Whether you believe in talent by osmosis, or just think that hearing people speak about what they love is inspiring, CARBON's likely to leave you itching to build your own creative empire.
This year's speakers include surfwear king Shawn Stussy; footwear designer Ronnie Fieg; "celebrity chef for the hip hop generation" Eddie Huang; Jeff Hamada – creator of art blog Booooooom.com; doco photographer Martha Cooper; graffiti culture guru Henry Chalfant; and Simon 'Woody' Wood, who created one of Australia’s most successful independent magazines, Sneaker Freaker. Time Out grabbed Simon for a chat ahead of the festival in April.
Simon, how has the magazine evolved over the past decade?
I only made a few thousand copies of Issue 1 and funnily enough, they now sell for a few hundred bucks on the 'Bay. In hindsight, it was pretty raw. In my defence, it was ten years ago and I spent less than a week making it. I’d just bought one of the first digital cameras for an outrageous amount of money. A year earlier and I would have had to shoot sneakers on film and have it scanned, so you know things have evolved technology wise, but that’s what happens when you’ve been around for a decade. Sneaker Freaker is a lot more cosmetically polished now, though our editorial philosophy hasn’t really changed from day one.
Have you heard of any unlikely people reading the magazine?
You don’t have to be a hardcore collector to like the mag or enjoy a story about vintage Nikes. I once had a photographer come to the office. His assistant, who I clocked early on as some sort of militant vegan nutjob, was just itching to earbash me on child labour and blah, blah, blah. I gave her a copy of the magazine and 15 minutes later she’s geeking out on some old shoes she had as a kid. Crisis averted! That was too funny. Almost everyone has had some sort of sneaker moment in their life.
What can we expect from your presentation at CARBON?
Well the title of my talk is ‘How I turned my passion for sneakers into a global business in five easy steps’. You’ll hear about every fuck up I made and a first hand account of how to run a global business from the ass-end of the world. I hope it’s funny, but it’ll also be deadly serious.
How does it feel to have all the American designers, such as Ronnie Fieg and Shawn Stussy coming to your hometown, rather than travelling over to the USA?
It’s awesome. I know how intimidating the idea of a 24 hour flight can be for some Americans, so it’s a huge coup for Carbon to get them both here. I can’t wait to hear what Shawn Stussy has to say. I’m going to bring all my old Stussy ‘Hammer’ pants with the drawstring and get him to sign them. I wore nothing else for about three years in the late-'80s, so it might take him a while.
Having been in the business for over a decade now, what have been some of your personal Sneaker Freaker highlights?
Aside from the avalanche of free shoes – and the fact that the magazine is still going strong ten years later – there’s been so many highlights it’s hard not to make a list a mile long. My first freebie trip in Business Class on a press junket was priceless. Designing sneakers for all the big brands is a huge highlight that I never, ever thought would be possible. Publishing our first issue in Spanish, then German and Russian were other highlights. We just finished an amazing book about PONY that I am super proud of. Ten years on and it’s still the greatest job in the world.
In today’s world of fast online blogging, tablets and iPhones, how do you view the future of the magazine? Do you feel that the shift from print to online has changed Sneaker Freaker’s situation?
As of today, it hasn’t really changed a thing. Facebook, Twitter and iPhones didn’t exist when we started. New technology unlocks avenues to make a dollar, just as it can disrupt established businesses pretty fast too. We invested heavily in our iPad magazine and I feel like we made a pretty solid attempt. However it remains to be seen whether there’s a viable business model to support it. At this point, I’m not as gung ho about magazines on tablets as I was last year. But we’ll see. It would certainly simplify things from a distribution point of view, but I still get a boner making a real magazine. We’re a long way from being 100 percent digital.
Top three sneakers at the moment?
Nike Huarache (OG colours)
Sneaker Freaker x New Balance 998 ‘Tassie Devils’