How can a sneaker designer break the barrier of entry in a category governed by Nike, Adidas and Under Armour? Some turn to Rooy for help.
Founded by Alex Kim and Ryan Kang in 2014, Rooy acts as an online accelerator for up-and-coming sneaker labels, connecting designers with sneaker enthusiasts and manufacturers that will produce their small batch runs.
While working in marketing for Adidas, Kim realized that despite the pool of talent in the sneaker industry, there are no simple ways for creatives to establish a foothold and create their first batch of product. “I think in the past it would take new brands at least five or seven years to gain any kind of recognition, it would take years to grind up. What we’re trying to do is expedite that whole process,” Kim said.
Rooy helps bring designs to fruition through crowd sourcing and hosts footwear design competitions to discover talent. Participants submit designs, Rooy members vote for their favorite and Rooy takes care of logistics by connecting the winning designers with a team of industry experts to build a prototype and produce the shoe for market.
“Some designers post their whole brand idea and concept, and some just post a sketch,” Kim said. “The more work that’s been done, the higher engagement a post gets.”
Previous challenges have asked designers to create a casual athletic shoe, a sneaker for female sneakerheads and sneakers with a Vibram sole. Rooy’s flagship challenge is the Season, a challenge that draws more than 1,200 designers from over 120 countries to design their dream sneaker. No experience in footwear design is required.
Once produced, Rooy sells the sneakers from their e-commerce site, giving the designer 10 percent of the royalties from each sale. The site currently sells Haiku sneakers inspired by traditional Japanese wooden Geta, KO-JD wool felt and denim loafers and sneaker boots with a Vibram sole by RFW.
Kim likens the sneaker category to the craft beer scene. “In the past, it was all about Bush or Miller Light, but during some point people started to make their own craft beers. And it wasn’t just one craft beer that really took off, it was a movement where people would go to local towns and drink fantastic craft beers.”
Through Rooy, Kim believes he can create that same sense of community and interest for the sneaker market. “It’s all about curating these brands,” he said. “What we really believe in is not having one brand that comes to us really taking off. It’s more about a collective movement.”