New York Sole

Photo by 13thWitness

Ronnie Fieg’s come up is one that translates into the blueprint of his Kith NYC conglomerate. “Wu-Tang Clan came into my store for Wallabees. I used to help Jay Z with his construction boots every Saturday. He used to come in and call me ‘whitey,’ that was my nickname. Everybody that was big in that era was on 8th Street on weekends, it was the place to be.”

Steez was embedded into Fieg’s veins at a young age. As his pockets grew fatter from hustling kicks, his eye for what was cool evolved into a wardrobe that his peers back in Jamaica, Queens couldn’t fathom. “I was buying all this gear and showing up to school wearing Wallabees, AKU Bear Boots, Trezetas, Asolos. People weren’t ready for that and I used to get made fun of a lot, but I was in the city and saw what these kids were wearing.”

A native New Yorker through and through, the designer has a strong sense of pride calling the city that never sleeps his stomping grounds. “I don’t give a fuck if you’re a native of anywhere else. You cannot claim to have seen the things that went down in this city. We lived it.” Ronnie’s love of footwear came full circle while at Baruch College. With only a semester left in his pursuit of a Business Management degree, Fieg decided to drop out; he was already doing what he loved at David Z.

Through his experience dealing with shoe companies Fieg was able to collaborate on his first design, a Timberland boot that was limited to 48 pairs in 2006. Next on his agenda was to revitalize a sneaker brand that was previously overlooked and underrated in the popular market — Asics. After a front page feature on the Wall Street Journal that highlighted a Gel Lyte III release, Fieg realized his potential. In 2011 the Kith craze began.

Now at the forefront of men’s street fashion, Fieg plans to shift the focus of his brand from footwear — for which he has garnered cult status — to a more apparel-based line, with a modern aesthetic and high quality remaining is key ingredients. He is a firm advocate of offering premium goods at an affordable price, without selling out his name. “My talent has really been to know what the consumer wants. I believe that there is a way where you can offer people goods that are priced correctly; the price—range of goods has gotten out of hand. I never believed in overcharging just because I had my name behind something.”

Merely settling for a physical presence in the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan is not enough; Fieg’s influence now spans across the globe. Just last year, Kith’s head honcho took it upon himself to curate a pop-up shop in Miami as part of his “East Coast Project,” followed up by an equally successful pop-up stint in Paris during men’s fashion week, dubbing it the “Coat of Arms.” His New York mentality is evident in each venture. Fieg explains, “I think that New York is an attitude. At the end of the day, I’m a hustler. The competition is so fierce in this city that when you go into any other city with the same mentality, it’s a layup. If you can make it here you can make it anywhere.”

The designer has dominated the world of street fashion with ease; On any given release day one can find a swollen sea of people crowding the Kith sidewalks. But Kith hopes to appeal to a much broader audience. “We’re looking to gain every demographic. Honestly, I want my dad wearing my shit. I want you, the skater, the grungy rock dude, everybody to be my customer,” says Fieg.

If his past successes have taught us anything, he should have no problem gaining that demographic. Kith’s upcoming Spring collection will implement a wide range of tops and outerwear, along with garments that feature a combination of tech fabric, indigo-dyed terry cloth and washed denim. It sounds like a wild concept, but as with everything Fieg does, execution is key.

As for footwear, Fieg will continue to satisfy the sneaker fiends craving his designs. His early Asics Gel Lyte III “Mint Leaf” and “Cove” renditions have been touted as grail status. The kicks are so rare that fans have been demanding a re-release. “Somebody even started a petition online, which is pretty crazy,” says Fieg. Instead, he executed the same colorways on the Asics Gel Lyte V model instead, a fair compromise. Add that to a brand new Clarks silhouette, the “Kildare,” which the designer himself had a hand in creating and you have one hell of a season in the bank.

His relentless work ethic certainly comes at a price, as his personal life has taken a backseat to his business ventures. As Fieg puts it, “I’m here night and day, I don’t have a girlfriend or any kids, and I barely see my family. I always have to outdo myself and doing it each time takes more time than the last project.” But Ronnie Fieg is exactly where he needs to be.

What would a teenage Ronnie think of his current self? “Since I was a very young kid I spoke about doing exactly what I’m doing now. I always wanted the opportunity to create, and to own a space where you can influence people. This business has been everything to me. It’s my life. But in short, ‘I knew it!’”

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