Time to inject some fresh blood into your insta vein. Founder of footwear brand Greats, Ryan Babenzien documents his work and life in Williamsburg through the lens of a modern entrepreneur. In a feed dominated by his latest collections, you’ll also see plenty of vintage cars and motorcycles spotted along the streets of NYC, as well as a keen passion for art and design.
NAME: Ryan Babenzien
OCCUPATION: Founder of Brooklyn-born sneaker brand Greats.
Time+Tide: How did you find yourself in the #SneakerGame?
Ryan Babenzien: I’ve never been a sneaker head in the traditional sense. I’ve never waited in line to buy a pair. But I’ve always been very informed and particular about my sneakers. I majored in economics at college, and that’s also when I started working at the local sneaker store. Since then I’ve held marketing positions at other footwear brands, but I’ve been part of the streetwear and sneaker culture for the better part of my life. So I not only understand the business, I’ve contributed to it. What I really am is an observer and I think I have a weird skill of being able to see things others don’t, connect the dots others don’t care about and make something from it. It was a matter of time before I started my own brand. Greats is a sneaker brand, yes, but it’s connected to culture and Brooklyn in a unique way and we think an important part of any brand is having an authenticity and a purpose. I’m having the best time of my life building one of the most disruptive sneaker brands in the world.
T+T: What are you working on at the moment?
RB: The list is endless but at this moment I’m finalising our first art collab with Greg Bogin – who’s he’s Brooklyn based and super talented – which comes out in March. We’re planning for our women’s launch in the third week in March. I’m also figuring out what to eat for dinner.
T+T: How did you come to design a pair of shoes for Barack Obama?
RB: Obama was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. We’d been invited to the White House for an event and they said we could make a pair of sneakers for him if we wanted. So they sent us the Presidential seal and we had it laser etched on a piece of tanned leather which was handstitched on the tongue of the sneaker. The rest is history. Only two sneaker brands have been given the privilege to do this: Greats and Nike. Given that we’re only 2.5 years old, we feel good about our starting point!
T+T: How do you unwind?
RB: Having a startup is super stressful but I’m not stressed and I think having a well rounded active lifestyle helps me maintain a general sense of calm. I’m a pretty simple guy and like to do the things I’ve always done. In the summer I like to get in the ocean and depending on what the waves are doing I’ll surf, body board, handplane or body surf. As long as I’m in the water, I’m pretty content. Winters are a different thing but I like to be active so anything that keeps me from sitting on the couch helps me stay relaxed. There’s always really good cabernet to help that along as well.
T+T: What’s on your wrist?
RB: My current daily is an Audemars Piguet. I wear it every day, ride my bike in it, whatever. Before that it was a Rolex Daytona which I wore everyday for a few years. Before that… well you get the point, which is that I like watches and I wear the same one daily for a couple of years and then switch it up. But I’m not a a watch trader, I keep them all.
T+T: What’s your daily ride?
RB: I don’t drive my car much as I live in Brooklyn, where you simply don’t need one. You’re more likely to find me on a citibike or my Bunditz. Bunditz is a bike brand founded by Paul Bunditz, founder of Kid Robot. He makes insanely beautiful machines and I love mine. When we drive out to the beach I’m in my 2004 VW Phaeton. It’s super-rare and 80 per cent Bentley. I blacked it out and people still think it’s brand new, which is a testament to how advanced that car was.