There is no better place to talk sneakers and clothes than the AGENDA show, an event where multiple brands come together to share their newest collections for the upcoming seasons. There is a section for apparel and of course, our favorite section, footwear. Located on aisle M, there was one booth to be at if you wanted to meet sneaker cleaner guru Jason Markk. We got the chance to sit down with Jason Markk himself and hear how he built his empire from the ground up through his pursuit of passion.
Q: What made you want to start your own shoe cleaner line?
JM: I think for me I really wanted to be my own boss at some point in my life. I was working at Dairy Queen when I was like sixteen, but while I was doing that I was also making money DJ-ing. I think having that experience in making that type of money on the side and doing something that I actually really loved, it has always stuck with me. Even when I started my professional career. I was in advertising, that was cool but I wasn't really passionate about it. It just so happened I was always into sneakers, since I was a little kid. I was cleaning my sneakers one day using a homemade concoction. I had OxiClean and a little bit of dish washing soap. I was thinking there’s got to be a better way of doing this. Eight years later here we are.
Q: When it comes to design what collaboration has been your most memorable?
JM: The most out of the box collaboration we've done to date has been with Hello Kitty. That design was really minimalistic and clean. The exterior had Hello Kitty embossed on the cover. From far away it just looks like a white box but when you bring it up close you’re like, 'Oh damn! It’s Hello Kitty!'. When you open it you have an allover colorful print. It’s a good balance plus working with Hello Kitty, that’s pretty iconic.
Q: How have you seen the sneaker game revolutionize through the years?
JM: The internet definitely changed everything. Not as much camping and waiting in line. It’s now about waking up at the crack of dawn and turning on your laptop or your phone. It’s changed dramatically. Personally I think it’s a good thing, it’s inevitable. When you go to these sneaker shows you see these young kids like seven, eight, nine and ten year olds really into it. I think it’s interesting and a good thing.
Q: How do you view the sneaker culture?
JM: To me personally it’s not about the hottest shoe that is out right now and I have to get my hands on it. Sneakers have always been about self-expression. Buy what you like even if it’s not a limited edition or super rare sneaker that everyone wants. Some of those sneakers I think are hideous and I would never spend money on that but sometimes I come across a GR (general release) Air Max that is not hyped but I really like it, so I’m going to buy it and wear it. I think sneaker culture has always been about expression. It’s about keeping your sneakers fresh. It’s about the anchor to your outfit and kit. You gotta look fresh! But that’s what sneaker culture means to me - it's fun, kicks are made to be worn. A lot of these collectors have a pair on ice they will never wear and I guess to each is own. That is totally cool but like I think sneakers are made to be worn, enjoyed, otherwise they just sit in a box and slowly kind of deteriorate over the years. I get both sides but for me personally I’m always an advocate of rocking your sneakers, wear them, enjoy them.
Q: In all your travels what city has surprised you on their sneaker culture when it comes to being a die-hard sneakerhead?
JM: I would say Tokyo. I think the whole Jordan sneaker sub-culture has kind of taken hold of Tokyo. When I think of Japan I think of Puma Suedes, Converse Chucks '70s. When you think of the U.S. you think Jordan craze, lately I think the Jordan craze has slowly taken over Japan. So that was a surprise when I was out there. I’d visit the sneaker shops and a lot of Jordans. That felt like I was in the U.S.. As far as surprises go I think that was surprising to me, but sneaker culture globally is always interesting to see. In Europe for example, London or Germany, they are all about runners. I’m more of a runner guy myself. I rock Jordans over other brands but when I visit Europe it’s always cool seeing the models because they get a lot of models that U.S. will never see physically only on the internet.
Q: If you can give one important tip to all sneakerheads what would it be?
JM: Buy what you like, what makes you happy, don’t really get caught up in the hype - 'I don’t really like them but everyone wants them so I’m just going to buy them'. You know it’s always been about expression. Buy what you like, express yourself, wear your kicks and keep them clean!