SA Talks with The Generic Man
October 27th, 2008 | Have a Seat
Last fall Kevin Carney and Brandon Day came to Steven Alan in New York to talk to us about their shoe line, The Generic Man. In good traveling salesman style (a long trip from L.A.), they unpacked their wares and dazzled us with The Generic Man designs. We’ve been a fan of their shoes for some time, so we were excited this fall when The Generic Man collaborated with Steven Alan on an exclusive shoe design. Here’s a little about the men behind The Generic Man, and the shoes that you might find ringing your doorbell.
SA: Some of the things that stick out about you guys are that you like good music and cool shoes. Is there something about your designs that makes them particularly suited to dancing? And, if so, could you match a style to a particular song?
K: In a dressed up mood I would wear the Savant shoe in white patent leather while dancing to a Kid Creole and the Coconuts track…or maybe ‘Psycho Killer’ by The Talking Heads…they would look nice with David Byrne’s over sized suit. To dress down I would wear the Chukman style while dancing in 1970’s Jamaica to anything Sly & Robbie produced.
B: I’m more of a dub and dancehall guy so I’d say when it comes to dancing I enjoy sporting my Ramon Red Chuckman’s while listening to some heavy dub in a small hole in the wall bar in SF or Paris. They just look great in either a small dancehall or sipping prosecco on a leisurely Sunday in Lake Como.
SA: On that note, what is your favorite thing to do when wearing The Generic Man shoes?
K: I like walking my dog ‘Baguette’ while wearing the first prototype of the Driver shoe…which has gone on to become the Steven Alan collab shoe.
B: I’m sample size so it’s great that I get to test all the styles out. I love just grabbing a new pair for the evening and walking down to Vinotecca in Los Feliz or if I’m in Milan, Cape Town, and sitting outside and having Apprietivo. I like to see the reaction to the shoes and get feed back. I feel it’s important to the process.
SA: The Generic Man shoe line began in 2007, so that would mean that you’re a few seasons into the world of shoes. Things seem to be moving pretty quickly for you both. Other than having great shoe taste, to what would you attribute your fast rise to shoe fame (or, “What motivates you?” or, “What makes you get up in the morning?”)?
K: A strong belief in our direction without looking sideways at our competition.
B: We started to create shoes based on the gap we saw in the marketplace for thoughtfully priced luxury for the Newdult (editor’s note: see Kevin and Brandon’s concept of the “Newdult”). That gap is filling now a bit, but I think we provide a certain perspective that others miss. The Generic Man has a strong point of view, therefore we try to stay dedicated and focused on it.
SA: What was your first favorite pair of shoes?
K: My first favorite pair of shoes were some Giorgio Brutini shoes that matched my Willi Wear suit…circa 1980.
B: Navy or white [true white, not the off-white] leather Sperry Topsiders. I wore them on sailboats as a kid and still own a few pairs today. They’re classic and timeless, often duplicated and copied, but the originals stand up against them all.
SA: Maybe we should take a moment to discuss the collaboration with Steven Alan on these killer suede sneaks. What made you most excited about working with Steven Alan?
K: Steven Alan is a very old friend and I’ve always admired his impeccable taste, business sense, and personal style. In the past I had sold a few brands to his shops (Generic Costume and Biast) and we always seemed to have menswear bonding sessions. It is inspiring to know that we are completing the looks for his collections with shoes.
B: Working with Steven Alan has been amazing. I feel he is one of the most important true American designers right now. The process has been so smooth because I think Kevin and Steven have a certain perspective on men’s fashion and it was just completely natural for them to work together to complete Steven’s looks. Since I handle more of the business end I have to say that Steven has put together such a great team that it has been very easy working with all of them.
SA: We heard that you produce your shoes in Italy and Portugal. Do you have any anecdotes about your travels and business dealings there that you could share here?
K: We started out the business by spending six months in Italy where we learned that men in lab coats still make shoes there. It was fascinating to see how they worked. One of my favorite parts of working with Italians is that you could speak with your hands to get your precise thoughts across. It was second nature for both of us.
B: When we first arrived in Milan we used to have this guy pick us up in the smallest car you’ve ever seen, he spoke no English, and we would drive around to factories all afternoon. We were working through a translator, who is a friend as well as a well-known designer, so I think we felt things were getting changed in translation. We finally were introduced to a man/factory that could possibly be the best men’s shoe-maker in the world. Happily, he took us under his wing. We then moved to Florence to work with him and source all our materials. This was an amazing experience for Kevin and me: driving to the four corners of Italy looking at leather, suede and canvas. I think the original days of driving around shoved into a sub-compact were some of the funniest and most frustrating moments that we will remember forever.
SA: We appreciate your design philosophy (that your products don’t need branding or logos) and also your goal of creating luxury goods that are made to last.
K: We believe that branding comes across stronger with the last, materials, color, and quality. There are so many brands out there. We just want anonymity and to make sure that when a man or woman goes into his or her closet after one, five, or ten years, he or she can pull out a pair of Generic Man shoes and wear them like the first day they were purchased. “Modern Classics”, if you will.
B: I believe what’s important is getting men and women to focus on the shoes themselves and not what branding is placed on them. It’s about the shapes, quality of materials, and handmade construction. I would like people to move past throw-away consumerism and look at our shoes as timeless and classic. Shoes people can wear for many years because they don’t go out of style and actually look better with time. They become personalized with age. I think Americans, especially Newdults, are moving in that direction.This entry was posted on Monday, October 27th, 2008 at 1:58 pm and is filed under Have a Seat. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.