The man behind Reebok’s limited edition ‘Duality’
How Lafayette native Isaac Reeves wound up with his sneaker vision on boutique shelves
A quick programming note before we get rolling: Today marks the first anniversary for the Based in Lafayette reporting project. The first story on May 13, 2021: All about the artists behind the fleur-de-lis crosswalk designs at 10th and Main streets in downtown Lafayette. I know … who knew it would last? Thanks for getting on board when no one was sure where this thing was heading. Thanks for telling your family and friends. Thanks for the story tips and coverage suggestions. And thanks for taking my calls, even if it was to ask, “Who are you with, again?” Stick around, and we’ll figure our way through another year.
The past week has been quite the local media blitz for Isaac Reeves.
And for good reason. He’s got a great story.
Two weeks ago, Reebok released a limited run of the APB x Yellowbrick x Reebok Leather Legacy Duality, a sneaker the Lafayette native designed during a 10-week, bootcamp-style course. The 150 pairs Reeves conceived sold out almost instantly during release events April 29 at APB boutiques in South Carolina and northern Florida.
“I’m not sure even how to say how amazing it was,” Reeves said this week.
Reeves – born in Lafayette and raised during his school years in New York, before returning to Lafayette shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – earned the opportunity through Reebok x Sneakers Essentials, a course offered a firm called Yellowbrick. He and two others from the course – Ashley Hamilton and Ben Gass – were selected among dozens of students in the class, with Reeves designing and Hamilton and Gass part of his marketing and creative team.
Since the release, he’s been talking up the experience, showing off the shoe and related apparel (the Duality motto: “Dream the night, achieve the day”) and working through the MatchBox Coworking Studio’s Spark program in downtown Lafayette to bring awareness to his personal brand as a creative director and artist.
Here’s a conversation with Reeves, who goes professionally by “Ikey.”
Question: How did this all come about?
Isaac Reeves: I learned about the program through Instagram, actually. I saw an ad, and it was like sneaker school with an association with Reebok. And I was like, “OK, I customize sneakers. This seems pretty interesting.” … It had about 50 students who are going to be selected. I was very nervous. But my family prodded me: Just try, you never know what might happen. And on my birthday – April 15 – last year, I got accepted into the program.
Question: How did it work?
Isaac Reeves: For the next 10 weeks, we were working as part of this bootcamp, all online. We had live Zoom calls with people from Reebok and different parts of the industry on Saturdays. We covered everything from the history of shoes to how the designing process is to how manufacturing is, and then sneaker media marketing and all of that. The assignments all culminated together to create a video pitch deck for sneaker design concepts.
Question: You designed shoes before? How’d that go? Tell me about it.
Isaac Reeves: I've always been interested in art and fashion. Being in New York in middle school – that was 2013, 2014, 2015 – that was the peak of streetwear and streetwear culture and stuff like that in the city. I always had those influences around. I would watch YouTube videos of how to customize shoes and about the shoes that were coming out. Then when I went to college, that was sort of my escape from my classes and everything. Because I hated my major.
Question: What was your major you hated so much?
Isaac Reeves: Computer engineering. … I hated it, and I turned to art and shoes and fashion to create my escape. I would customize my own shoes, customize shoes for other people, customize my own hoodies and stuff.
Question: Give me your favorite base shoe. And what’s a way you’d customize that?
Isaac Reeves: I would say my favorite base show to customize on would probably be a (Nike) Air Force 1 high, because it has a lot of space and is very bulky. It represents New York very well. And I like the paneling. One of my favorite customizes I did on that shoe was a custom for Arizona Iced Tea. It was during quarantine, and I was just trying to do different products to keep myself occupied. I created this shoe that looked like an Arizona Iced Tea can. Arizona actually reposted it on all their socials and everything like that. People were like, Oh my god, this is so cool. Then I did a YouTube video about how I made the shoe and everything like that. That kind of solidified in my head that I can gain the attention of these large companies.
Question: Why shoes? What was it about shoes that got you?
Isaac Reeves: Growing up, I had three other siblings. So, when it came time for school, we could only have one pair of shoes per school year. Maybe we might get another pair on our birthday. For me, I always wanted to pick shoes that not everybody else had and that made me stand out.
