The last year has been nothing short of crazy for all of us, even more so for dynamic duo Callum McGinley and Rockwell Princely, the guys behind fledgling sneaker brand notwoways which has enjoyed 9 months of unparalleled success after arriving onto the scene with their first sneaker titled “Exuberance”.
Now three colorways in, with more set to release in coming months, notwoways has done a sterling job of escaping the stigma attached with traditional YouTuber product launches and has hollowed out its own space in the sneaker industry. We chatted to Callum McGinley, known as Callux (C), and Rocky Princely (R) to hear about their whirlwind entrance into the sneaker scene, their brand identity and aims for the future.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE ‘NOTWOWAYS’?
R: A very new and upcoming sneaker brand. Affordable, on-trend and trying to make an impact. Revamping the footwear industry as a whole. Finding new ways of showcasing sustainability, design, aspects you wouldn’t see from a new brand.
C: To be an inspiration. Being a Youtuber and Rocky being a designer, showing people that even during a pandemic, you can build something great that inspires other people. This was never sure or certified, it was a big risk. It’s paid off from a lot of risk and hard work from our side.
HOW DID YOU GUYS COME TOGETHER FOR ‘NOTWOWAYS’?
C: It’s been a passion of both of ours for many years. We’ve known each other for just over 1 year. When I have an idea, I throw it out to the universe and that’s what I did here. After some time, I was talking to my friend Matt who went to school with Rocky and we met, and he’s one of the most humble talented guys I know. And we’ve been working together ever since. Rocky was moving between brands and I got him at just the right moment. It went from designing multiple things a day to working on a prolonged project.
R: From my view, I was working for a fast-fashion brand at the time, Matt sent me a message saying he had a friend who had some questions about shoes. I love to help anyone with shoes. It wasn’t even in relation to starting a brand at the time. Callum then explained his situation and for me the most important thing was to teach him about the industry. Even if it didn’t work out, at least he was impaired with more knowledge about it all. It was just supposed to be for two months but we’re still here.
C: It’s been a very collaborative approach throughout.
WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BRING TO THE SNEAKER WORLD?
C: It’s always been a dream of mine. I’ve always had a passion for diversifying, putting money and risk behind a passion. It’s easy to stay in your lane as a YouTuber but I wanted to do something else. I’ve been inspired by people like Kanye West, going from music to fashion. People like that, taking risks. It’s not the first time I’ve done something like this. With AfterParty Studios, my production company that I founded 4 / 5 years ago. It was a risk at the time but it paid off. So I wanted to replicate that.
R: I’ve always been into sneakers, since I was about 14-years old. From collecting them, to restoring them, finding vintage pairs. I started watching basketball at points just to see their sneakers. I then studied footwear, and everyone’s ultimate dream with that is starting your own brand and finding success among these big companies. I found an opportunity to create this platform to give people the best quality shoes for the price they are paying. I think that’s something that is lacking in sneakers. We wanted to offer that to consumers with a level of sustainability, which is a must for today’s world. These are unique selling points we wanted to cover. I wanted to have a merger of different communities. People who are into sneakers, vintage sneakers, those who follow Callum. Feeding different communities and trying it, that’s what we try to do.
C: No one in the YouTube world is doing this too. Everyone has hoodies and t-shirts, but no one has taken on shoes as a journey. I think I know why now, it’s incredibly hard. It costs a lot, there is a lot of risk and you don’t know what people will think about it. But with 10 years of production and YouTube experience, that’s what I do.
YOUR LATEST RELEASE, THE ‘SUBSOLAR’, SOULD OUT ALMOST IMMEDIATELY. WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THIS TO?
C: I kinda say that it takes 10,000 hours to master anything and within the world of content and marketing, I’ve got about 50,000 hours over the past 10 years. It’s an insane amount and it’s been brought to the project. It’s all been building up. Product-wise, we are both perfectionists. It’s both good and bad. The high-standards we have are shown in the product.
R: First and foremost, understanding the market, the community you’re trying to reach out to. For me, being part of the ‘sneakerhead community’ where I have friends from the UK, to Spain, to Amsterdam, I can get their opinions on my designs. If you get approval from them it shows that you’re doing something right. Each design has evolved from the design before it. From our first release to our third, we’ve listened to the community and consumers and we keep developing. Listening to feedback and evolving the shoe as a whole. It’s why ‘Subsolar’ has been our most comfortable shoe to date.
C: It’s a little bit different this time. We’re a new brand. Our 100th shoe will be better than our first shoe. So why keep it simple and just change the colour? No, we want to make a better product every single time.
C: They can then buy the next product 3 months later, which I think is a bit unique.
THERE’S A GREAT SCENE IN YOUR AD CAMPAIGN ‘EVERY F*CKING DAY’ FOR THE ‘SUBSOLAR’, WHERE YOU SEE THE CHARACTER WEARING THE SHOE IN MULTIPLE FITS. HOW DO YOU GUYS STYLE THE ‘SUBSOLAR’?
R: I wear it a lot for lots of different things, like for skating. That was our first time working with a stylist for the campaign and they styled it well. On a consumer level though, everyone has their own style and it’s our job to provide shoes for as many people as we can. We can’t expect everyone to wear the same thing, so part of our job is to make sure they can wear sneakers with anything. You can wear it with jeans and trackies, anything. You can stick out the tongue and the shoe keeps the same shape. That all goes into the fitting aspect.
C: I’m not the best skater, but for me I literally wear it with anything. Sometimes I wear new samples, testing them out, hoping no one sees me on the way to the gym. All of them look great, mainly with the colour palette and work with the current trends.
THIS QUESTION IS FOR CALLUM, MANY YOUTUBERS AND CREATORS RELEASE THEIR OWN MERCH. DO YOU SEE ‘NOTWOWAYS’ AS AN EXTENSION OF YOUR CONTENT?
C: I think that ‘notwoways’ is one of the fastest brands to break free of the YouTube sphere. That was always the plan, it can’t be merch. Then it can only go as far as to how relevant I am. It’s already moving that way, thanks to the marketing and everything like that. The product itself is great, therefore you don’t have to be interested in myself as Callux or YouTube to like ‘notwoways’.
One moment that made me feel really proud was one of my favourite artists ‘Kamal.’ I was scrolling through ‘notwoways’ Instagram and I saw that he didn’t follow me but he follows my brand. He’s there commenting his size for a giveaway and of course, he didn’t know I was involved in it. And I thought like wow, this is really moving outside of just us and YouTube. It’s broken out the sphere, only seven months old and three releases in. It has exceeded all my expectations.
NOW QUESTION FOR ROCKY. IN AN IG POST YOU DISCUSS A LOT OF DETAILS THAT WENT INTO THE SHOE LIKE THE NEW MOLDS AND HEEL CAGE. WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR OWN INSPIRATION FOR SHOE DESIGN?
R: There’s a lot of different things that go into it. We look at what we like, what we wear and then we look at the trends. As we have a short turnaround we look at both current and future trends. We have to be aware of what others are doing, looking at our competitors. I can’t say I’m looking at architecture or anything specific like that. I look at the brand’s name, and I look at the subtle details of that and what goes beyond it.
C: As I’m from London, the brand is heavily inspired by that. I look at the streets of London, the road signs, what people would wear in the shops, outside of the pub.
R: Adding to that, the standards for the materials in sneakers are really high. We look at every big shoe, and we compare the leathers and how we can do it while still retailing at around £100. We continue to look and develop, using that as inspiration. Sourcing new materials, new tech that can improve our shoes, which then inspires our design.
FOR YOUR LATEST RELEASE, YOU ALSO OFFERED A PAIR OF ‘NOTWOWAYS’ SOCKS. DO YOU GUYS WANT TO EXPAND TO CLOTHING ONE DAY?
R: We’d like to, the thought has crossed our mind. We might continue to do socks, do regionally exclusive socks. Maybe hats in the future.
C: We get this quite a lot, especially on social media. “Collab with this designer” or “release your clothing”. I think people sometimes forget that we are 7 months old and we first need to nail that shoe thing. It’s almost a compliment though. ‘You’ve nailed this, I love this, go make me some clothes’, so I only see it as positive.
WHAT DOES ‘NOTWOWAYS’ HAVE PLANNED FOR FOR THE REST OF 2021?
R: More releases, new models, we’re thinking of having some regional exclusive colourways. We may have something special planned for our one year anniversary [August 15 2021].
C: Stepping up the releases. They will be significantly stepped up towards the end of the year. The dream is to do a ‘pop-up’ shop here, go to other countries and have other things going on. I want to re-invest all of the profits into the brand and the marketing. This is my life now, I want it to succeed and become the biggest brand in the world.
IS THERE A PARTICULAR CELEBRITY YOU’D LIKE TO SEE IN ‘NOTWOWAYS’?
C: So funny story, before our first release, I DM’d Drake, shot my shot. I messaged him again after the release sold out and said ‘they sold out, hopefully next time’. I messaged him again, updating him again and again. I’m just gonna keep doing it. I know he’s with Nike and can’t do it but it would be funny to one day see him and just whip out the Instagram DM’s. I’ve always been a huge fan of him and the way he’s embraced UK culture as a whole.
R: I’m a big basketball guy and one of my dreams as a kid was to have them wear my shoes. So a few months ago, we got a DM from Wilson Chandler (former first round pick, currently playing in China) and he said he loved our designs. As soon as I got that message, I was running up and down. I play with him on 2K and everything. That made everything worth it. Otherwise Kyrie Iriving or any players on the Celtics, my team, that’d be crazy. I’d love to see any of the players in their tunnel game fit rocking the shoes without us sending them to us.
Interview conducted and transcribed by