I LOVE trainers. You might have noticed? But I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a sneakerhead. I don’t have a whole room dedicated to storing my rare styles. I don’t keep all my kicks in their original boxes (essential storage for a true sneakerhead; see Instagram for countless examples), nor am I cool enough to actually call them ‘kicks’. And I certainly don’t have a pair of trainers signed by Nike’s legendary designer and owner of one of the best names in the world, Tinker Hatfield. More’s the shame.
The store is in Deptford’s new cool arches area; inside the store; Puma Clydes in animal print
So meet Lisa Barlow Weber (below). Lisa has just opened London’s first store dedicated sneakerheads of the female variety. She’s been working with trainers since she was a teenager but in November her brainchild, KICKSLOVE, opened in Deptford, south east London. And it’s a fantastic store. You can go there and totally geek out if you’re already obsessed, but it’s also a friendly place to go and learn more (there’s a library where you can sit and read about trainers at the back of the store – genius) or just browse the great edit of more unusual styles than you’d find in Size? or Offspring. And naturally, because it’s a store for women, you’re very unlikely to come up against that age-old problem (and my personal bugbear) of the style you want only starting four sizes bigger than your feet. Brilliant.
I caught up with Lisa to learn more.
So you’re a massive sneaker head. Can you remember your earliest memory of trainers and when you fell in love with them?
My earliest memory is when my Dad took me to a JJB Sports at the age of 12 and bought me the cheapest Nikes in the store. I can’t remember what they were called; all I cared about was that they had a swoosh on them as I was massively jealous of my brother’s Huaraches. At that time, around 1995/1996, I just had to have any Nikes.
What was the first pair of kicks you bought with your own money?
A pair of Nike Air Tailwind from JD Sports. They weren’t anything standout but I just love the small swoosh and blue and yellow detailing. I always like to wear something that not many people are wearing.
Lisa’s gallery of sneaker art; Puma Ren boots; Stance socks (you guys know how highly I rate Stance’s Super Invisibles but they’re not always easy to find…you can buy them at KICKSLOVE!)
How did you get into working with trainers for a living?
I started taking a real interest in sneakers around the age of 15 or 16. I was telling my mum all about the history of a sneaker in Foot Locker one day – it caught the manager’s attention and he offered me a job! I worked at Foot Locker for six years whilst at university and I got a lot of my sneaker knowledge during this time. All the guys that worked there were really into it and I learnt a lot from them too. I then moved across to Size? in Bristol when it opened whilst studying my masters degree in international management. I wrote my dissertation on Nike and had always dreamed of working there.
And you did end up working there, didn’t you?!
Yes! One day the product team walked into Size? as they were having a sales conference in Bristol. I saw my opportunity: next thing I knew I had a job at ‘The Swoosh’ in Soho and was living out my dream working on the product line. I worked at Nike UK HQ for six years, on the women’s sportswear footwear line and in the retail brand team, spending numerous hours in retail and studying the consumer.
What gave you the idea to set up KICKSLOVE?
While at Nike, I saw a gap in the market for an independent female sneakerhead store and thought I’d create it before anyone else did! The idea for KICKSLOVE was borne out of seeing the popularity in female sneakers continuously increase year on year, from the catwalk to the street. The hunt for fresh kicks by women was growing, and more and more women and girls wanted the hottest releases in their sizes. The brands are waking up to this notion now; I wanted to create a store and a space where girls could come and learn about sneaker culture, as well as picking up a rare or limited release. There really isn’t a female sneakerhead destination in London so I wanted to create the first, as well as a space I would like to walk into and feel comfortable in myself.
A display of books and hats, as well as sneakers in store; Saucony trainers; the store’s library area
You run the business with your brother – is he as mad about sneakers as you?
My brother is the master of all things IT and ecommerce. He built us an amazing website whilst working and being a father. Pretty cool! He is very much into the side of the culture that is linked to hip hop and he loves researching and learning about which sneakers are attributed to particular songs and rappers. As much as he probably hates it, my knowledge and collection will always supersede his! My younger sister now works in the store with me, so it’s a proper family affair
How long did it take from conception to opening the store – it was pretty quick wasn’t it?
It certainly has been a crazy whirlwind! It took me about nine months from coming up with the idea and store concept to bringing it to life in November.
Deptford is the coolest undiscovered borough in the city I think, personally. It’s multi-cultural, multi-racial, all walks of life are welcome. It’s bursting with creativity, there are great vietnamese restaurants, absolute steals in the junk market on Wednesdays, and in terms of history, it plays a massive part in the development of Great Britain during King Henry VIII’s reign. It’s right on the river and, most importantly, I feel my demographic of consumer is in Deptford.
The store has an amazing floor – tell me about that
The store floor design is by the graffiti artist INSA who started his career in Deptford and has a studio in New Cross. He has done work in the past that feature girls in kicks with his iconic shoe fetish print, which has been painted all over the world and now our floor. I wanted to make the store aesthetic as visually interesting as the sneakers themselves but also have a local story element to it.
You don’t just stock sneakers – what other stuff can we find in store?
You will find new and young/undiscovered brands like KICKSLOVE apparel and Colorsuper, as well as brings backs such as Fila and the Schott bomber jacket. Plus all sorts of things to pimp up your kicks like Ropes Laces, Jason Markk sneaker cleaner, Pintrill pins and Sneaker Freaker magazine.
Jason Marrk sneaker cleaner; Ropes Laces; books available to buy in the store, including my second book, En Brogue: The Trainers Guide
Do you have a favourite pair in store right now? And of all time?
My favourite pair right now are the Roundel x Nike Air Spiridon in the exclusive London colourway. It’s so so hard to choose a favourite pair of all time but if I was forced, my Space Jam Jordan 11s signed by (the Nike designer) Tinker Hatfield.
Do you ever wear “normal” shoes? If so, what are they like?
Yeah, I love a good loafer or brogue, however my style is never too far removed from sneakers when its comet to shoes, so I look for comfort.
KICKSLOVE is in Arch 31, Deptford Railway station, or at kickslove.com