Kemar Newall: Modern Liaison Between the Collecting and Fashion Industries

Men’s Patent Leather Sneakers by Rei Kawakubo (Designer) Comme des Garçons, c. 1990s
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Kemar Newall, the creator of the FLIP app is an unlikely fashion game changer, but that’s exactly what he is. A dreadlock-wearing, sneakerhead/techie from Brooklyn, New York he’s bridged the gap between the world of collecting with a street style staple-sneakers. Before he started in 2014, one of the only ways dedicated fans could get the latest kicks was to wait in long lines. By taking the obstacle out of the equation, he devised a genius strategy: an auction site. Sellers can post the goods and buyers can acquire them within 90 minutes.

Featured in Nylon, Hypebeast, Coveteur and others, his message is clear-make “trading sneakers accessible and easy for what he calls the “snapchat generation”. Within the sneakerhead culture appearance is important, especially when it comes to their footwear. The way that differs from how fashion has traditionally been viewed is the Yeezy, Nike and Adidas have become as coveted as an “It” bag. But this time the trendsetter wearing it isn’t Kate Moss it’s A$AP Rocky.

A racial and cultural shift has occurred with the sneaker as the impetus. Historically political, with our current climate, the rise of their relevance symbolizes contemporary fashion as succinctly as a charged slogan tee that reads Diversity. Function and cool designs have carried the shoe throughout its history from its inception, in the 1900’s, but recently they’ve also been elevated to art.

Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture, an exhibit originally from Toronto, aptly chronicled why they’re an important accessory. James Dean appropriating the Chuck Taylor’s for rebels everywhere and Run DMC giving Adidas hip-hop cred are just two examples of their instant aestheticism. A pair of Nike Air Jordan I Royal’s can even elevate the standard sneakerhead “garms” equally with a spark of edge and beauty.They allow an otherwise casually attired individual to strut like a dandy. Another phenomenon that’s changed in the fashion industry, making FLIP a revolutionary game-changer, is hip-hop’s prominence. Moving from the back to the front it’s poised to become part of that dual influence.

Why Jane Birkin? Why Now?

By the time I get home from my shift as a Special Ed Instructional Assistant, for LAUSD, I feel like an over-heated pup. My hair’s usually a mess after the students I work with play in it, my makeup’s blurry and soft focus, and my clothes a little more wrinkled and uncomfortable.

To get around looking like a total disaster every work day I often study style icons who magically appear comfortable, chic and elegant and try to imitate their style. This past year, with my stressful work schedule and school demands, I’ve been drawn more and more to Jane Birkin.

Tall and thin, like me, her uniform of jeans, tees, button-downs, sneakers and straw basket carry-alls looked very appealing and accessible. The last time I emulated her I wore a beige cotton Banana Republic jacket over a navy blue tee, from Forever 21, a pair of 1970’s style Levi’s I found at Ross Dress For Less for $2,99, a yellow cotton hat, aviator shades, and a yellow foulard print silk neckerchief.

Exhausted from another tiring week, I was surprised when the teacher I worked for insisted I have my picture taken with the class for Picture Day!

As I sat for my individual photo, I thought about my blog Every Day Fashion: Style for the Mainstream, and remembered I’d started it for moments like this and why I admired Jane Birkin. While there are spectacular moments that call for grandiose costumes there are also small ones that require attractive, well-made clothing that last for years.