Question: Yeah, that one pair of shoes for school. I stuck with a blue Adidas Varsity through junior high and into high school. Every day. What’s one you remember best?
Isaac Reeves: I had a pair of black and gold Adidas shoes that Justin Bieber had designed. I was obsessed with Justin Bieber at the time, and his fashion. My dad was like, Don't get those shoes, because they won't go with everything. And I was like, No, I want those shoes, because they're different. They're gold, and they’re black, and it was just loud and I loved them. I wore them to the very, very last of their life. But I love those shoes. I was probably a freshman or sophomore in high school.
Question: What is it about this shoe you designed for Reebok? What was the style you were going for? What it is about the color combo? What went into that shoe?
Isaac Reeves: With the program, we were given the silhouette. We were given the files for just the plain, black-and-white version of it. And we could go crazy with how we wanted to do materials, how we wanted to do the colors. I knew having moved from New York, now I'm in Indiana and I'm missing home, I wanted to do something to kind of pay homage to New York. The issue with that is, a lot of shoe companies in the past have done New York-inspired shoes. So, I wanted to kind of deviate from the traditional trajectory with that and put my own spin on it.
I did a lot of research from just my own personal experience and looking at what of makes New York, you know, New York. When people think about New York, what do they think about? All the taxi cabs. The subway. One of the key parts for my inspiration was the fact that New York City is one way in the daytime, but then it's a completely different being in a nighttime. I wanted to have that duality of sorts. Once I created a mood board, I went from there on picking out the different colors and what looked good together.
Question: Mood board. Help me out, what’s a mood board?
Isaac Reeves: That’s actually one of the lessons and first assignments we had to do. Mood board is basically taking all different types of inspiration, taking different clips and inspirations and putting them all on one visual presentation. …
With my mood board, I took inspiration from the sunset, the glowing in a dark of the taxi cabs and then also imagining what type of people were going to wear it. … The final product was the shoe I'm wearing now, where you have the sunset gradient. The blue glows in the dark, after you walk in the sun and you go into the dark space. The silver parts are reflective. And then you have the yellow and the black contrast, where the yellow attracts your eye, but the black keeps your eye locked on the silhouette. So, the shoe really flows together. I wanted to imagine what it would be like for people to wear it, what type of people would wear it. And I wanted it to be universal. Which is why I chose cream to be the main color, because white I felt was too stark, too contrasting. But cream is very light – a spring and summer color that goes with a lot of outfits.
Question: Do you think of it as a running shoe? A lifestyle shoe? What?
Isaac Reeves: It’s meant to be a running show. But a lot of shoes nowadays, because people wear them for fashion purposes, they have that dual purpose. … In the pitch I did, I imagined the person who’s always on the move, whether it be in New York or somewhere else, who can wear it with a suit, it can work with a pair of shorts, all sorts of things. I wanted to give that guy versatility.
Question: How was the launch event in South Carolina?
Isaac Reeves: It was amazing. It was way more than I ever could have asked for or imagined, just seeing nine months of work and being able to walk through the store and see people interact with the hoodies and the stickers and the pins and the shoes and seeing people super excited about it. It was like the cherry on top of everything. Even now, looking back at the pictures and the videos, it doesn't feel real at all.
Question: What’s next for you? What do you see?
Isaac Reeves: That's something I ask myself every single day. I'm really just playing things by ear right now. I’m doing work here at MatchBox. I'm still continuing to do customs. I'm doing a pair for a lady who purchased a pair and she has a wedding next year. And she wants me to customize a pair of shoes for her wedding.
Question: What’s the going rate for a pair of your customized shoes?
Isaac Reeves: I factor everything outside the cost of the shoe. You’d have to buy the shoe. Then it just is based off of complexity. Typically, I start around $200 for a simple design, just different color panels and everything. But for more complex designs, that can go up to $350 to $400. … My biggest thing is just selling experiences. So, there are a lot of things I don’t charge. I customize the box. Cool little trinkets. I try to be different than others out there. I want as many people as possible to be able to experience one of my products, because money shouldn't really be a barrier to be able to experience something.
Question: Looks like it paid off.
Isaac Reeves: I’m just super-excited to finally be recognized for something I’ve been working on for years. It all feels so surreal.
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