Can SOL3MATES Elevate Independent Sneaker Design?


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“The most important thing we want to do is show there’s an alternative way of designing, producing, and buying sneakers.” says Nick Vinckier, the co-founder and CEO of SOL3MATES.

Backed by The Chalhoub Group, SOL3MATES is a sneaker brand being launched through web3.

The Chalhoub Group is a family-owned luxury goods retailer and distributor. As the largest retail operator in the Middle East, it introduced a lot of luxury brands into the region, including Louis Vuitton, Dior, Fendi, Louboutin, and Givenchy. The brand also has introduced its own products like the fragrance brand Ghawali, as well as acquired tableware manufacturer Christofle.

While the Chalhoub Group has had previous web3 efforts with brands LANVIN and Christofle, this is the first time it launched a brand with NFTs. Especially after watching the Christofle NFT “sell out in five minutes,” Vinickier was inspired to launch a web3-native sneaker brand.

“We believe that streetwear is becoming more essential to luxury,” says Vinickier on the brand’s inspiration.

On May 4th, SOL3MATES issued 10,000 of its SOL3MATES OG NFTs at a price of 0.03 ETH (Appx. $58). These collectors will receive an array of benefits including guaranteed pre-access, free global shipping, preferred pricing, giveaways, and partner perks.

The goal of the brand is to empower independent sneaker designers by utilizing Chalhoub Group’s robust network to sustainably develop short-runs of products. With a manufacturing partner based out of Portugal, the backing of SOL3MATES’ community could one day do wonders for designers trying to get themselves off the ground.

SOL3MATES designed its initial launch similar to a sneaker lottery. When the artwork is revealed to collectors on May 12, everyone will learn just how rare their box actually is. Although everyone paid the same price, the boxes will be tiered as OG (89% of holders), Silver (10% of holders), Gold (1% of holders), and Friends & Family (0.1% of holders). The rarer the box, the more exclusive the rewards.

“The tiers will be completely randomly distributed,” explains Vinickier. The goal of this is to build community engagement through gamifying the collection.

For its first sneaker, SOL3MATES is dropping the Sirocco 1, which was designed by Kacimi Latamene. As one Latamene’s first major collaborations, Vinickier’s selection came out of the blue.

“I accidentally fell on his Instagram page and fell in love with his designs,” recalls Vinickier. “Here’s this guy that no one in luxury or the wider fashion industry knows about. He has hundreds of thousands of followers and all of his posts get mega engagement. But when I asked around, no one really knew him.”

Latamene had an ASICS shoe concept that garnered some popularity online, however, Vinickier wondered why no one was hopping on his designs. This made him the perfect candidate for SOL3MATES’ launch. “We want to empower brilliant designers to create their own sneakers as directions of their own brands” he says. For its initial selections, SOL3MATES curated based on previous sneaker design experience, but didn’t require previous products that went to market.

With all the infrastructure SOL3MATES is putting behind a designer, the opportunity to bring new concepts to market could be something sneaker collectors resonate with. To offset the risks of experimental designs sitting on the shelf, SOL3MATES has made production efficiency and sustainability a priority.

SOL3MATES’ manufacturer is able to produce short runs, which help keep excess product low. With a background in engineering, co-founder and COO Rijal Hikmatullah notes the importance of sustainability in production, with plans to use recycled materials for shoes, including “coffee beans and plastic bottles. Any organic material we can apply to a shoe we’ll use, including recyclable materials. We’re using a traditional EVA that’s made from recycled water bottles in the future. We’re also big fans of 3D printing, like Zellerfeld. The made-to-order concept is beautiful because you never have to overproduce.”

With robust infrastructure and distribution, SOL3MATES has everything in place to help independent sneaker designers succeed. Since sneaker culture has shifted away from reselling, the push into web3 from a community perspective has been successful for major brands like Nike’s .SWOOSH and RTFKT, as well as adidas and Puma. Now with The Chalhoub Group’s sights set on up-and-comers for its first foray into sneakers, Vinickier says what makes him most excited about SOL3MATES is landing on what the future of sneakers could be.

“We’re looking for designers that understand that sneakers need to be wearable. They understand the physics of what makes it comfortable, but more importantly, they want to push the boundaries of design, innovation, and storytelling.”



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