There is truly something special about that Visible Air that has sneaker enthusiasts all around the globe obsessed, and if you've managed to catch Nike's mini doco Masters Of Air released earlier this year, then you can probably relate to spending your livelihood curating your prefect collection in the same way as the featured French honey, Lalla.
Born and raised in Paris, Lalla spends her day teaching English as a second language to high school students, and if any of our teachers were even nearly this legit back in the day, then we're pretty sure our grades and attention span would've definitely improved too!
A well seasoned sneaker lover from the Golden Era with an extremely soft spot for the Air Max 1, Lalla could be considered one of the few left who's stayed true to the game, sharing with us her honest and refreshing point of view on what the rapidly evolving sneaker culture is really like today.
Can you please tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into sneakers?
I got into sneakers at a pretty young age, it really became my thing in junior high but even before that I can remember having this love for it. I’m into everything the 80’s and 90’s introduced me to, like art and good music, how couldn’t I ? It was so big back then, just like all the good people from my generation, I like to say that I was born in the perfect era, the Golden Era.
I grew up in a tiny apartment in Paris, I used to share my bedroom with my older brother with whom I get along so well, so of course we shared more than just a room. He was the music and I was the shoes, we have very similar tastes, and we emulated each other on many fields. My parents always had good music at home, and my mom was very much into clothes and shoes, she always wanted us to look good so I guess it helped us to become who we are today.
School was also very important too, and maybe it's the reason why I never left it and became a teacher!
And being a teacher, what do your kids think about your love for sneakers?
I teach in high school, so sneakers definitely play a part in my special bond with the kids. They all see me as like this super cool teacher, because of my style and the fact they see me in different pairs all the time, and obviously a different style from rather classic teachers... it's definitely quite flattering for me! Sneakers are just that thing all the kids talk about and love, and will always love.
In France, we have a strong sneakers culture and just like when we were younger, they have to have it and be into it, you know how tough kids are on each other. I see so much going on at school sneakers wise. It's not even a materialistic thing, it's a whole style and way of life and thinking that surround the sneakers, and of course some of them ended up hearing about my Masters Of Air thing, and to some of them I became the absolute grail teacher!
And to be honest, it's quite convenient for me because when the kids like you or value you and your opinion, they behave well with you and you can ask them to do almost anything, and they respect you because you have that style they like. Maybe the only downside of it is that they often try and change the class subject lesson to talking about the latest releases and ask for my opinion about this or that pair, and they're always eager to know how the game was back then and I see myself spending the whole hour trying to get them back to work!
Speaking of Masters Of Air, can you tell us how your feature came about?
Well it is a good question, but I’m not sure I can really answer. There are many people who are into sneakers who have incredible collections here that I was quite surprised myself, but I like to think that maybe the fact that I’m not that young anymore and I kind of saw it growing since such a young age, and also that I’ve been buying, consuming, loving, and rocking kicks for as long as I can remember. I’ve been true to it, and not collecting that pair because it was hype or whatever, I don’t know, I just love kicks for what it is, I don’t do it because I wanna be famous and shit. It is just part of who I am.
So last thing I know is that I lent some pairs to a Nike event for the 95th anniversary last year and I’m pretty close to the Starcow Paris boys who are themselves close to some Nike people, and I know Nike Global has been looking through Instagram accounts and stuff...Then I got a call from Nike France, then Nike Global and that was it.
They said they were actually looking for an atypical profile, so is it my job? My clothing style? My passions around it? My relationship with it? Maybe it was a mix of all of it that made it special. It all went super fast, they asked me a few questions, then came to my house and BAM we did it! The whole crew spent the whole day with me, at my place, in my hood, and some spots I like in Paris, they filmed the whole day. It was just one of those days, it felt like I was in the 4th dimension or something. It all happened pretty fast and unexpectedly, I didn’t even have time to digest the thing, then the video was edited and ready! We spent more than 2 hours just to do that foot trying on shoes thing, it was crazy.
How has sneaker culture evolved over the years in Paris and how do you feel about it today?
Well as I said before, Paris has a pretty decent scene with a good amount of people having dope collections and super cool and rare pairs and real knowledge about it. People from back in the days for sure, but also some new kids, stepping their game up and showing real love to it.
And at the same time, you don’t have that many sneakers stores even if we have the feeling that the demand keeps growing. I think sneaker culture is decent in Paris but not that big actually, of course it is from my own perspective.
You see more sneakers on people’s feet for sure, but often with the same pairs or same styles, sometimes I feel like we lack originality or something. It's been a long time since I've been amazed at somebody’s foot for real. Or maybe I don’t go out enough or chill with the good crowd, I don’t know, it always seemed to me that European countries like Germany or England were bigger sneakers wise.
One of the good things about the sneaker expansion is the fact it became more acceptable to wear sneakers in your everyday life, at the workplace for example, and I really appreciate it because I’m not the weirdo anymore.
With the constant hype around sneakers how do you feel it’s impacted mainstream culture?
To be honest it evolved in the kind of way that doesn’t make you want to keep on doing it anymore, it became a little too mainstream for me, too much hype around it.
I think the social networks are over flooded with kicks everywhere, everybody is into it, everybody wants to be the next big thing. I used to think it was cool, but now it's just gotten boring. People are acting crazy about it, everybody wants a piece of it, everybody calls themselves a sneaker head, a sneaker addict, a sneaker collector, curator, whatever.
