Conversation With: Founder/Consultant Common Projects Flavio Girolami & Peter Poopat
When former V magazine art director Peter Poopat and brand consultant Flavio Girolami founded Common Projects, ten years ago, the market for premium-priced sneakers was relatively underdeveloped. However, their prescience was soon to be proven by a veritable boom in the luxury sneaker category, which has seen designer labels like Balenciaga, Givenchy and Saint Laurent selling sneakers everywhere from Sneakerboy to Bergdorf Goodman. A spokesperson for the privately owned company revealed that Common Projects has built a network of 150 stockists around the world and generates “roughly $10 million” in annual revenue.
Girolami and Poopat first met in the mid-1990s at a bar in New York’s East Village and soon decided to work on collaborative “projects” together. Both were avid sneaker enthusiasts; Stan Smiths, Air Jordan 1s and Chuck Taylors were some of their favourite go-to models, which later provided the inspiration for some of their own footwear. However, as their tastes evolved neither of them could find the more aesthetically refined and high quality sneakers they were increasingly looking for. “We didn’t want to wear Converse anymore,” says Girolami.
As it happened, Girolami had a base in the hills of the Marche region of Italy, a manufacturing hub specialised in footwear, and he soon challenged a local factory, which had been making formal dress shoes for over a century, to make him and Poopat their perfect pair of sneakers: a shoe that was comfortable but could be dressed up, offering a balance of quality construction and understated style, something that bridged the gap between the Guccis and Nikes they mutually adored. The idea for a brand was born.