Dave East has launched his first sneaker in collaboration with Diadora, set to drop at Foot Locker. He told Boardroom about the process and what it means to him.
Harlem rapper Dave East has unveiled his first sneaker in collaboration with Diadora, and his signature colorway of the renowned N9002 silhouette is set to drop exclusively at Foot Locker on Jan. 28.
An official press release revealed that the Dave East Diadora collection honors East’s friend and Queens rapper Kiing Shooter. The late rapper first gained traction in the streets with his single “They Say,” released on June 29, 2018. Shooter’s longtime relationship with East grew as labelmates on Queens legend Nas’s Mass Appeal record label.
Diadora’s N9002 first hit the market in the 1990s, signaling a new direction for the Italian sportswear brand. Designed initially to dominate tennis courts, the sneaker was transformed into a running silhouette. At the time, Diadora wanted to unite the training style innovations from brands like Nike, New Balance, Asics, and Saucony. Years later, the sneaker would be revered as an affordable lifestyle shoe. But what made it a staple was how the colorways perfectly matched the brand’s colorful and attention-grabbing tracksuits.
East upheld brand tradition by unveiling a tracksuit outfitted in the same colorway. The sneaker also pays homage to the rapper’s Barbadian heritage. With an off-white base, a Bajan blue suede around the toe box, and bright yellow laces, the colors mirror the Barbados flag. Additional details contain Kiing Shooter’s birth and death years. Alongside the dates, the initials “FTD” represent his “From the Dirt” brand on the tongue’s interior.
East commemorated the release by uncovering an exclusive glimpse of the shoe with Foot Locker in his store, “From the Deli,” in his home neighborhood of Harlem. The store houses merch from East’s FTD brand and his strain of cannabis dubbed “East Lato,” while murals of the late Nipsey Hussle, DJ Kay Slay, and Popsmoke on the store walls help preserve Nipsey’s message of “The marathon continues.”
Speaking with Boardroom at the event, East disclosed details about his partnership with Foot Locker, who spearheaded the exclusive release. Furthermore, East documented his trek into the sneaker world as a rookie and his longtime relationship with Kevin Durant.
RORY ROBINSON: How did you and Foot Locker first connect?
Dave East: I’ve been going to Foot Locker all my life, to be honest with you. Through Diadora and me doing the collab with the sneaker, it’s going to drop exclusively through Foot Locker. I’ve been doing a lot of events with Foot Locker over the years, so to be able to drop a sneaker exclusively through them is beautiful.
RR: This event is happening exclusively at your store in Harlem. YOUR city. How important is that to you?
DE: It couldn’t be any better. I wouldn’t pick anywhere else in the world. And it’s in my store, so it shows how far I have come. My grind, the time I put in… It’s just starting to really pay off.
RR: Only a few people can say they’ve launched a shoe, let alone in their own store and own city. Did you ever think that something like this would ever happen to you?
DE: I always envisioned it. But not the way it rolled out, but I thought of things like that. I just never knew how I could go about doing it or the people to connect with. But, over the years of me building my brand, my name… It’s starting to get me in rooms and having conversations with other corporations that have been doing their thing for a long time. So I’m just really appreciative of the whole situation.
RR: I know you have a long history with Kevin Durant, tracking back to your basketball days. Has he given you pointers on maneuvering in the footwear industry, having a longstanding signature series himself?
DE: Nah, we haven’t spoken about sneakers. And I don’t even know if he knows I have my own yet. But yeah, I gotta make sure I get a pair for KD.
Whenever me and Kev talk, it’s more about life. How you doing, how you been, stuff like that. But, no, he hasn’t given me any pointers on the sneaker game. I’m brand new to the game. So I feel like once the world catches wind of what I’m doing, people will start to talk to me more about it.
RR: Let’s get into a few details with the shoe itself. Were you a part of the process of selecting the model and the colorway? What was the inspiration?
DE: Both. I always liked Diadora and the N9002. I feel like Diadora was the old hustler sneaker that I used to see my uncles and cousins running around in, in the early nineties.
[As far as] the colorway, my father’s father is from Barbados, so I went with the colors of the Bajan flag. I highlighted that on the sneaker to shed light on my West Indian heritage. I picked the model, thinking that the N9002 could be worn with anything.
RR: And as far as your future with the brand goes, do you already know the next Diadora model you might want to work on? Or are you kind of just soaking in this monumental release?
DE: I’m definitely soaking in this release. We are discussing what we will do in the future. But for now, I’m definitely excited for this release right here.
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