Posts Tagged ‘Willie’

Interview // Willie Esco Talks COOGI x PUMA Clyde Collab & What Biggie Would Be Wearing in 2017

Product photography by Ray Polanco

Willie Esco has been in this game for years. Working on lines for the likes of 2Pac and Nas, the New Jersey native is back at the helm with COOGI and collaborating with his favorite brand, PUMA, on none other than the Clyde.

A fitting tribute to the Notorious BIG, we caught up with Esco on the anniversary of Big’s death and the drop date for this limited edition collab to hear about not only the sweater sneakers but also what Big would be rocking if he were alive today.

Nice Kicks: To start, tell us a little bit about your history with Coogi and roots in the hip-hop fashion world.

Willie Esco: My history with Coogi is a long one. In 2004, I was put in charge of reviving the brand. Around that time I was ending the relationship with Nas and the Willie Esco brand was coming to a close. I also acquired the global licensing rights to Makaveli — 2Pac’s namesake brand that I created. Creatively I wanted to do more. Being the face of Willie Esco on the Latin side and Nas being the face of the brand on the hip-hop/celebrity side sort of took some wear and tear on me. Coogi was unique as well because I could just design clothes and revive a brand that had some legs. The ironic thing was that I was with Coogi and it had the association with Biggie and then I was working with the 2Pac estate! Both were sort of the East Coast version of Elvis and the West Coast version of Elvis in the hip-hop world.

With Biggie, the sweaters were not as popular in ’04 so the connection just wasn’t there yet like it is now. I left my partners in Coogi in ’06 and they took the brand to about $ 80 Million or maybe $ 100 Million and then around 2012-13 they told me to come back in to help with Etonic. I didn’t know footwear as well as my son does, but I told them I’d only come on if they allowed me to also work with Coogi.

I saw Coogi as the premier, luxury streetwear brand. They sort of kept their position because everything is sort of frozen in time because of Biggie. I knew the collaborations would come. We started with Rag & Bone and then my goal was to go for the top three — adidas, Nike and PUMA. Selfishly I wanted to attack those brands because my son is heavy into footwear and the collaboration process allowed him to see how to solicit the big brands. I worked with Dwayne Edwards in mentoring my son and a former colleague of mine was at PUMA. We started talking, I hooked him up with Dwyane and I knew 2017 would be a big year. His timing was perfect. I think they understood timing and footwear cycles and being able to capitalize off this space and let me translate it into a shoe. The PUMA Clyde program was originally going to be focused just on Brooklyn, but as we started talking it morphed into a bigger thing because of how celebrated Big is. The one thing that I was super specific on was that every pair had to be different — the left and the right — so that every pair is unique. They ultimately used it in the marketing and every pair is different which is a hard thing to do in footwear these days.

Nice Kicks: When you look at the collab, the Clyde represents NY in the ’70s and the COOGI represents Biggie in the ’90s. How does this shoe appeal to the modern day New Yorker?

Willie Esco: I think the two speak for the two times and I sort of fill the gap. I’m the ’80s and I don’t think the PUMA people believe me, but my favorite shoe actually is the Clyde. Every year around Final Four time I get a pair of all-white Clydes for my birthday to watch the Championship Game. That’s total ’80s to me. Growing up, I didn’t want to be the guy wearing adidas because that was Queens. In turn, let me claim PUMA for Jersey as a breakdancer which was a hard thing to do.

So when working on the shoe, I looked at the experimentation from Missoni and Converse was doing, which nothing was mismatched, so I wanted to bring uniqueness because the footwear game is in a place where it’s really hard to get excited about shoes. So, understanding what was being done with the he Missoni x Converse collab which is brilliant, us doing it at the street level brought a new twist. The millennial wants to be taken back to the ’90s and somebody wants to indirectly channel Biggie. This is a cool way to do that just like buying a pair of Jordans makes you think you can jump higher or putting on a Coogi makes you think you’re from Brooklyn or you can rap. I think we achieved that and I think PUMA did an excellent job of that. Now Diddy is posting about it and it’s a really great day.

