I am always drawn to people who do not necessarily have a direct road to success, most likely because my own life and destiny has had several twists and turns. A few years ago I was introduced to George Sully, one half of the Sully Wong brand, a name that seemed to be on the lips of everyone in Toronto this past summer. After being connected by a mutual friend in fashion, our love for apparel and brand marketing brought us closer together and a special bond was developed. During our initial encounter I was immediately captivated by Sully’s passion, drive, magnetic energy, and not to mention hustler’s mentality. Through his words alone, he can lure people into the “Sully Wong Parallel Universe” and have you talking fashion and marketing for hours on end. I often go to his showroom and promise myself that I am only staying for 10 minutes and end up being there for 3 hours.
On a recent visit to Sully Wong HQ, I fell in love with a pair of their high top sneaks, the SJW NLYO III’s. I have been incorporating more fitness apparel and running shoes into my everyday street style so high tops like these just seemed like a natural progression for me. By no means would I consider myself a female sneakerhead, but the aesthetic, craftsmanship, design and quality materials used in the shoe made me realize that the sneaker game is no different than any other covetable luxury accessory. Right then and there I had a new found appreciation for the world of sneakers. Then to find out this shoe had a story made them even better. Now in it’s third instalment, the original design was actually inspired by Jack Johnson, the first African American Heavyweight Champion of the World and the most prolific boxer of his generation.
If you’re familiar with George Sully’s name, then you probably already know about his involvement with the quarterly published lifestyle mag TCHAD (pronounced Chad), his successful launch with the OnexOne foundation on the Hope Sneaker Limited Edition Collaboration and his various philanthropic endeavours via The George Sully Project. The latter he describes not as a foundation but rather a hub for himself and like minded friends to embark on different initiatives to help communities both locally and abroad. But only very few know that this visionary was not always in fashion, but really got his start honing his creative skills in the music industry; producing and doing his own branding. Turns out music wasn’t going to be Sully’s final destination and he took his newly developed skill set and found a way to fuse fashion and music in the nineties. George used Sean P.Diddy Combs as a template and created his first clothing line called LIMB. The line had some wins, it was distributed in Athlete’s World locations, but there was still a piece missing to Sully’s business model. After a fateful meeting a decade ago at a trade show, he met Henry Wong. A successful business partnership in my opinion works like a successful marriage. Each person must bring something different to the table, which is exactly what these gents did. With George bringing the creative elements and Henry’s expertise in business development, production and order fulfillment, a solid foundation was created for the brand to flourish.
A couple of weeks ago I hooked up with George in the showroom for a long overdue catch up. I live for these brief hangouts as I usually learn a bit more about my dear friend and almost always walk away with something that motivates me and pushes me to keep going.
SE: You have been collaborating with your partner Henry for about 10 years now so you guys are definitely not new to the game, however it seems as though the brand’s awareness and sales have spiked dramatically over the last year. What do you think is the catalyst behind all this change?
GS: It’s simple…we were finally in a position to take large size orders. Product was never a problem, we just couldn’t deliver enough product to supply the demand. Having the proper financing in place gave us the opportunity to take in large size orders and process them as efficiently as any other major brand in our business. A sure way for a brand to kill itself is to invest in the marketing cycle, receive an order of a lifetime and come to the realize you don’t have the offshore size production capacity or the funds necessary to meet the demand. For example, we filled a large size order for Little Burgundy, we delivered 1000+ units, all the while fulfilling hundreds of units across a multitude of stores simultaneously. Just this alone creates perfect conditions for ample brand recognition and to welcomes sales quickly.
SE: Ok…let’s be for real; shoes and sneakers are your life. You live, eat, breathe and sleep footwear design which makes you the ultimate “sneakerhead”…I’m curious to know what your thoughts are on female sneakerheads and have you found that a lot of women have gravitated towards your shoes, although they are particularly designed for men?
GS: Well, women have been on the high top kick for a minute, it’s not even new, though it comes and goes in mainstream waves. Traditionally high tops have always more or less been a male SKU, but there is always something to be said about a girl rocking dope high tops.
SE: Agreed. To be honest, in the last two months I can’t even tell you how many men stop me when I’m wearing the Sully Wong SWJ NYLO III’s. I guess guys really do love the Tomboy-Chic vibe. I am going to assume the “Chicks in Kicks” look may have lead to the idea to create a shoe with Amanda Lew Kee. It was the first time for both parties to create a female shoe. What was it like collaborating with a designer who has never designed footwear before on the SW x ALK (SWALK 1)?
GS: It was a pretty simple process. Henry and I had the bones of an original design that we though would translate really well with Amanda’s trademark accents and the rest is what you would call history.
SE: Do you plan on doing anymore collaborations in the near future? If so, who would be the top 3 individuals or brands that you would like to create with?
GS: We have six major collaborations to which I can’t divulge at the moment that will be spread out into 2016. This doesn’t include our own house collection, and this past season has undoubtedly been my favourite so far.
SE: What is the best advice you have ever been given?
GS: Stay humble
SE: What’s next for the Sully Wong brand?
GS: Strengthening market share throughout Europe.
Photography by Robert Okine RobertOkine.com (@RobertOkine)
With the success within footwear, Sully Wong has expanded into designing and creating super dope accessories; bags (which are seriously giving the shoes a run for their money) and headwear that’s geared towards men but still chic enough for us women to rock. To find out what stores near you carry Sully Wong click here. For more information on the brand or to purchase online head to SullyWong.com