Who does a grand opening with Nike Sportswear’s Category Footwear Lead Gentry Humphrey? Canada’s very own Exclucity. And on December 7th, the Canadian shop opened up it’s third location in Montreal’s Dix30 shopping district. The Grand Opening gave customers the opportunity to scoop up almost a years worth of past releases, as well as a Q&A with Gentry himself. If you missed out on this epic opening and the Q&A session, Modern Notoriety has you covered. Gentry speaks on All-Star Weekend, Lebron’s issue with his 11th signature shoe and more.
What’s your history with Jordan Brand [JB] and how did you transition into NSW?
I pretty much was Michael [Jordan]’s right hand man and we started to develop the Jordan business. I basically started on the AJ 4, stopped doing shoes with Jordan after the 23. The [Air Jordan] 23 was the last shoe that I really worked on. After the 23 I was actually responsible for trying to grow the international business for JB, and so I stopped doing the actual creation of product for a little bit to try to help grow the business of JB worldwide. When I started it, we were a $160 million business and now we’re a little bit over a billion dollars. That was my job for a little bit, then the president of Nike asked me to move over to try and grow the Nike business.
What are some current projects you’re working on and what’s the mission you have with Nike?
We’re trying to do this thing that we’re calling “amplify” categories–we take a category like basketball and we build a product for consumers who are wearing the product on the basketball court, and rock some of that stuff for everyday lifestyle wear. My responsibilities there were to try and grow that portion of business so I’ve been with NSW for the last two and a half years. I think I have some great opportunities to do some fun things when you work with MJ, and what he stands for basketball both on and off the court–that same inspiration kind of spills over into the world that I lived in. So with the same intensity that Michael approached the game with, I try and bring those values and intensity to the shoe world so that the consumers around the world have the opportunity to live a piece of Michael’s world and we can deliver on Michael’s true inspiration, value of what he perceives as successful in the market.
What’s the most underrated shoe you’ve ever worked on?
I worked on a lot of shoes [laughs], but I think the most underrated is the AJ 23. The reason I say that is because the 23 was really an attempt at how do you reconstruct shoes and manufacture them in a whole different way from an aesthetic point of view. The entire team went out to Nevada, to this Indian reservation and [we began to] understand the culture that was happening. I was impressed by the craftsmanship–how the tribes were crafting their products, and so I said, “How can we bring some of that into this project?” At the time, Michael was into motorcycle racing–he had just bought a motorcycle racing team–and we asked what would happen if the two worlds of the tribal nature of Native Indians and the motor racing world combined. And so that was where we started the project, and I think it came together. But then ok…how can you start to manufacture a shoe where its more where you’re using glues that aren’t harmful and how are you building a more sustainable project? How can you construct a product total different that the industry hasn’t seen? And that’s what we did, everything we looked at and tried to make that sustainable was a true challenge. From the craftsmanship to the stories, I think that was probably one of the most underrated shoes, but there’s a lot of them. But then again, we don’t always get it right.
How about outside of Jordan Brand?
I have to go way back. Before JB became a brand, it was part of Nike world, so I worked on JB before it was a brand, a bunch of shoes even before then. I would probably say probably the Penny’s, maybe the Penny 3. Some of those shoes didn’t get the love. Even right now, Foamposites are dope, but back then they didn’t get the love that they deserved–that was a whole new way of making shoes also, so I would say probably one of those.
Of all time? Definitely the Jordan 11.
The Concords, the white/black. Just because when they first came in, people thought I was crazy–so we went through the whole process with design, but when the actual sample came in, I was running around freaking out. For me, it was just so different from anything that was happening at the time. I loved it, and the crazy thing is…what we try to do is go out and talk to people in focus groups and see who’s gonna like what, and so we were showing it to kids…some were trendsetters, and they were like “Oh you gotta take that shiny shit off the shoe..it looks terrible.” Because you know, no one had used patent leather, and we were like, “That’s making the shoe!” So, we had more people saying “Don’t do it, don’t do it!” than “Do it!” and we, as a team kept saying, “You know what? we’re gonna roll with this because we are feelin’ it.” And so it was my favorite because we stuck to our guns and our gut told us that it was the right thing to do. About ninety percent of people told us not to do it, and today it’s one of the best models.