“My name is Leandro Maia, I’m 27 years old, I Fila’s casual division merchandising coordinator. I’m a sneakerhead, I like sneakers and I like products in general, I’m color blind, I’m not goth but I only wear black (laughs). Sometimes I wear gray, navy, and rarely I wear red because it’s Fila’s colors, but it’s really rare.”
Leandro, what’s your relationship with sneakers in general?
To me, it’s the beginning of everything. The first thing I do when I get out of bed is just to get something on my feet when I finish showering I’m already thinking on what sneaker I’m going to wear – I start with the sneakers, then the socks, then my underwear, then my pants and then I do the rest. It’s the sneakers that will define the rest of my look. Even when I’m shopping for clothes I think what looks good with the sneakers I have.
Sneakers tell a lot about a person. I work in retail for more than 10 years now and in my client list I always write down the sneaker that person was wearing the first time we met. Normally I don’t remember their names but I would say “Hey! Your the guy with the all black Y-3 right?” It’s something that really stands out to me, sneakers are the first thing I notice on a person, it’s automatic.
Tell us how you started liking sneakers so much.
Somewhere between 2002 and 2003, I bought my first Nike for skateboarding, it was back when they released their skateboarding division in 2004 and started to produce locally. At the time I studied at a privet school and it was crazy: I had a full scholarship here at Jardim Europa and everyone was AAA class. At the time I played basketball for the school’s team and my brother skateboarded and I liked to tag along, I started to nail some tricks, and so I decided to get a skateboarding sneaker. I watched both basketball and skateboarding sneakers at the time, and I had my mind set on one in particular, which I didn’t know it was the Jordan 1, so the head was wrapped around the dunk.
That’s when I met Marcelo, he was my first manager, he worked at a store that sold Nike SB’s and it was really competitive because it was right next to Maze and everybody wanted to go to Maze. I found some national SB dunks for R$199 and at the time Doc Dog was around selling imports for R$599. So I would buy them for R$199 and sold them for R$399, I would say that they were 200 reais cheaper than Doc Dog, and they couldn’t find that kind of product for sale – because they didn’t look for it. I would play basketball with the Dunks, and people loved it, and I would also do some tricks on the skateboard. People would ask why I wore the same sneakers for both activities and I would say: “we don’t need a sneaker for each specific thing.” people dug it and started selling them Dunks.
What was your first collection?
My first collection was Vans, it was before they came and left Brazil, so that would be when the imports would cost like R$80, and I would buy a lot, at one point I had all the colorways of the Geoff Rowley Vans – I had like a fixation for this shoes, but after I moved on to the Old Skool specifically one in royal, navy and yellow, it was the one Pharell wore on N. E. R. D.s music videos; I went crazy for this sneaker. Until last year I had a really worn out pair but my mom threw them out.
And what is your role in Fila?
I work in the lifestyle division, casual, today it has over 3 thousand retailers – from shoe stores, department stores and even small sneaker shops – so I operate between the points of sale and the designers. So I work one week here in São Paulo one week in the south, bringing all inputs of what is the tendency, not only for products but colors as well. I joke sometimes that I went from basic to classy because I work with shoemaking and in exchange, I sold them a Fila heritage project, that is our retro line. But importing to Brazil is complicated, the prices are really high, so I decided that we shouldn’t bring certain products, because of the timing products were not getting here in time for their release dates. So I suggested that we produce them here.
I picked some of the brand’s pillars – tennis, running, basketball, training – We took the silhouette of each pair that existed globally and now we’re finally going to produce it here. The idea is to break this paradigm that you can’t make a good sneaker in Brazil. I joke sometimes that Osklen became what it is now because their sneakers are good – even though it’s not the coolest sneaker out there, but it does its part, it managed to deliver numbers of international quality brands. I see this movement happening abroad with Diadora, Common Projects, Kappa, all those little brands making good and local stuff, so why can’t we do, that here?
Globally speaking, all those big brands such as Adidas and Nike, were on a downfall on the casual section. Take Sneakerboy for example, which is one of the most conceptual sneaker stores in the world, it has Nike, Reebok, Adidas, and Puma, but the biggest investment is Gucci, Common Projects, Balenciaga, which are big brands that were not in the sneaker market but they are doing super good. The story that I want to tell with this collection is that the South is one of the biggest shoe poles in the world, we are one of the biggest producers of leather in the world, we can well raise this story and sell to the world the idea that Brazil makes very good sneakers; and that is a cool place to do sneakers.
The coolest part is that we’re doing all this with their consent from abroad. The cool thing is that we have already been able to sell this idea to all of Latin America. All shoes will be in black, white and tan: black is to symbolize luxury, white for seriousness and tan that refers to natural leather.
The Famiglia project will have a 360-degree story: we’re going to be producing clothes, hats, and socks in partnership with Starter, T-shirts with a wide range, for men and women and hoodies. This year Fila is turning 106 years old, so the idea is to make 106 pairs of shoes. Another part of the project is called OG, it consists in 4 all white models with details in red and navy, with no stitching, everything is going to be stamped and in bas-relief, it’s going to be real luxury products.
Now, about this Fila Disruptor, why did you choose them?
It was a sneaker that even before I worked for the brand I already admired. As I said, Fila made me change the way I think and my relation with style. I always used skinny jeans, but when I started working for Fila, I realized that a bulky sneaker did go to well with skinny jeans. One thing I always liked about them was the Shark outsole, we want to make a Bazilian version of this product – not that were are going to put our hands on it – but give it a Brazilian look to it, less bulky, more commercial.
This all-white version is my favorite one because even though it’s bulky, heavy it’s also minimalistic and has a clean visual to it. It was a sneaker that I liked even before I worked for Fila. No to mention it’s the brand’s most searched product on Pinterest and it’s a fever among women, the first special editions came only in women sizes. This model is coming to Brazil in suede and only in women sizes.
What hustle did you go through to get these?
This I got through a friend of mine, he has an online store, the Alfa Sneakers, where he only re-sells sneakers and clothes from Supreme, Palace and etc. I made a purchase on his website and went to pick it up at his place, I mentioned that I wanted this sneaker. By the time I got home he had sent me a print of the sneaker for sale on eBay, in about 15 days I had them with me at home! And I was shocked because some people who worked with me went to New York and they didn’t find the sneaker there, they searched all the main stores, they even went to Fila’s office and the guys there did not know where they could them be because they were selling out.