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Packer Shoes x Reebok Kamikaze II: Reign on the Alamo

July 25, 2013by Aaron Kr.
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Dating back to their first team-up with Reebok, Packer Shoes has made a habit of telling poignant sports stories through their collaborative releases. It started with a trio of Pumps inspired by Dominique Wilkins and his legendary Slam Dunk Contest heroics. Next up was the “Practice” Questions, immortalizing one of the most infamous moments in Allen Iverson history. Their latest project honors another human highlight film, Shawn Kemp, and one of his most memorable All-Star Game appearances.

Underlying them all is a cohesive “what if?” concept, which poses the question: if brands were making special PEs for their guys back then the way they do nowadays, what would they have looked like? The NBA All-Star Game eventually became the place to showcase special player editions and turn heads on a huge national stage, but at the time these guys were playing, things hadn’t progressed to that point quite yet.

Packer Shoes has re-imagined what some of these hypothetical PEs could have been, with the latest being the Reebok Kamikaze II, originally worn in a navy/white colorway by the Reign Man in the 1996 NBA All-Star Game in San Antonio. Packer’s version takes its cues from that year’s vibrant uniforms which featured the classic chili pepper graphic inspired by the host city’s famed local export.

Using elements of the 1996 All-Star color scheme combined with a clean gradient grey upper and topped of with the chili pepper Reebok Vector logo, Packer Shoes has once again managed to capture a sports moment in time. This interpretation gives the shoe a unique identity unlike anything that’s been done on the model before, but somehow, it still maintains a look that is not too far fetched to imagine as an actual mid-90s All-Star PE.

To amp things up a bit further, Packer joined forces with Mitchell & Ness to round out the release with a collection of ’96 NBA All-Star apparel. In addition to a Shawn Kemp Hardwood Classics jersey, the capsule also features a chili pepper snapback and a Kemp caricature shirt where he’s actually wearing the All-Star uniform and even the Packer Shoes Kamikaze.

All these goodies will be hitting their store next week, but before you start gearing up for the release, get better acquainted with the collection with an extensive gallery of images and an interview with store owner, Mike Packer, who gives us the full scoop on the “Remember the Alamo” Kamikaze II, as well as his take on what collaborative projects like this mean to the store and the ever evolving sneaker market.

Sneaker News:  Can you give us a little insight into your approach headed into a project like this?

Mike Packer:  When we take an iconic shoe and do a project around it, a lot of the stuff we’ve done has been rooted in sports heritage. I think it’s about coming up with a natural story that flows along with the shoe and its history in its purest form. It’s something that we like and I think it’s something that tells the story best.

SN:  Most of our readers are familiar with the back story by now, but in your own words, please break down the “Remember the Alamo” concept for us.

Mike:  Taking elements from the time period that Kemp played and this being one of his iconic shoes, it was about fusing those ideas together. We chose that classic ’96 All-Star Game, because if you look back at it, it was sort of the golden age of sneakers and the whole idea of players wearing special shoes in the All-Star Game

because that was the stage for it. So it was about doing something around that concept and then it just took on a life of its own. It started with the shoe and then we figured why not do the jersey with Mitchell & Ness and bring in some other stuff around it.

SN:  In your eyes, what did Shawn Kemp mean to Reebok and the NBA during those high-flying mid-90s years in his prime?

Mike:  Back in those days, together with Shaq and Iverson, Reebok sorta had a triangle with those players. You had Iverson who was “speed”, Shaq who was “power” and Kemp was really the personification of both of those things. Shaq and Iverson may have been 1 and 1a, but Kemp was that guy that would literally bring everyone to their feet. He was SportsCenter every night.

SN:  Do you find it to be a difficult balance to put a contemporary spin on these older basketball silhouettes in a way that’s relevant to today’s consumer, but still tied back to the shoe’s history?

Mike:  No, I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s really putting a contemporary spin on it. Maybe the whole process of doing PEs wasn’t in place then the way it is now, but if you’re objective about it, you could see him wearing that shoe in that game. So it’s taking something that could have fit back then, but fast forwarding it and bringing it to life now.

SN:  Based on the initial reactions, it’s looking like this Kamikaze release will be perhaps your most anticipated collaboration to date.  Aside from just selling a bunch of shoes, in what ways do projects like this benefit the store and your own brand name?

Mike:  We’re fortunate enough to work with companies not just as a business relationship. We’re obviously supporting them throughout the year, and that relationship gives us the ability to do projects like this. I think it benefits us as a store because the word gets out there, whether it’s social media or the blogs or however it gets out there.

You think about doing each of these projects individually, but I think there’s this natural overlay of all these things making sense in their own right as well as together. Yeah, I mean maybe this one could be our biggest, but no matter what, Packer grows time after time with each shoe thanks to the ability to do this stuff.

SN:  Is it refreshing for you to see such amazing consumer demand for retro basketball models from brands other than Nike right now, and how has that opened up the market?

Mike:  I think it’s always been there. It’s very popular right now and when you meet with companies, they all want to know when the basketball retro trend is gonna burst. I think when they say that the basketball thing is trending, it’s not trending, it’s just about companies looking at the scope of what can be done. It’s not like these aren’t models that we as a store have been championing and talking about and wanting to see come back, literally since probably the day we opened our doors. So now that it’s all coming together right now, yeah it’s cool, but I don’t think it’s really a Nike versus non-Nike thing. As much as there is out there right now, I don’t think everything has been done to death or that the whole thing is mature yet.

