Joah Spearman opens the door to Austin Java Cafe, brushes the late-afternoon drizzle off his leather jacket and wipes his limited edition Livestrong for Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop black and yellow Nike’s on the restaurant’s welcome mat. The back of the 28 year-old sneaker fan’s kicks proudly read “Austin” and “Texas” on the left and right shoe, respectively. Just minutes after he leaves the table with our photographer to shoot some photographs, complete with poses that scream confidence, a woman comes up to me and asks if he’s famous. He laughs.
A doppelganger for Outkast frontman Andre 3000, Spearman confesses that he’s gotten into nightclubs pretending to be his celebrity look-a-like. It’s a far stretch from who he was (or wasn’t) growing up.
“When I was in school, you know, girls didn’t really like me. I had big glasses, and I was four-foot-ten-inches,” Spearman said. “I knew I wasn’t going to play basketball or football, so for me this was never about being an athlete trying to identify with shoes.”
While puberty may have been a likely culprit for Spearman’s transcendence from nerd to fashion-forward cool guy, there’s another factor that played a major role: his love for sneakers.
Every night before I go to sleep, I pray for God (yes, God) to direct me to the right people, places and opportunities to showcase the talents and abilities he’s blessed me with. Next week or next year isn’t promised to me, so it’s important for me to make the most out of the time and chances I’m given.
This is part of the reason why my first 27 years have been so eventful with each year bringing on more people involved, more places visited and more opportunities taken advantage of. As I approach my 28th birthday (yes, 28th) next month, I’m proud to say that my biggest accomplishment is now my latest project: Style X.
I’ve been asked about a million and one times how I came up with Style X or how long I’ve been working on it and I’m hopefully going to be able to definitely answer those questions here.
For starters, there is no “I” when it comes to Style X. I may be responsible for many of the core concepts (pop-up retail, musicians as models, the name, etc.), but Style X would be little more than an idea in my head without the partnership and production savvy of co-founder Jon Pattillo. Jon is the perfect yin to my yang, or yang to my yin. Whichever you choose, that is Jon.
Two years ago when I first came up with the idea for Sneak Attack, SXSW Style was something like a long-term goal in the back of my head. Last year, during SXSW, I partnered with Sanctuary Printshop – a company Jon co-owns with Jed Taylor – during South by Sneaker Fest in our former shop on 2nd Street. That was the real foundation for Style X. Pop-up retail, musician gifting, SXSW shoppers…almost all the pieces were there. And it worked.
I’d briefly mentioned the idea to Brent Grulke, the creative director of SXSW, in early 2010, but it wasn’t until mid-March that I met someone at SXSW that would really get the conversation going about making some kind of fashion event during the festival and conference a reality.
That someone is Brad Spies, the guy who spearheaded South by Southwest’s enlightenment to fashion as an important cog in the creative wheel. There are other important folks at SXSW who helped to make Style X happen: Darin, Tamara, Cristina, Val and others who know who they are. But Brad was the third head on Jon and I’s three-headed production monster.
So after months and weeks of meetings and planning and back and forth, Jon and I were finally put into position to work with SXSW and make Style X happen…albeit only about three months out from March.
That’s why it’s important to note that Jon and I had a team of invaluable contributors to help with everything from the lookbook and website to designer outreach and the runway shows. Chelsea, Niraj, Brooke, Daniel and everyone else on the team really made this event happen in support of Jon, the production maestro (he managed everything from print row and the web development to the Style X sign behind the runway). You may have seen me running around all weekend looking busy, but the honest truth is that all of them were the ones working hard and making me look good.
As Jon and I start planning for next year’s Style X with more time, more resources and more lessons to be learned, I can do nothing but smile when I think about all the things that had to happen in my life over the last year or two to make Style X 2011 possible.
After a look at the people I was blessed to work with, the places I was able to travel to and meet some great emerging brands like We Are The Process in Atlanta, Cavortress in Charleston, S.C., Tortoise & Blonde in New York among many others and all the opportunities that came out of creating and producing Style X with Jon, I know one thing for sure: