sandy kaur

TALKING SNEAKERS, DESIGNING FOR NIKE & RESILIENCE WITH SANDY KAUR

TALKING SNEAKERS, DESIGNING FOR NIKE & RESILIENCE WITH SANDY KAUR

by Stella Hughes
11 min
sandy kaur
Sandy Kaur ©

Sandy Kaur is the changemaker, designer and podcaster creating a space for womxn in sneakers. Her podcast and blog, HerStoryinSneakers (HSIS), gives womxn a well-needed seat at the table and a platform to discuss and celebrate all things kicks.

Bypassing the hype, Kaur’s passion for sneakers stemmed from her older brother’s vast collection, as well as being drawn to whatever people were wearing on their feet at the time. Coupled with a childhood of playing and watching basketball, Sandy’s passion for sneakers only developed, and she started noticing the lack of female representation in the scene and felt compelled to redress this imbalance.

We caught up with Sandy to further delve into the motivations behind her passion-project, her advice for anyone wanting to get into the scene and discuss the womxn who paved the way for her.

Sandy Kaur
Sandy Kaur ©

How did you get into Sneakers – has it always been a passion of yours?
Absolutely. Growing up with older siblings I was heavily influenced by the 90’s rap and hip hop culture and as we all know sneakers played a huge role in that! I remember watching music videos and looking straight at their feet to see what they were rocking, and I think that’s how I learned from quite an early age that sneakers could be used as a way of expression through different silhouettes and colourways regardless of gender. 

I also played basketball in my younger years, so I would watch games on tv and fall in love with the sound of the squeak on the court – you all know the one! That’s actually where my love for Jordans began! Although I wasn’t able to buy my own sneakers until I was 17, I lived vicariously through my brothers collection, people on the street and celebs on tv. The irony is that when I started collecting, my brother stopped. 

We love your podcast and blog Herstoryinsneakers – you seem to have tapped into a really interesting but under discussed space in Sneakers. Can you talk to us about how this project came to be?
Being a ‘female sneakerhead’ I’ve always been conscious of the fact that womxn in the scene aren’t held to the same standard as the mxn due to the disparity between the expectations of knowledge each should have, but during lockdown this became much more apparent to me… I would read these hateful and degrading comments online targeted at other females in the scene and I would be confused because I know so many knowledgeable sneakerheads personally that are womxn who could give a lot of the mxn commenting a run for their money when it comes to collections. 

At the same time, there were mxn with a platform who didn’t (in my opinion) use it to represent or defend womxn in the scene and if they did, they were talking about what womxn wanted without actually asking them as well as sexualising them for likes. So one day I thought to myself; instead of being frustrated that no one is showcasing these amazing womxn, why don’t I just give them a platform to talk and be themselves without an ulterior motive. Thus, Herstoryinsneakers (HSIS) was born. 

 Although the focus is on womxn, it’s imperative to me that HSIS doesn’t become a place where mxn are hated. For me it’s more about educating anyone who doesn’t believe womxn deserve a seat at the table through showcasing why they in fact do. I’m extremely proud of the community we currently have over on HSIS which consists of everyone, and I can’t wait to continue to showcase the incredible womxn in the scene.

Sandy Kaur
Sandy Kaur ©

One of the major projects you’ve been involved in is Nike, guest designing to create the Air Sandy. Talk us through this!
In the midst of the pandemic when there was no hope for anything, Nike By You Workshop had announced their applications were open for London 2020 so, without even thinking it would lead anywhere, I crossed my fingers and applied. A few weeks later I was sat in the passenger seat of a car and received an email saying I had been successful and was selected to be 1 of 20 guest designers to work on an upcoming project.The brief given was to design either an AM95 or AM90 to represent what ‘Unseen London’ means to me – I of course picked the AM95! You can’t get much more London culture than the 110. 

Due to the big P we weren’t able to physically design our shoe in an actual workshop so it was all done online on a Nike ID site except this time the shoe wouldn’t just be coming to you, it would actually be available to purchase… worldwide… for everyone… so I guess you could say there was some pressure. 

 With the brief in mind I designed my shoe to reflect the greenery that surrounds the gloom and doom of London, and used the layering that surrounds the 110 to create an ombre effect using shades of green to symbolise the unlearning and shedding that each individual goes through in this city. I don’t think anyone leaves London being the same version of themselves that initially entered. This is also why the official name for the shoe is ‘Reborn‘ although Air Sandy was the one that stuck haha. 

 This project also arose during the BLM protests which occurred globally due to the tragic loss of George Floyd, and I wanted to pay homage to the progressiveness and resilience of the people of London during that time hence the heel tabs of my shoe reading ‘Revolt’ when put together. Although that was a time where people could’ve easily lost their faith in humanity, the way people came together showed that light will always outshine darkness and we will not be silenced.

 I want everyone that either wears or sees the shoe to remember that we all have a voice, and it can be amplified when we connect as one. So revolt today, revolt tomorrow and continue to revolt for what is right in the face of wrong.

As I touched on earlier, I spent a lot of years living my passion for sneakers out vicariously through others since I didn’t have the financial means to do so myself, so being able to design my own was truly a dream come true especially being a first-generation Indian immigrant. That was a huge thing for my community and I’m proud to be able to say I did that.

 

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From that, have there been any other ‘pinch me’ moments of your career?
I was recently featured as the face of South London in the exclusive Sheakhermag x SNKRS magazine that was curated for a special exhibition in London this past weekend which is CRAZY! Even just receiving a Friends and Family invite from the SNKRS team was insane to me, nevermind actually being in the mag.

Another was interviewing the female Masters Of Air for my #HERMAXWEEK series on the blog in the lead up to Air Max Day – that was a huge deal for me as they are womxn I have looked up to since I knew of them. I also got to go to my first London Fashion Week experience and have my HSIS banner on display at Crepe City London this year so there’s definitely been a lot of pinch me moments to be thankful for!

If you could collaborate with one brand or person, who would it be and why?
Aleali May for sure. She is a huge inspiration to me being one of a handful of womxn that has made a shoe under the Jordan brand. She was also the first person to have made a Jordan shoe where there is no discrepancy in design between the GS and Men’s sizing. I have an incredible amount of respect for her for that since sizing has been a huge topic in the female community in recent years.

I’d love to collaborate on a Jordan 4 with her!

Sandy Kaur
Sandy Kaur ©

We love how the blog uplifts womxn in sneakers – something the industry definitely needs more of. Do you have a favourite feature from that list?
Funnily enough the initial idea for HSIS was to only be a podcast, but due to the ever-changing lockdown situations that wasn’t possible so I had to rethink my content as I had a fire in my belly and didn’t want to wait. I’m very grateful for that because that’s the only reason the blog started. 

As mentioned earlier the four female Masters of Air have to be my favourite feature – between them I can’t choose. Even now when I think about it I could cry. They are incredible womxn who really took time out of their busiest month of the year to speak to me! I don’t think the HSIS page even had more than 300 followers at the time.

I learned a lot through that experience, and it allowed me to further realise who I want to be to people. It also really highlighted that the passion for sneakers will never be diluted through hype, it just depends where you look. 

If you had to describe yourself and your work, how would you do so?
Oh this is a tough question… As much as I want to shower myself with every positive adjective in the dictionary, I think the best way to describe myself is resilient. I have been surrounded by strong womxn who have not allowed the hardships of life to dampen their spirits or make them lose faith in the beauty of life since I was a child. So although I take the time to feel my emotions, when it’s time to work it’s time to work. I will always believe in plan A, but that doesn’t mean I won’t have a plan B. I’m always prepared for no as an answer because I never want anything I do to be solely dependent on one thing.

 As for my work, I would like to describe it as authentic. I am incredibly passionate about anything I do whether that be designing a shoe, featuring on someone else’s platform or my content on HSIS. I wholeheartedly believe in my message, and I think it is progressive. I am extremely selective about who I work with or showcase because I want to make sure that I am never promoting someone that is not actually about the cause and just using it because it’s a current trend. I’d also like to call my work revolutionary, but of course, I’m biased.

Sandy Kaur
Sandy Kaur ©

Do you have any advice for womxn wanting to break into the sneaker space, or perhaps people wanting to set up passion-projects and podcasts?
I don’t want to get copywritten by Nike, but JUST DO IT! 

 People will believe in you more than you think, and even if they don’t, if you have a voice the least you can do is use it. There are plenty of womxn out there who are silenced due to politics, finances or cultures and what a shame it would be that you don’t use your privilege because of your own self-doubt. There is honestly space for everybody at the table to eat, and as long as what you are doing is authentic to yourself, you will succeed. I strongly believe that. It’s extremely cliché to say, but the only guarantee of failure is to not try at all. 

 If there is anyone out there reading this that thinks there isn’t anyone out there that wants to see or hear what they have to offer, I am here to tell you that I do. And who knows, maybe one day we will see you on the podcast!

 That’s great to hear! Looking forward, what’s next for you?
More everything! Now that the podcast has finally launched I’m excited to continue recording them and showcasing the waviest females in the sneaker industry, community and all things related. I’ll also be covering the upcoming Crepe City London event so I hope to see some new faces there. Beside that, I would just encourage everyone to keep up with the HSIS socials and also my own as you never know where you’ll see me pop up as I’ve been in some promising meetings lately. 

As for the future? Well, maybe we might get an Air Sandy part two.

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