Interview with Lauren Amos CDG Nike Cortez Sole Mates

Lauren Amos lives and breathes fashion and shoes. If you walk through it instagram, you’ll notice that many of her outfits serve as Kodak moments: she often dons outfits so opulent and expressive you’d think she was going to the Met Gala. Through her entrepreneurial spirit, she found a way to turn this passion into a profession by opening Wish and Antidote stores in Atlanta, the former a hub for streetwear and sneaker fanatics, the latter catering to luxury lovers.

Sneakers have played an important role in Amos’ life since she was a little girl growing up in Columbus, Georgia. Unlike most OG sneakerheads, she wasn’t intrigued by kicks because she played sports or was energized by Michael Jordan’s signature line with Nike, especially since she adopted her father’s taste for design. Having traveled extensively and been exposed to various art forms from an early age, Amos quickly developed an appreciation for sneakers and their aesthetic details, materials, packaging and stories. And so for her Sole Mates characteristic, it is with good reason that she chose a sneaker that embodies her personal style and attitude: the COMME des GARÇONS x Nike Cortez Platform.

HYPEBEAST sat down with Amos to discuss what collaborating with the big Swoosh means to her, how Junya Watanabe’s Fall 2004 runway show changed her perspective towards fashion and her commitment to serving Atlanta communities .

What made you want sneakers?

I was more fascinated by the design and artistic side of the sneakers than by the sporty aspect. It has a lot to do with the fact that I grew up around art since my father was an art collector. I remember Nike collaborating with amazing artists like Stash and Futura. All of these versions were super interesting to me and made me appreciate great design.

I also traveled a lot in Japan growing up and saw how everything from their designs to their packaging was on a different level. Making friends in New York who owned sneaker stores also helped me dive deeper into the culture. I’ve always noticed guys are really into the sporty side of things, and I’ve never had a story about Michael Jordan that turned me on. It wasn’t until I talked to these guys about things like colorways, materials, packaging, storytelling – things I would be crazy about – that I was able to connect with them.

What was sneaker culture like growing up in Columbus, Georgia?

Fashion and sneakers were not in the spotlight in my city. I went to a prep school where rich kids wore Vasque and Patagonia boots because they wanted to look more hipster. It was a nightmare. My mother did the shopping for me at Goodwill and I always cut the clothes and reworked them to my liking. My grandmother was the most fashionable person in my hometown. She always matched her shoes with her handbag and lipstick, attended Ebony fashion shows and read vogue.

What brands and silhouettes did you love growing up?

I loved Nike, and my favorite silhouettes were the Air Max 90 and the Blazer.

“They make me taller and I literally feel more powerful when I wear them. If I know I don’t feel good about myself, I can just put them on and it’s like, watch out.

If someone scrolls through your Instagram, they will notice how important fashion and style are in your life. When did this love for fashion start?

There was so much self-expression in my house. My father was a great collector of American Impressionist art, and when we went on trips we always looked through various paintings and architecture. These conversations around materiality and craftsmanship ultimately translated into clothing. However, I didn’t really realize it until I saw Junya Watanabe’s 2004 fall runway show – and that’s when I went from making my own stuff and l shopping at Goodwill to transition to luxury fashion. I finally felt like I had arrived, and I can’t even begin to tell you what it did to me physically. I hadn’t even seen Rei Kawakubo’s work yet, but after seeing this show, I was a different person.

You have chosen to highlight the CDG x Nike Cortez platform for your Sole Mates selection. What speaks to you in this shoe?

I remember seeing this sneaker on the runway at CDG for the first time and being absolutely blown away by it. It reminded me of the days when people stacked Converse soles on top of each other. Everything there is simply amazing. I have the two bottom soles and the striped soles in two colors. They make me taller and I literally feel more powerful when I wear them. If I know I don’t feel good about myself, I can just put them on and it’s like, watch out.

Were you already a fan of the Cortez before this collaboration?

Yes. However, I also have a lot of respect for certain sneakers and the cultures that embrace them, and in some cases I have so much respect for them that I’m not sure I’m the one wearing them. The Cortez can be somewhat intimidating because I never want to seem like I’m trying to be something I’m not or take ownership of anything. It has a really rich history and it’s a stunning silhouette that’s clean and simple. When I saw it stacked on stripes I felt like it was something made for me because it felt authentic to who I am. It’s an everyday type of sneaker for me.

What’s your favorite way to style them?

In fact, I really like pairing them with dresses, especially tights. I wore them once with a beautiful pink piece from the COMME des GARÇONS show and red tights and I loved that look.

Not all CDG Nike collaborations are designed for the same audience. Do you think this aspect gives more appeal to their collaborative projects?

There are CDG collaborations that I don’t own, and I think that’s because I always try to chase the feeling of going with my instincts and wearing what I feel best in.

The women’s sneaker market has shifted drastically from “shrink and pink” to bigger collaborations offered in petite sizes and kids’ sizes. What do you think of this progress?

When I started, it was really difficult. I wear a men’s size 5-5.5 and back then there was nothing like it. I followed the sneaker culture but since there was no social media at the time, you had to find everything by word of mouth or leafing through magazines. It was kind of exotic and similar to club culture. But I have seen the change. There are more inclusive sizes, more female collaborators, and more women being hired to design, so it’s come a long way.

“I used to think maybe Atlanta was slower, but now I realize Atlanta is on its own path. It’s not about looking at other cities for certain things to figure out what’s cool, we do our own thing.

What prompted you to launch Wish?

When I bought Wish in 2004, it was actually a failing raver store that I eventually turned into a sneaker store. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, so I stayed there, eventually becoming a sales manager and eventually marketing manager. It was very slow at first, but once I brought my business partner Julie, everything took off. There’s just a bigger market now for sneakers and streetwear culture in general, and specifically in Atlanta.

Atlanta is known for its creativity – as indicated by the number of rappers, artists and everything in between coming out of town. What is it about Atlanta that you think creates these types of people?

It’s funny because people used to say to me, “I’m sorry, where do you live? and “Do you drive tractors?” They were condescending about the South and often people think Atlanta is backward. I used to think maybe Atlanta was slower, but now I realize Atlanta is on its own lane. It’s not about looking to other cities for certain things to figure out what’s cool, we’re doing our own thing. People here want to be seen and they want to be fashionable. They want something crazy and they want to express themselves. They want to be educated around fashion.

What can a consumer who has never been to Wish expect and what do you think sets your retail experience apart from the rest of the industry?

What makes Wish so great is that we know we’re contributing to the retail culture in Atlanta and helping it grow. We’re constantly engaging with the community and trying to do things from both a non-profit and retail perspective, whether it’s through the events we host in store, listening nights for the musicians we host, the block parties we host, or the sneakers we post. We have so many stories of people coming into our store who have connected, continued to work for us, been inspired to build a brand, and those stories make it valuable.

What would you like to accomplish with Wish and Antidote in the next five years?

I just want us to keep honing our craft, whether it’s in one store or multiple stores. One thing I liked about colette is that there was only one store and they found all their success from that. Right now I’m focusing on Atlanta because I love that city.

Why are sneakers and their stories important to you?

I love having so many memories with sneakers. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from: if you’re wearing a pair of sneakers that I like, we can have a great conversation and get along. It’s the power of fashion. There is very little politics or religion in it. It’s a very democratic, emotional and amazing thing that brings people together.

About Shirley Dickson

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