PHOTOS BY PEROLA DUTRA

“My name is Felipe, I’m 26 years old, I studied fashion for 2 years and a half, I made the mistake of putting my studies on hold, but now I almost finished getting my administration degree, so help us lord (laughs). I’ve always been in love with sneakers, fashion in general, but sneakers were what got my attention. The first time I really noticed a sneaker, I was in preschool, and this girl had a black Nike with a white swoosh. When I got home I went straight to tell my mom about the sneaker that I saw, and then she gave me a Topper  soccer cleat – she had got it all wrong… It wasn’t what I wanted, but had to do, right (laughs). So I like sneakers since preschool and the feeling only got stronger, until I was around 13 and I started wearing some Air Maxes. When you’re completely dependable on your parents you can’t go out buy shoes like crazy so I would get one every 6 to 7 months.

In 2014 I came back from a trip with some different sneakers that were more casual like Common Project, so I started wearing them here and everywhere I went there were people asking where were my sneakers from. There was even this once I was using the urinal and the dude next to me said: “hey, I couldn’t mind looking..” I was really shocked (laughs). But that really struck me because the dude didn’t even wait for me to finish my business right? So I decided that “I was going to make sneakers” even though I didn’t know anything about it.

From that moment on, I did a lot of research, since I didn’t know how to execute anything, there was no one to introduced me to someone who knew something.” I got a sheet of paper and I wrote down a bunch of factories and started making calls to Franca nonstop. I remember I had 3 sheets full of names and all of them turned me down, not even one, there was only this one guy that wanted to meet me, but in the end, he didn’t help me out at all.

I got really frustrated with all that, and I thought it wasn’t meant to be. Until one day I found a number on the internet and called this guy who was a sales representative for some big popular brands, and he said he knew some people that could help me out – it was where it all started, it was the first real contact I had with molds, soles, leather, drawings, and from that we drew three sneakers.

At the time all this happened I was still with Bang, but it didn’t go down because they stole the drawings and sold the shoes in some other stores – actually this stuff goes down all the time in Franca. But anyway, I left with the little knowledge I got and started looking for factories in São Paulo because in Franca you had no control over production, which is a process you need to be paying a lot of attention. So we found a place here in São Paulo, and we split the production process in two, one half was here and the other was at the factory. We would cut leather, make molds, we developed our own molds, the sole is still from the market but that’s something that takes a bit more time. this was the time that I learned the most, about molding, sole, how to put together a sneaker, gluing and sowing – I usually say it was like an internship.

After Bang’s second release I wasn’t wearing my shoes anymore, I was a bit frustrated, so I asked myself why I wanted to have a sneaker brand, and I literally went back to the beginning. And that was the moment to go after a factory with more quality and invest a bit more, and that’s when the opportunity came up to work with a factory with a higher quality back in Franca. But it was a whole different process, since I made a contract that made the model exclusive to me, and I would stay in Franca during the production.

That time with Bang, that was like an internship, was really good for me because I was able to go up to the factories and speak the lingo with the owner -regarding molds, stitching etc. It was hard but at the same time they were very opened and they saw I wasn’t just some guy on an adventure.

So my sneaker making world began within these two experiences: before PACE and after. It was really, really hard a three-year process. Pace’s website released only in December but the project was already going on since may 2017.

Does Pace mean anything?
So Pace came up during that time I was feeling frustrated with Bang, by the way, I never liked that name, I don’t know why we used it (laughs), but I was always rushing things, wanted to get things done, I wanted to make the soles here in São Paulo being that it’s impossible to make an EVA sole mounted by hand, we don’t have that stuff here and when we do it turns out like crap.

I wanted everything done by yesterday, and that’s not how it works especially with sneakers, the worst thing you can make is a sneaker it’s really hard and it takes a long time, and it goes through so many different processes till it’s finished. And that’s where Pace came from: not only did I learn the technics with Bang but I also learned to be calm and patient. Good things take time and I had to study like crazy to make a sole like this, I had to look for good leather, different laces.

PACE means rhythm – it’s the right rhythm for things to turn out the right way.

