"We've built a brand across the world without spending a dollar on marketing" – APL founders, Ryan and Adam Goldston
It all started in the dorm!
In 2010, the athletic shoe brand Athletic Propulsion Labs, or better known as APL, saw their sneakers banned by the NBA because their Lock 'N' Load technology allowed for extra vertical leap — an unfair advantage in the league. That 'hiccup' set the tone for the brand and soon after, the brand exploded. Kim Kardashian influenced the movement, Oprah Winfrey named the APL Tech Loom Phantom sneakers one of her favourite things for 2016, the Renault FI Team sought a collaboration and Forbes went on to place founders, Adam and Ryan Goldston, on their 30 under 30 list.
Now, in collaboration with Level Shoes, the twins have launched the world's most expensive sneakers: a pair of Dhs74,000 shoes made from grade one Nile crocodile and dipped in 24 carat gold.
Buro 24/7 Middle East spoke to the revolutionary shoe-makers on performance, branding and the future of APL...
Welcome to Dubai. Are you surprised by the sneaker culture here?
Ryan: It's one of those things where it's becoming more global but you never really expect to go to different regions and see just how cool it is.
Tell us more about your crocodile-skinned sneakers...
Adam: We do a special coating to the crocodile skin, cure it and then dip it into 24 carat gold. We are the only ones in the world to have the material for footwear and it's been exciting to unveil something that we've wanted to do for a long time.
APL is known for making shoes for elite athletes but this is definitely a step towards fashion footwear, right?
Ryan: It's definitely not a performance product. If someone wants to wear a pair of Dhs74,000 shoes for sport, then that is definitely a special type of person. There are performance aspects integrated into the shoe though.
As the brand evolves and diversifies, what are some of the key principles that will never change about the brand?
Adam: For us, one of the key things is that we do not use big emblasoned logos but instead let the materials, colour, design and technology tell the story. In addition to that, performance is always at the core, so even though we create more lifestyle products, they still need to be able to perform at the highest level.
With the NBA ban and the buzz created by Kim Kardashian, would you say you've been lucky in launching the brand globally?
Ryan: We've definitely had some great moments. The thing that's different about our brand is that all of our marketing has been organic. Obviously the Kardashians and Jenners have been amazing as are the celebrities in Los Angeles where our brand is strongest. The NBA ban was incredible because it not only solidified our technology but it also helped tell our story. At one point we became one of the most searched stories on Google.we've never paid anybody for anything, it's always been word-of-mouth. So we've built a big brand across the world literally without spending a dollar on marketing.
The brand has clearly boomed since you started. Can you give us a number?
Ryan: It's a business that literally started from our dorm room. We've gone from zero to a very big company (laughs) so it's hard to put a number on it but we do millions in terms of sales.
The Middle East is big on being unique and having custom one-of-a-kind pieces. If someone came to you and asked if you could design a tailor-made shoe...
Adam: No. Not one of one. We sometimes do exclusives with our retailers but those are still larger quantities.
We've seen Nike realise the iconic Mag shoe and Adidas make huge strides in terms of sustainable, recyclable and biodegradable shoes. Where do you see the future of foot wear?
Ryan: People are trying to figure out the most innovative materials to use and ways to streamline the process. I think there's a move towards making the manufacturing process as streamlined as possible. That means there's as little waste as possible both in terms of time and materials. We can also bring products to the market as quickly as possible.
Moving forward, what can we expect from APL?
Ryan: We'll continue to push the limits in terms of what's possible for footwear and we'll continue to expand on the product line. We always say that we'll solidify before we diversify. We want to continue to carve out that area in terms of running, training and basketball. After that, we'll add on different segments and continue to grow worldwide.
The APL sneakers are made-to-order and are exclusive, worldwide, to Level Shoes. Also, don't miss another exclusive at Level Shoes, the N°21 Bow Mules.