The shoe industry is one of the most lucrative industries on earth bringing in billions and billions annually; everyone wants a slice of that pie. Shoes have gone from something just to protect your feet but to an accessory that represents an individual’s style. Not everyone with a cool design ends up making a successful collection or a lasting imprint of the shoe game. Darrell Alston is a Philadelphia based designer making his mark on the shoe world. Darrell was inspired to design shoes during an 11 year prison term. Wanting to make a better life for himself, he turned to the art of shoe design as a way to express himself. His brand, Bungee Oblečení, represents that change he was looking for not only within the fashion world but also himself. His story of redemption is inspiring and we had the chance of sitting down with him to talk about fashion, changing his stars, and what the future holds for him and his brand.
Classic Entourage Mag: Thanks for sitting down with us. How are things going?
Darrell Alston: I’m well and things are fantastic. Thank you so much for having me.
CE Mag: Let’s get right into it, how did going to prison lead you to going into the shoe business? What were the steps? Tell us your path.
DA: My first day walking into a jail cell there was a Bible, a pad of paper, and a pencil. Eventually, I got so bored that I started to daydream about the clothes and sneakers that I once had. At that point I decided to sketch a pair of sneakers, and the image turned out really good. I began creating my own name, logo, and sneaker design shortly after the initial sketches. Once I had a various selection of designs, that’s when I began to read books about sneaker design and business building. Soon after, I created a checklist and the first 10 steps that I needed to take to get started once I got out of prison.
CE Mag: Why shoes? Shoes are one of the most saturated markets in the fashion industry and there are a lot of gatekeepers which makes a harder industry to break into. What separates you from the pack?
DA: This industry is definitely a hard one to break into. When I decided to produce sneakers, I never thought about an over saturated market, who I should market to etc. I loved sneakers, I had more than 200+ designs and I wanted to see them come alive. Once I received my first prototype, that’s when I knew designing and producing sneakers was what I want to do. I feel like the story of how I created our brand separates us from the pack. Also, the way that our designs are created with so many materials and fabrics really sets us apart. Not many companies are doing that. It’s been a challenging journey, but one that I’m incredibly grateful for.
CE Mag: Let’s talk about your design process, how do you go about creating a new shoe?
DA: From my very first design until now, I’ve never just sat down and created a shoe. Every design that I have done this far has come from a dream or from an image that popped up in my head. Once that image is in my head, I sketch it. After that, we focus on colors and materials. It’s a 6-8 month process to get a sneaker made.
CE Mag: Fashion is in a super strange place right now with the pandemic going on due to the lack of fashion shows. How do you promote and market your gear?
DA: Due to pandemic restrictions, we were forced to sell online. We have a few retail partners in Philadelphia and growing, but right now our sales are mainly online. We’ve had to get creative and find new ways to distribute our products, so I’ve done a few appearances at Philadelphia-area shoe stores to ignite buzz and showcase our shoes.
“My main focus for the next 6 -12 months is to stay relevant in the community…”Darrell Alston
CE Mag: As a designer what are some things in the industry that you do not like seeing? What do you think can be improved?
DA: I’m still relatively new to the industry, so I’m still in the honeymoon phase. I’m just really happy to be here. The only thing that I see right now is opportunity.
CE Mag: Moving forward, what are your goals for the upcoming 6 months? What about a year?
DA: My main focus for the next 6 -12 months is to stay relevant in the community, create jobs at Bungee, and mentor area youth to keep them away from traversing the same path that got me into trouble.
CE Mag: What advice would you give new designers coming into the space?
DA: Do your research! My biggest mistake was not doing the proper research when I first started. Designers need to know who the customer is that they are selling to, research the ideal manufacturer that they need to produce the merchandise, and most importantly raise capital. Without the proper funding, creating a brand will be extremely difficult.
CE Mag: Thank you for sitting down with us! What does fashion mean to you?
DA: There are a few answers to that question, but in my opinion “fashion” means self-expression, art, and a career! I feel really blessed to be able to enjoy all of that in my life and business right now. Thank you so much for having me.
Catch Darrel Alston’s work on his website and social media links below:
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