company?
Chef: This is definitely the biggest project I’ve taken on so far. I like to think of this collaboration as the fruit of my labors up to this point. It’s all about staying focused and never thinking you’ve reached your peak. So, yeah, though this is the biggest [thing] I have done [thus far], I don’t think it’s the biggest I’ll ever do. I have to think I can do more and be better.

Format: You could definitely blow up even more after this.
Chef: Absolutely. I’m looking at it as something else for the portfolio. Hopefully I get a chance to work with a client of equal if not greater stature after this and do something even more incredible for them.

Format: What’s been the most challenging thing, or the most rewarding thing, or do you think one of those things is still yet to come?
Chef: The most challenging thing might be yet to come. The most rewarding, I think, is going to be mid-October, when I go to, see my great interactive header, click on one of the links and that Essential GourmetKickz Creator Sponsored by 1800 launches. I’m just going to sit back and play with that thing all day. [Laughs]

Format: And take a shot!
Chef: Exactly. And, I think the name is perfect. I worked directly with the vice president of marketing at 1800 in creating a name that drew an equal amount of attention to both parties involved. I think we pretty much nailed it.

Format: Do you feel like you have any other competition out there? Is there anyone doing anything remotely like this?
Chef: To say that I have competition would be to say that there are other artists out there that do exactly what I do and compare our success. There are certainly sneaker artists who can paint better than me; but in terms of using fabric, paint, graphics, and reassembly, there isn’t much competition. I have an advantage because of my network and reach and because most of the stuff that’s being done now, I did two or three years ago. I respect artists like Sabotage (S-B-T-G) and Methamphibian for building brands. I use them as a benchmark in a way but ultimately, I strive for something that no one has achieved. In terms of collaborating with a corporate monster on a level like this, this is a first.

Format: Any events lined up to promote this campaign?
Chef: 1800 Tequila has several events planned that will be posted on their site and I have several things planned as well. You can also look for us to do some sneaker events together; we are already fielding invites to sponsor some huge events in NYC.

Format: Definitely keep us posted!

Nell Alk

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