They want to shine through it and become the sneaker star. The worst thing is when I see the girls who used to wear random classic shoes and shit claiming to be sneaker experts the next day. It is kind of rude to the real kids in this game. So many blogs and accounts and pages dedicated to it, the mainstream culture has killed it a little, sometimes I wish I was into something else.
And you have sneakers events and meetings every two months with crazy prices too! 800 euros for a pair which cost $70 on eBay 10 years ago? What happened to us? I’m like how can you even spend that much money on a pair?
The fact that everyone is looking for the same collabs and limited edition and whatever they call grail. Honestly I can’t approve of today’s scene, and most of all, I don’t like the idea that if you have money you can get anything you want and become the dopest collector in the world. We used to travel for pairs and enjoy the ride. Sneakers to me are souvenirs of love and life and encounters and certain quests that made them so special.
Women’s sneakers have definitely come a long way, what do you think about the selection that is now being offered in comparison to back in the day?
Yes, women have now their share of it and plenty of pairs they can buy today compared with back in the days for sure, so I guess it is a good thing right? I’m not too sure about the selection offered to us though, I can wear mens sizes so I don’t really care, but I have to say women sneakers are unfortunately not always the best ones. I’ve never been into pinkish, flowery, bunny kitty stuff, I don’t like when kicks are too cute or girly but I guess it is good if other girls appreciate it.
The best part of having a women's voice heard in this game is rather a bigger size range on many pairs, I’m talking about men kicks because I’m not sure all women approve of what they are offered today even if I’ve been hearing and seeing a lot of men looking for some women's pairs too! We’re experiencing the opposite now.
So I try not to be too much of a hater and I have to admit it is a good thing for ladies with small feet.
Do you feel like there is still a big difference between what men and women want in the way of sneakers?
Well if it was for me, I like the same classic stuff as men do so I don’t see any difference for what I want, but that’s just me. I know some girls who are into girly stuff so it might be different for them, but anyway what defines a men's pair from a women's one? I think we both appreciate the same good stuff.
Do you remember your first pair of sneakers and how you got into collecting?
I started with Adidas and I think I still have a picture of me aged 10, wearing this pink Adidas low, I don’t remember the name, with a matching tracksuit and a long colourful coat, I know I have this photo somewhere and I wish I could show you right now. I was really big on Adidas at a very young age, I loved the Country, the Gazelle, the Rom, and all their big hi-tops like the Pro Conference, the AttitudeHi, the Top Ten, Jabbar, and a few others. Then Reebok arrived and became the star of my junior high school yard with the Classic and the Freestyle that came out in so many colourways. I remember also I had some ugly Chipie kicks with the big C on the side on the shoe, I think it was my biggest mistake and I never wore it again haha! Then I saw and tried on my very first Nike Air Max, the BW, which was the beginning of the AMs becoming what I cherished most throughout the years.
Is it safe to say that the Air Max 1 is your favourite silhouettes?
Yes it is most definitely.
The comfort and style remain unrivaled to me, and that air bubble is everything, but the funny thing is I haven’t been buying any AM1s in such a long time! Except for this years AM1 Flyknit which came out really good, and I think the last AM1s I bought were from the Camo pack because I’m a sucker for everything camo, but I think it was more of a Maxim 1 than a AM1.
Otherwise I don’t like what they did with the shape of the one, so I just keep on wishing they make it again, meanwhile I've returned to the BW which is back on track, and I gotta say the 95 has been released in pretty cool colours these past few years.
What would be on the top of your list?
Well again, any AM1 OG white mesh, in classic colours. I’m actually dreaming of the comeback of Forest Green colour, which is definitely on the top of my list and some nice BW colourways.
More of these old hiking shoes I like such as the Nike Air Magma, the Lava dome, and the Nike Air Approach too, perfect for winter.
Some Humara, Alvord and ACG kicks, pretty cool running/trail style.
More dope Saucony collabs, over recent years they have had such dope prints and colourways and are great in comfort too.
And I’m still looking for the 95 animal pack, or the Lunar Moon Landing 90.
Some stuff like that, nothing too crazy, right?
Lastly, what are your hopes for the future of the sneaker world?
Well I wish we had much less releases because we are drowning in it and it is just too, too much, and I’m afraid it reached the point that makes this game boring and overrated, and totally uncool.
I also hope for better quality, sometimes you open the box, and you have one of the shoe with a slightly different shape or toe from the other, or some visible glue around the sole and I hate that, specially when you pay 180euros for it.
Better retros too, that 96 bubble sole for instance was awful! More camo, leo, animal or other crazy prints too, and of course I’m expecting the return of the old AM1 shape.
But on top of it all, I want a healthier more genuine scene with less wannabe sneaker stars. Guys, please stop copy/pasting your 30 line hashtag codes whenever you’re posting a picture of your latest pair, it gets so boring! We should keep it simple, it's not a competition about who has the most pairs or the most expensive whatever because it’s really getting ridiculous and sad. People bragging about some pairs they paid 2000euros to only put under a crystal glass because they too scared to rock them, god knows I love the shoes, but not like that. I’m sorry but sneakers are meant to be worn and they aren’t art pieces to me, and certainly not a trophy but I guess we all have different points of views, and I’m only giving mine.
Want more Lalla?