There’s a lot of pockets and different things that can be done, but the bottom line is that it just needs to get done in the right way. Not overdone, not doing color after color. Sometimes putting models to sleep for a while and then bringing them back. There’s a cadence to doing this stuff where the market always wants it. Maybe for next year, people think that running shoes are trending or cross-training shoes are trending, but it’s a fallacy. Good shoes, at the end of the day, are good shoes and retro basketball can live on a shelf in a store next to retro running, cross-training, tennis, and a lot of different things. It’s good that people want to say it’s back, but I don’t think it’s anything, that if done the right way, is gonna go away. It’s not like a bubble that’s gonna burst.

SN:  In your opinion, are some brands moving too fast by bringing all these old models back at once instead of spacing them out, or is it all about cashing in while they’re in such high demand?

Mike:  I think if you go that route of cashing in while the demand is high, that’s where you kill it. Go back 10-15 years, maybe even a little longer, basketball models lived, and lived well, coming out in only two or three colorways per year. Now a shoe comes out and you turn around two months later and there are 25 different colors. What that’s done is, now companies think that they just have to keep turning these things out week after week, month after month, and that is what will kill it.

But, I also think that product is always king if you put the right spin on it. We came at this project wanting to do something that we thought was relevant. Am I thankful that everybody is liking it – sure, but if you look at it, this is probably, I don’t know, the 10th or 12th colorway of this model within a few months time. The collaborative projects we see today weren’t around back in the day either, so it’s another factor to throw into the mix, but can this stuff be overdone? Yeah, it can.

SN:  There are some people out there who think that sneaker brands are too reliant on collaborations these days when it comes to creating buzz for their products.  Others might say that it’s keeping things fresh and pushing creativity. Do you think we’re approaching overkill or is there still ample room for these collab projects to be interesting and successful?

Mike:  I think obviously there’s room for it. You do reach a point though. Just looking at what we do – there are opportunities that have been brought to us where we look at them and say, you know what, you can oversaturate even doing your own thing. It’s really just a balance of spacing things out. We’re fortunate enough to have done a bunch of these projects and have some other things on the table. Companies are right to think that collaborative projects by stores are not the only way to support a business, and I get it where they think – oh yeah, you’re all in for the projects, but

you’re not all in for supporting our other initiatives or other give and take as far as what the brand can be bringing to the market.

So I think we try to be objective when doing these projects so it’s not overkilling them, but at the same time, we only have the ability to do them because of the relationships we have with the companies, whether it’s supporting their products, or advice, or just being objective about the products that they’re bringing to the market and helping them to make them better.

SN:  How rewarding is it to see a line of customers wrapped around the corner on the day of one of your collab releases, knowing that they’re there to buy a product that the store created?

Mike:  I remember when we first opened up in Teaneck, one of the first conversations I remember having with the guys in the store. This was in the beginning when it was really just us around, Nort was around and Undefeated and HUF were opening on the west coast. We opened up in Teaneck, New Jersey and we thought we were onto something, but you never know. So one of our first conversations was – do you think people will ever come to Teaneck to line up for shoes? Is it gratifying? Yeah, it’s gratifying to see that people want to have something that we created, but it’s also gratifying to see that a lot of the people who are on these lines

waiting to get a product are customers who have been coming to the store on a regular basis since we opened almost ten years ago.

So that atmosphere that’s there and the people coming out for it, it’s definitely grown over all these projects. Some projects go over a lot better or to a wider audience. I really do think that this Kamikaze is the widest audience we’ve ever hit with a project, aside from maybe the “Practice” Questions that we did. And at the end of the day, it’s gratifying to not just me, but to everybody that’s involved with the store on a day to day level. It’s something we all look forward to.

SN:  How do you guys feel about kids lining up to get a pair of these shoes, not to take them home to wear, but because they see an opportunity to flip them for a quick buck?

Mike:  At the end of the day, you can’t stop it, but you try your best to limit how that happens and be as fair as we can as far as people getting them. Now, if somebody’s standing there with some 58 year old guy who’s come off the corner for a couple dollars to stand on line, and he’s obviously buying the shoes for someone else to do whatever they’re gonna do with them afterwards – what are you gonna do?

You can’t really call people out for it, but I think that there really are a lot, a lot of people who really do want the shoe and I think that goes with a lot of projects we do. Again, it’s a balance. You can’t really do anything about it besides try to be as fair as you can to coordinate the line and make sure it’s one pair per person. And we even do that on the web sales as well.

SN:  In some ways, is it a badge of honor that people would even think that highly of the shoe’s potential value?

Mike:  Sure, I guess so, but with that, you just move on. At the end of the day, we have a business to run, so we don’t get too caught up in it. We obviously have aspirations for other things coming

down the pike and we just move on from there and hope that people want the next one. And you want them to want it because they want it. Not to flip it, but because it’s a good product.

SN:  Speaking of what’s coming down the pike, Packer Shoes and Reebok have been building a pretty strong track record together when it comes to these retro basketball collabs. Can you give us any hints on some upcoming projects you guys have in the works for the future?

Mike:  It’s safe to say that I don’t think the year will end without another one or two on the way. A lot of people think it’s a two-week process to do something like this and it’s not. From start to finish, this project was probably ten months in the making, so it’s safe to say there’s other stuff we’re working on presently, whether it’s with Reebok or with other companies. And with our ten year anniversary of the Teaneck store coming up next year, we have aspirations for that too. But like I said, this year won’t finish without some more stuff coming down the pike from us.

Much thanks to Mike Packer for taking the time to give us some of his insights on the sneaker game and make sure to follow the Packer Shoes blog for more surprises still to come.

Additional photos by: @olu_1gfromagod


The Packer Shoes x Mitchell & Ness x Reebok Kamikaze II “Remember the Alamo” heritage capsule will release at their Teaneck, NJ location on Friday August, 2. You can check out all the release specifics here, and be on the lookout for some added excitement to be announced next week!



PACKER SHOES x MITCHELL & NESS “SHAWN KEMP” CARICATURE T SHIRT (available in-store only while supplies last)