Are Men Really Ready to Spend on Shoes?
SAN DIEGO ( MainStreet) Antonio Brown says he prefers to remain in the shadows.
But these days he's learning to walk the red carpet like a rock star.
And really, once you've walked a Los Angeles red carpet with a celebrity dangling from your arm, you might as well.
Brown is a 28-year-old fashion designer in the midst of launching a fashion empire. His goal is to eventually offer a one-stop luxury brand for men his LVL XIII (pronounced Level 13) selling everything from belts to wallets to jackets and clothing.
He's starting that empire by designing luxury sneakers so unique and stylish they're being snatched up by actors, athletes and rappers. Celebrities who've been spotted in Brown's pricey sneakers include model Tyson Beckford, rappers Nas and Jim Jones and actors Tracy Morgan, Jason Sudeikis, Chris Tucker and Tristan Wilds.
"When [singer] Jason Derulo wore my shoes on Good Morning America it was a wake-up call. It was an exciting moment. It really defined for me that I was moving in the right direction and that this was definitely a journey for me to take and not give up on," recalls Brown, fresh off the Los Angeles launch of the sneaker line where he walked the red carpet with Danity Kane singer Dawn Richard.
Brown has been making appearances on red carpets around the country lately to promote his sneakers. Before the glitzy Los Angeles party a few weeks ago at Hollywood's Supperclub, there was New York and Atlanta.
It's been rapid rise for the native New Yorker, who left his day job in corporate America as an accountant just a year ago to transition into fashion design.
LVL XIII sneakers cost between $500 and $600 a pair and are made of leather and exotic furs. There are 13 designs in Brown's sneaker collection, with names such as Levticus, Retribution, Spartacus and Dark Rising.
They're not so much an athletic shoe to be worn on the court as much as a fashion statement to be worn on the town. The Levticus design, for instance, is made of black pebbled snakeskin with suede panels and metallic upper straps. Retribution is a combination of black distressed leather and red embossed snakeskin. Spartacus includes natural fox hair, and the Dark Rising sneakers are made with black pony hair, black leather and gold studs.
"Luxury sneakers, especially for men, have really expanded from years ago," Brown says. "It used to be that just women were noted for what they were wearing. Now designer brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton , a lot of these brands are releasing their own luxury sneakers for men."