Mr. Alabi's Kicks & Cuts: Seller of soles and stories
Antwerp has its first sneaker pawnshop, Mr. Alabi's Kicks & Cuts, and sneaker heads are super enthused about it. Because next to sharing knowledge, they can also get their hands on authentic sneakers for a little less than the average price.
However, there’s more than meets the eye. After having a first glance at the shop window, I noticed a little barbershop at the back and a section dedicated to vintage bomber jackets. Old-school Lacoste sweaters and a whole lot more of those “damn, that really looks dope” clothes. All fitted in a laid back vibe where funky hip hop tunes guide you through an epic shopping experience in this very room at the Lange Koepoortstraat 76.
TIA: What is the concept behind “Kicks & Cuts”?
Alabi: “The main idea is that people can either drop off some sneakers hoping we can sell them within thirty days in exchange for a storage fee and a percentage of the selling price or buy a pair of sneakers instead. Apart from selling second hand kicks, we also cut hair and tailor second hand clothes. Being in the thrift industry for quite some time, I noticed how people left that one piece they loved so much hanging on the racks, simply because it didn’t fit them well. Which is a shame, so I decided to do differently from other thrift shops and give customers the possibility to customize their second-hand finds.
TIA: What inspired you?
Alabi: “I’ve been wearing second-hand clothing ever since I was fifteen. It’s unique in a sense that you have something no one else has. I do it for that feeling you get from rumbling through second-hand clothes and pulling out that original Yves Saint Laurent jacket cheap at twice the price. This vintage style I’m pursuing, I’ve got it from my grandfather. It’s safe to say he’s my fashion icon. He radiated this cool relaxed vibe with a paring effortless style. There was something about the manner in which he wore his shirts and the way he combed his hair upwards to pat it down with a brush afterwards. He was an atypical African dandy. He didn’t wear labels, but simple nice stuff. That’s what made him cool and that’s exactly the vibe I want to pass on to this store.
TIA: Not only these sneakers and clothes look vintage, the interior fits perfectly into the picture as well.
Alabi: This is actually my living room we’re sitting in. I moved all the furniture of my apartment to this pawn. I always felt that if I would open a shop, I would want it to reflect my personality. What better way to do so by making it feel like home? A shop should be authentic and this interior couldn’t be more personal. Wanting this shop to be a people’s shop, I’m really flexible with the closing time. Which means that I often close later than normal. My peeps like to come here, whether it is to check out the latest additions to the store or to talk sneakers.
TIA: Is this what you’ve always wanted to do?
Alabi: “Not really. I always wanted to create my own brand. A dream I’m trying to pursue step by step with this shop. I decided to start with customizing clothes. From time to time you’ll find some of my own stuff hanging between these second-hand clothes. I’m currently working on a project with a friend of mine. We’re thinking about doing something with silk-screen prints and sweaters. As each of the designs will be drawn by hand, each of the sweaters will be unique.
TIA: So basically you can intent on buying a pair of vintage sneakers but end up leaving with a complete new look?
Alabi: Exactly! Mr. Alabi’s Kicks & Cuts could be considered as a sort of gentlemen’s club where you can get yourself a fresh haircut, rare vintage kicks and a custom-fitted look. A club for the not so typical sapeurs - with that Teophilius London touch - dressing differently from what’s prescribed. I love this rapper’s style of clothing. There’s a common thread in the way he dresses, but it doesn’t run straightforward. He’s a great example of how I want to approach fashion. I strive for new experiences, because following the mainstream would only make me feel as if I were locked up.
TIA: Which other hip-hop related elements influenced the look & feel of your shop?
Alabi: As a huge fan of hip hop, I’d say the whole of it. This shop breathes hip hop from the iconic sneakers on the wall to the barber corner against the other wall and the J Dilla tunes playing in the background. That beautiful old school hip hop. This shop is my soul, and so are these sneakers. I’m not yet where I want to be with the sneakers, my goal is to collect all the originals. The genuine and perhaps more expensive ones. Those who have proven themselves over the years. Like these shell toes. Did you know that before Run DMC wore these, Adidas didn’t really care about hip hop? Until one of the CEO’s went to a concert and witnessed the power of these rappers as thousands of kids put up their sneakers in the air moving to the beats of the song “My Adidas”.
TIA: You know your sneakers. With each of these sneakers telling a different story, would you ever settle for less?
Alabi: Well, I won’t be accepting Armani sneakers of 500 euro. It doesn’t fit the concept of this shop as they aren’t street enough. With street I indeed mean with a specific story or a certain feeling. I want to reach people who can talk to me about their sneakers, collectors. Men around their thirties who are settled down, with a kid or two, whose wives are fed up with all his sneakers laying around the house and are happy that they can finally get rid of them at Mr. Alabi’s pawn shop.
TIA: Thanks for the nice chat!
More kicks & cuts?
Mr. Alabi's Kicks & Cuts
Lange Koepoortstraat 76 :: Antwerp