Having met in 2014 whilst working in Roulette, Kelsey Ward and Shamalie Elkin have progressed from shop floor assistants to best friends and business partners who now proudly run Sneakerbae – the forward thinking, women’s streetwear store on Colomberie.
How was Sneakerbae born?
KELSEY: Originally the idea was to have a range of women’s footwear in the basement at Roulette, but we decided we wanted our own space as women’s sneakers tend to be an afterthought in men’s stores.
SHAMALIE: With very limited options for women’s athleisure and streetwear available on the island, we knew we had spotted a gap in the market so decided to branch out into apparel too. We were fortunate that David gave us the opportunity to have our own store under the Roulette umbrella.
K: Oh, definitely. A lot of people think retail offers you no career prospect but there’s so much more to it. We don’t just sit behind a till, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.
S: Yeah, I have still friends and family who say, ‘oh, so you just work in a shop’, when the truth of it is I haven’t worked on the shop floor in years and we’ve both progressed massively in a short time.
The store focuses on just womenswear, why was this important to you?
S: The initial offer of having a wall was great, but a small section of womenswear just wasn’t what we wanted. There are a lot of brands who make women’s only products but do it in overly girly colourways and sizes. We wanted to offer something a bit different - women want the same thing that men are offered but in smaller sizes, streetwear isn’t just for men!
K: Yeah, not everything for women has to be pink! As much as we love it, it doesn’t have to be girly to be for women. Streetwear is very much in fashion, with major high street shops now selling Champion, Fila and Adidas – these are brands we’ve offered from the start. Everything seemed to happen at the right time for us, streetwear came into fashion just when we set up Sneakerbae.
S: It started as a trend and over the last couple of seasons it’s turned into a category in its own right. I don’t think it’s going anywhere.
What do you have coming up this season?
S: We are a bit different, we don’t focus solely on trends as much as you would with high fashion, but we keep them in mind when we’re buying.
K: Whilst pastels were huge for spring, neon is going to be a big deal for AW18.
S: We’re also getting Carhart, Fila Footwear and some other new brands in too, we’re trying out new things and keeping them relevant. The two hardest brands to get are Nike and Adidas, which are the most popular brands at the moment. We’ve actually been in talks with Nike, so watch this space!
K: That was a big one for us. We worked persistently to get them to sit down with us! We were both so nervous meeting with them, but it was great to show who we were and share our vision with them – they gave us some amazing feedback and said they loved what we’re doing.
Does the store reflect your personal style?
S: Yeah, we’ve always worn the style of products we sell.
K: We used to buy men’s styles because the women’s versions were skin tight and didn’t fit the way we wanted them to.
S: I’m lucky to be a size 6 and able to buy men’s sneakers, but Kelsey is a 4 so she has no chance!
K: Exactly! It was annoying because if it wasn’t offered in a woman’s size it just wasn’t available to me.
You use local models in your campaigns, is that an important part of your branding?
S: Yeah, we wanted to use normal girls, people that would wear what we sell. Our customer is young girls, so if you’re buying our sneakers you want to see someone like you wearing them not some supermodel type.
The fashion industry is certainly changing, but there’s still a lot more that can be done, right?
K: Yeah, it’s something we both feel strongly about. The recent Nike X Colin Kaepernick advert is a great example of standing up for what you believe in.
S: We try to make sure we use girls of different shapes, sizes and ethnic backgrounds to represent real women.
There’s been a lot in the press about influencers and sending out the right message - how do you feel about social media?
K: I think social media has such a big impact on young girls, so it is important to us that we are sending out a positive message. All our content is organic too – we spend a lot of time planning shoots and editorials and are constantly aware of what we post.
If you could open a store in anywhere in the world, where would it be?
K: It’s not something we are looking to do right now, but if we were, it would be in a big city – London, New York, Copenhagen because the reaction would be so different to how it is on an island.
What does the future hold for Sneakerbae?
S: We want to get our name out there more and become part of the local community in a bigger way and immerse ourselves in other business aspects. Working with local charities is something we’d like to do as well.
K: Charities are really important to us. Being two young women in business, we want to work with women’s charities and help do it for other women. I have a young son too, so I want to show people that you can be a mother and a business woman. We have some other things in the pipeline too, but you’ll have to wait and see!
S: Right now, we want to keep our focus on Jersey and get it right here before looking to expand globally! We're very happy with the way things are, we're fortunate to have a close knit team at SB, all us girls as well as David work very well together.