How the founders of Sneaker Laundry are cashing in on the 'hype economy'
19 April 2018, Written by David Simmons
Forget supply and demand, the economy of sneakers is all about hype.
Whether it's the new Nikes, the latest Adidas or obscure luxury labels, the sneaker economy is in its prime, especially in fashion forward cities like Melbourne.
In addition to being a hub of startup activity, Melbourne is also widely considered to be the fashion capital of Australia. While Sydney might have Australia's Fashion Week, most fashionistas will tell you that Melbourne is where the action really is.
It also happens to be a city filled with sneakerheads, ones chasing status symbols in the form of limited edition shoes which can re-sell up to thousands of dollars.
While people started shelling out entire paychecks for the coveted Yeezy's and Jordan's, co-founder of Sneaker Laundry Eugene Cheng says they weren't taking proper care of the product.
"It was sort of weird that people would clean their clothes but not their shoes," says Cheng.
"They just wear them until they get so filthy that they can't do anything with them anymore. They put them to one side and they get new shoes."
"After I cleaned my first pair of sneakers properly I realised that people need The Sneaker Laundry. Not just people who own $500 shoes, but it should be accessible to everyone as well."
The Sneaker Laundry is a startup which offers a convenient and affordable drop-off sneaker and shoe cleaning service. Think of the business as the equivalent of dry-cleaner but a modern and updated service for sneakers.
Since Cheng and his business partner Hao Phu (pictured centre) established The Sneaker Laundry in October 2017, the brand has expanded rapidly and now has a presence in the hugely popular Highpoint Shopping Centre.
In addition to cleaning services, the group offers a line of sneaker care products sold online and in-store. Expanding into manufacturing was a natural step for the startup, says Cheng.
"There's always going to be a few people that want to do it themselves, there's always going to be a DIY aspect to it," says Cheng.
"We realised there was a big part of that market that was up for grabs for us."
Where Sneaker Laundry sets itself apart is in the branding, generating what those in the streetwear world call "hype". It's nothing but intense demand from a generation who grew up on Instagram.
Since starting, the group has worked with international celebrities like Gina Darling, rapper A$AP Ferg, Kid Ink and The Fung Bros.
In January, Cheng and Phu released 25 pairs of hand-made custom sneakers online with a price tag of $600. They sold out in just three minutes.
"You can't really hype the service as much because we're trying to make it a necessity we're trying to be a household brand. But with certain aspects of the business you can generate hype and that's what we're doing at the moment," says Cheng.
Cheng and Phu's line of custom sneakers upcycled Louis Vuitton bags and used the leather to replace certain parts of the iconic Nike Air Force 1.
In the near future, the duo aims to have multiple stores in Melbourne and also a presence in Sydney by the end of the year. Their ultimate ambition is to be a household brand around Australia.
"We're going to revolutionise sneaker care in Australia," says Cheng.
Business News Australia
Author: David Simmons