The name is easy to remember because of its four letters and we put the “E” backward precisely because of that, because other brands like Nike, Adidas, Puma they release sneaker after sneaker and ours is much more handmade, so our E goes against all the other companies that make a ton of shoes one after another. Against the market’s rhythm. The product turns out with higher quality, done by locals.

What’s the best thing about working with what you love?

It’s very difficult, we only see the money going and very little money coming in; although PACE’s launch was surprising, we were able to hold it together quite well, we even thought that nobody was going to buy the products but it was super good. The party was to celebrate the collection, it wasn’t to promote sales, it was for us to put on some music, have a beer and celebrate the brand. But it sold very well on the day and on the site as well.

But back to the question, you take a lot of punches, it’s more bad news than good news but good ones make up for bad ones. We wake up already planning things – there’s Sergio who works here three times a week, Anderson, Ju who takes care of financial matters, if it was not for everyone, we would release way in the future. A lot of people helped us so much and made all the difference. And whether you like it or not, it’s a constant struggle to be able to stand in the super-aggressive sneaker market. I always emphasize this because when I started thinking about the idea, it was the moment when casual shoes like Del Toro, Common Project, even  Gourmet, all those sneakers that have that box soles have a high end feel to them but also with some streetwear vibes. This was at its peak around 2011, 2012, 2013 until 2014 – which was when I had this idea, and I was wearing those sneakers. At the end of 2013 to 2014, Adidas released the NMD’s and that was when I realized that  I had lost the timing. Adidas and Nike managed to take real go advantage of this casual gap because the smaller brands were eating up their market, but they handled it really well – they went for the casual look but added all the monstrous technology that they have and to top it all they turned out really good looking and high-quality shoes.

We live in a super globalized world, with giant brands dominating the market – how difficult is it to create your space within it all this?

You do it for the sneaker lovers and to bring a little bit of history, quality, how a handcrafted sole is made – which is when you put together an EVA plate and a rubber plate, that’s what happens when you make a sole. This sole we developed the design and aesthetics of it of the sole, and this was a process involving me, the factory and the guys who only worked with soles. They’re the ones that make the soles for Öus, Osklen, and so on – they’re really good people from Franca. For us to be a part of this market, we make shoes for the guy who understands sneakers, obviously he won’t wear it every day because he has others, but he wants a quality product, he wants something more elegant and not so sporty.

There’s no way you can stand up to other brands. In the past Nike and Adidas would take trends from high-fashion brands like DiorBalenciaga – but now it’s the other way around, Balenciaga has its own NMD, the roles have changed … just so you can see the strength of the sneaker culture. And to me, that’s only going to get bigger: there are endless lines, collabs going down all the time with artists, brands, designer – these are all things that have always existed but today they have much more power.

What are your favorite brands and designers?

Someone I like a lot is a guy called Mark Gainor, he is not in my book, there isn’t a lot of articles about him, but I think he doesn’t get the spotlight he deserves. There is a brand that sneakerheads don’t even care much about, but I love its designers, that’s called Native Shoes, the brand is at full speed, all their sneakers are vegan. And he made the brand what it is today, he was the guy behind all the designs. He helped Jon Buscemi with Gourmet, Mark was also the guy behind the designs. I like Ronnie Fieg from Kith as well, he is the king of collabs, he has a very good and creative mind for business, brands with other brands and product development. And I’m a Tinker Hatfield fan, he’s a true legend, if there’s anyone that everyone can learn from, it’s him.

What are the plans for PACE at the moment? And for the future?

For this year we want to make our name stronger so that more people know our products. We are going to reduced the quantities for our collection because we made a very wide range – it starts with the sneakers with the classic silhouettes from the 70s; then comes the trainers that are not made for running but have this sporty feel to them; there is the boots and a retro sneaker from the 90s, inspired by basketball and the Air Jordan 1. We’re going to let the people absorb these products a little bit so everyone can see them, we might change one color or another. Now talking about a slower PACE, we want to focus on cool accessories and we want to do some collabs this year.

Now the plan for 5 years is to become a recognized brand worldwide, but for this, we have to invest in our own sole, completely ours. This is very expensive but anything is possible.