“It’s in the name. We all have creativity in common. We may wear the same pair of shoes, but we all wear them differently in a way that fits our lifestyle. ”
That’s how Patrick Buchanan describes Creative Recreation, which since 2002 has successfully catered to a broad range of customer tastes by never placing itself in a box.
As marketing director of the L.A.-based brand, Buchanan has managed to keep the company at the forefront of a segment in men’s footwear that’s bridged the gap between casual and professional. As he puts it, Creative Recreation can carry a guy from the club to the office.
“When we came along in 2002 there was no one really creating shoes for that in-between of sneakers and dress shoes,” he says. “We were brand that could take you from the club one night and wear to work the next day with your suit.”
Appealing to so many audiences at once takes finesse. On the company’s website, a style guide gives customers a better idea of how to incorporate the sneakers into their wardrobes, while on Instagram, the brand pushes bite-sized chunks of inspiration.
“When doing a style guide you don’t want to alienate a guy and have him say ‘well I don’t want to wear that because it’s not my style,’ so it’s certainly a challenge, but we don’t want to aggressively over-do the styling, we want it to be natural, and feel sort of like an authentic style.”
It’s been a winning formula, and in the decade-plus since Creative Recreation first emerged the sneaker market has exploded, making the brand’s longevity all the more impressive. Key to this has been a loyal fanbase, which includes more than a few high-profile names.
Kanye West, Robert Downey Jr., Zac Efron, and Channing Tatum are all just a few of the famous men who have worn the brand. Opulent, but a little grungy, Creative Rec shoes capture the city they were born in, only helped by their elusive, celebrity cache.
Playing into this heritage, the company has enlisted Nick Jonas as its first brand ambassador, which Buchanan describes as a natural partnership.
“Nick has been supporting us since he was with the Jonas Brothers when him and his brothers were wearing the shoes, and he’s just been a huge supporter over the years. As we were looking to bring on an ambassador [Nick] just made sense. It wasn’t like, ‘we just want to pay you to represent our brand’ – he believes in what we believe in,” Buchanan explained.
As a part of his ambassadorship, Jonas is designing a capsule collection, tentatively set to launch in Spring of 2017. It’s described as Nick’s take on some of Creative Recreation’s most popular sneakers, as well as some new styles.
“It’s really inspired by Nick’s lifestyle, and what it’s like being a guy who wears many hats, and I think the collection does a really good job of taking him from day to night, from on-set to back stage,” said Buchanan. “We just got the first prototypes in today. I’m looking at it and I’m kind of speechless.”
Behind the scenes, a merger with Rocky Brands roughly two years ago has helped Creative Recreation continue to flourish, though to Buchanan, much is still the same.
“What they brought to the table is more resources. For a brand like ours, it’s really important because we’re able to continue to create and experiment with new categories. But we still have the same creative team. I’ve been with the company for 7 years. So not a lot changed, really.”
Part of experimenting can be seen in one of the company’s most popular spring releases, the Deross, an athletic, running-inspired style which veers into new territory for the brand.
“It’s our job to stay current with what’s happening and there’s definitely been a shift in the market to more of an athleisure kind of vibe, so we just wanted to jump in there and do something Creative Rec style. But of course, we’re not going to transition the entire brand in that direction. A lot of the styles are kind of “one and done” so we bring it, we did it, and then we move on to what’s next.”
For Fall ’16, Buchanan is excited about the Castucci, which he says has been a big hit at trade shows, and also reveals that the brand is working on something for holiday, set to be revealed in due course.