A Luxurious (Yet Affordable!) New Sneaker
If you’re going to give your sneaker brand a lofty sounding name like Greats, chances are, you’ve taken steps to ensure it goes above and beyond expectations. Which is exactly what Ryan Babenzien has successfully done with Greats, the sneaker brand he created in Brooklyn in 2013.
The first thing one notices about a pair of Greats sneakers is the materials – soft supple leather. Even the insides are lined in calf leather, making it a treat for sock-less feet. The next thing – and this is the astounding part – is the price.
“We have one of the most disruptive pricing structure – starting price at $50 right up to a few hundred dollars. Our core line from Italy starts at $160,” says the boyish looking Babenzien, who was in Toronto recently for a meet-and-greet at the newly opened Nordstrom stores at Toronto Eaton Centre and Yorkdale Shopping Centre.
So how do they compete in the crowded sneaker arena – a marketplace dominated with Goliaths with names like Nike and Adidas?
Simply by offering the sneakers for sale directly to consumers via their website, Greats.com. By eliminating the middleman, Greats is able to offer a luxury sneaker at an incredibly low price. Babenzien also believes that the three pillars of the brand – price, quality and style – also helps them stand apart in that crowded arena.
Sneakers has been one of the fastest growing categories in the men’s footwear market. In the past few years, the continuing rise in popularity of this shoe, once only worn in the gym or for running or for the most casual of occasions, has soared in popularity and has gone from being merely trendy to revolutionizing menswear. Sneakers are now worn with suits and come in an array of luxurious materials from croc to suede.
Fashion clothing brands have also gotten into this lucrative game and have helped elevate the sneaker status from casual to haute and hip. No longer just a soft laced up shoe, designers have taken to reinterpreting this casual footwear with neoprene, buckles, studs and bedazzling them with crystals. And naturally, price tags for designer sneakers have jumped over the $1000 mark and continue to soar.
But as a startup without the deep pockets for splashy ad campaigns like those legacy fashion brands with coveted sneakers like Gucci or Valentino or mega-sports brands like Nike, Greats have relied on social media to help get brand recognition. Street style star and menswear fashion icon, Nick Wooster, helped gather momentum for the brand by posting pictures on his Instagram account of Greats sneakers. Wooster also made a guest appearance in Toronto at the Nordstrom stores for the Greats in-store event. (Also collaborating or retailing at a few select brick-and-mortar stores, such as Nordstrom, where Greats is available exclusively in Canada, helps expose the brand to new customers.)
Greats sneaker founder, Ryan Babenzien (left) with street style star and men’s style influencer, Nick Wooster at a meet-and-greet at Nordstrom, Toronto.
Greats sneaker are available exclusively in Canada at Nordstrom and retails from $149 to $250.
Greats sneakers can be found exclusively in Canada at Nordstrom and retails from $149 to $250.