Sneaker Exchange celebrates 5th birthday atop Table Mountain

Moving up from the streets to the clouds, Sneaker Exchange – the trade show that travels to different South African cities, hosting sneaker sellers and resellers, local fashion brands, food stalls and musical performances – celebrated its 5th anniversary atop Table Mountain. The event on 9 October was the first time in three years the mountain hosted an event. NABEEL ALLIE was there.

The Cape Town-born event saw guests including YoungstaCPT, Justin Ronne aka Bubble Koppe, Hayden Manuel, Imraan Christian gather, with many members of the city’s urban creative scene in attendance.

Co-founders Zaid Osman and Tebogo Magola couldn’t be prouder of the ways in which their brand has grown over the past five years. Beginning as a once-off sale in a small shot in the CBD-neighbouring Woodstock, Osman quickly realised he could be onto something bigger and better. The love of sneakers in Cape Town street culture was a launching point that has seen the event not only move to Johannesburg, but to Nairobi and Lagos as well.

Sneaker reselling has emerged as a booming industry whereby people resell limited edition or otherwise rare sneakers, sometimes hiking the price up by 100% or more. Sneaker Exchange has already enabled dozens of resellers, local streetwear brands and occasionally letting smaller musical performances open up for the bigger ones. More than anything, Sneaker Exchange is a platform that allows local street culture to fully express itself.

“I think five years is a really incredible milestone to be able to reach. Everybody here is into sneakers and everything else associated with it, but I think the journey is so much bigger than sneakers. It’s really about going out there and inspiring the next individual, and creating jobs,” says Osman. “Our unemployment rate is at an all time high. There are so many jobs that need to be done, there’s so much inspiration that is within this room and within this country. We need to find ways to bridge those gaps, whether there’s local clothing brands that we have at the events or whether there’s guys reselling sneakers or brands or anyone else, we need to actually find ways to really get more of that going and really work on inspiring each other to grow.”

And grow, Sneaker Exchange has. The day-long event allows a number of brands – sneaker resellers, local clothing brands and existing stores – to sell their products to the thousands who attend. Local artists Ricky Rick and YoungstaCPT both performed at the Cape Town edition in 2017, which was held at the V&A Waterfront’s Cruise Terminal – illustrative of the size and stature of the event. However, success and growth haven’t blinded Osman from understanding where he’s come from. “At the same time, five years ago, when I started the event, I kind of started it by mistake. I had a whole bunch of shoes that I needed to get rid of and I needed money to pay accounts because I needed money for my store. From there it really just grew from artists who I’d be selling shoes to, to everyone.”

Magola and Osman have formed a formidable partnership that has taken them to where they are today. Magola emphasises that while the two see things differently, they ultimately bring together their vision without compromising their respective cores. “Next year we’re trying to do more African countries. We’re branding ourselves as the true African trade show out there for sneakers – we’re going to be going,” he says.

“The brands still try to bully us and tell us your shit is not big, your shit is not this, your shit is niche, your shit is that – literally, a middle finger goes to them,” he says. “We have people who say ‘never mind a proposal, I’ve been to the event. I get what you’re about.'”

Table Mountain Cableway’s Marketing Manager, Collette van Aswegen reiterated that Table Mountain thrilled to collaborate with the rapidly-growing Sneaker Exchange. “Capetonians have this view of Table Mountain that it’s something for visitors, that it’s not for us. This collaboration with Sneaker Exchange is important for us and for the city. So I’d like to invite all of you to come and enjoy the mountain. It is here for all of us,” she said. The celebration was the bringing together of two iconic brands, one that has stood the test of time and elements and one that is surely on its way to do the same.

Featured image via Twitter