Nice Kicks: When looking back at Biggie, what made him the fashion guy we still love and respect today?

Willie Esco: At that time, there were not too many brands servicing the urban consumer and going up to 3x and 4x in apparel. Designers that were ready to do that had success with their own brands. The savviness of Biggie to be aspirational and go into the store and go, “What makes this sweater expensive?” Simply, labor and knitting time. The boldness of a designer putting it out there and saying it’s not a mistake is brilliant. So Coogi putting it out there and Biggie finding a brand that fits his colorful nature and his size? It’s pretty unique in that if you wear a Coogi sweater people know you spent money on that thing. It’s similar to what Dapper Dan was doing, but Coogi was unique in that you could see who was wearing it from a mile away. Coogi was unique and I think Biggie picked up on that.

The gifted nature of his ability to rap made him standout as well and be able to be depreciating about himself and make that a positive. Rap has always accepted being chubby and then you had a rapper that was bigger, fatter and not scared to talk about it and explain how he liked to splurge on himself in the most expensive of things like Versace, Coogi and Moet. Those things still have to be attainable by the culture and not everything was attainable at that time.

Nice Kicks: We’re both mourning and celebrating Biggie’s life as he passed 20 years ago today. If Biggie was still around today, what do you think he’d be wearing?

Willie Esco: I think he’d age gracefully. The closest thing we have to Biggie today is Jay-Z. They both influenced each other, so if you look at what Jay’s wearing and what Jay’s wearing I think that’s what Big would be wearing and doing. I think he’d get on a health kick like Rick Ross and slim down. So a lot of the elements of the guys that are doing it big now, you take those pieces and that’s what Big would do. If he got to that point, I think he’d be a little more conscious about his health, he’d probably be looking at brands and art and developing his empire. As you get older you naturally gravitate to more classic things — it’s just the nature of the beast. He wouldn’t being wearing leggings, he wouldn’t be wearing tight stuff and I don’t think he’d be wearing Yeezys. I think he’d have a deal with Timberland, he’d have collaboration deals and he’d be celebrating 20 years of his Life After Death album. I think luxury brands would have a ball with him and he may be spearheading the resurgence of Coogi or Iceberg. I definitely believe Brooklyn Mint would’ve been a big brand, too. They would’ve gone away and then they would’ve had a resurgence. I think ultimately he’d be a billionaire and growing his empire in the way Jay is.

Nice Kicks: Every weekend a ton of sneakers drop and collaborations are more frequent than they’ve ever been. What makes the Coogi x PUMA Clyde a piece of history and a fashion statement today and here on out?

Willie Esco: The patience and timing that went into this project. The intimateness of who we rolled it out to and how selective we were about who got it and why they got it. They’re very limited because at Coogi we can only rollout X amount of product over X amount of time. I had to warn PUMA about how careful we had to be to make this happen. I want the consumer to know how much that went into planning this thing to make it come out on the day that it came out.

I’m a very lucky designer because I’m a designer that has worked indirectly with Biggie and Pac on their collections and collaborations. I think the consumer needs to appreciate why I did this, the connection to Brooklyn and the storytelling. That’s one important thing in collaboration and storytelling is that we’re losing what’s taken for granted. Collaborations just aren’t special anymore but this one is special because my son is involved in the project and we’re digging deep with pushing the concept of Biggie and a Coogi shoe. Knowing that knit shoes are being done nowadays, but this is a throwback to the ’90s with bulky sweater material on a shoe. It’s not an easy thing and one bad move and we could’ve missed the whole thing. It’s really exciting for me because I just had the idea and it went to my favorite brand and that’s what makes it special for me. When it’s special for the designer it comes out that way to the consumer.

The COOGi x Puma Clyde launched today at select retailers such as at PUMA Lab powered by Foot Locker, KITH, Jimmy Jazz, Barneys and Nice Kicks LA. Keep up with Willie on IG.

(more…)

Powered by WordPress | Designed by: Free WordPress Themes Online | Thanks to Premium Themes, Download Free WordPress Themes and Best Free WordPress Themes