Sabir Peele never had designs on becoming the next Tom Ford. He didn’t sketch men’s suiting. He never attended fashion school. Peele ran a lot of track at Central High School, and his career goals included becoming a child psychologist. Or perhaps, an R&B singer.
But plans change, and last month the college admission counselor turned blogger turned shoe designer launched his first capsule collection of men’s footwear. The three pairs of shoes — a deep-brown lace-up boot; a suede, olive-green loafer, and a burgundy crocodile embossed slip-on — are available online through April.
This inaugural collection is just the first of what Peele hopes will be several collaborations between the India-based luxury shoe company 3DM Lifestyle. The official name of the collection is 3DMXMSP.
“I manipulated designs, I manipulated colorways. I took materials they hadn’t used on those styles and put it all together,” said Peele, whose Men’s Style Pro blog, which turns 10 this year, boasts more than 25,000 subscribers. He has almost 65,000 followers on Instagram.
The 33-year-old husband, dad, and entrepreneur took time out of his busy influencer schedule to chitchat about why bloggers are emerging as the new designers, the casualization of menswear, and why shoes still matter.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Q: Tell me about how this collaboration came about.
A: So 3DM Lifestyle reached out to me to do a review of their shoes. I’d been following them for two years so I knew who they were. The funny thing was I was like, ‘No.’ I wasn’t interested in doing a review, because I didn’t think they needed another review. So I wrote them and told them I wanted to do a collaboration. And they said, ‘No.’ I guess they were playing the game back. But then I followed up and I gave them the numbers for my last collaborations. And they went for it.
Q: Oh, yes, you had other collaborations with local brands. I’m assuming they did well?
A: Yes. I’ve collabbed with Armstrong & Wilson and Moda Matters. But I think [3DM Lifestyle] was impressed with the work that I did a few years ago with Oliver Wicks, an American suiting brand that I sold $60,000 worth of product for. And I think that hooked them off the bat. We sold upwards of $12,000 for a limited run of pieces.
Q: Impressive. I see why they went with you. Tell me about these shoes.
A: One of the shoes, the Alfie, is a burgundy crocodile loafer. It has slightly burnished toes and it has an Argentinian leather sole. It’s a penny loafer but it has a butterfly cross closure. Next we have a Belgium loafer in olive-green suede complete with contrasting ribbon tassel, that’s the Clive. The lace-up boot, the Brixton, is a pebble-grain calf-leather in chestnut brown. All of the shoes are handmade.
Q: Sweet. What is the British connection?
A: Because they are dope. And I’m always interested in the connection of black people, people of color, overseas and abroad.
Q: Word. Did this collaboration take you to India at all?
A: No, we did it all over the phone or through emails or [direct Instagram messages]. The magic of technology.
Q: There are so many bloggers like Arielle Charnas of Something Navy and local Motherchic blogger Lindsey Schuster, who both have deals with Nordstrom. What is the designer appeal of bloggers these days?
A: We are the consumer and the creator. We are seeing things come in from a trend perspective and a functionality perspective. We see what our friends are wearing. We hear what they need and we aren’t tied to looking at a thing in a certain way. We don’t need think tanks. We can make quick tweaks. The end result is something beautiful that resonates.
Also what we do is special. People are tired of the ‘Michael Kors’ effect. What big boxes do doesn’t have the same cachet. We make small capsule collections for brands. What we do doesn’t break their budget and potentially makes them money. We are to be taken seriously.
Q: How important are shoes in the fashion game right now?
A: Shoes sometimes fall to the wayside because sneakers are so big right now. Corporate culture has become more casual. But guys who really like to be unique, they are wearing shoes. They just have to be unique. They want their shoes to have the same clout as the latest LeBron … It’s true, guys are wearing the more casual pieces, but they are wearing shoes with distressed jeans for dinner. Just the other day, I literally wore an old-school Adidas track suit and chunky tassel loafers and I was fine. Guys are experimenting. They are having more fun. They don’t want to feel stuffy around what they put on their bodies. It’s a little more free for all.
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