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The heart and sole of C-Bus sneaker scene

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“Me and my Adidas do the illest things.”

Run-DMC’s “My Adidas,” an homage to their love for the sneaker brand, created an urban fashion craze in the mid-eighties and set the stage for the sneaker explosion. Each member of the hip-hop pioneers wore a three-striped Adidas tracksuit with gold “dookie rope” chains dangling from their necks and black fedoras on their heads. But what tipped the fashion scales were the unlaced white Adidas shell toe Superstars that would “Walk through concert doors […] and roam all over coliseum floors.”

It was no coincidence that the same year “My Adidas” was released, Dionte Johnson was born in Columbus, Ohio. He is the owner/operator of the only niche retail sneaker boutique in Columbus: Sole Classics. And he is at the forefront of the hot sneaker scene in Columbus.

 “I walk down the street, and bop to the beat.”

Hipsters, students, and hip hop heads bob to the beat down High Street and walk into Sole Classics to check out the latest. Located in the Short North, Sole Classics has the Run-DMC-style Adidas track suits, Vans, Nikes, Adidas, hoodies, G-Shocks and other “fly wear.” Artistically curated, every inch of the two-room fashion gallery is meticulously crafted to reflect the Short North arts scene. (The newly-opened second store in Dublin pays tribute to the area’s Irish attitude with a pub vibe.) “We want the stores to embody the neighborhood we are in—Short North more urban, Dublin more Irish,” Johnson says.

“I like to sport ‘em that’s why I bought ‘em.”

Johnson bought Sole Classics (originally opened in 2006) from the previous owners ten years ago and has been in its current location since 2014. As a former Ohio State fullback, Dionte had a cup of coffee in the NFL, but when that plan fell through, he put his Business Marketing degree to work. “I was looking for the next challenge […] and heard about Sole Classics being available,” Johnson says, wearing his signature black hoodie and jeans. “Growing up in Columbus and going to high school [in the nineties] I worked in retail at Big Daddy’s, the first to carry urban street fashion stuff—and I was hooked.”

“And now I just standin’ here shooting the gift.”

What Big Daddy’s (now closed) taught Johnson was the importance of community—about creating a space where people come for the experience, to hang out, shoot the shit and share their love for sneakers. It’s the barber shop minus all the hair on the ground. “You can go buy your shoes from anywhere, but with a store like ours, you get to sit down, spend two hours talking and maybe buy something, or maybe not,” Johnson says as he sits behind the self-designed wood cash wrap desk that is the centerpiece of his Dublin store. “The person who comes in and knows exactly what they want gets treated the same as the person who stops by to say, ‘What’s up?’ ” 

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“Now the Adidas I possess for one man is rare. Myself homeboy got fifty pair.”

The Columbus sneaker scene has grown exponentially, with more options than ever. Sole Classics is a retail shop that is linked to the sneaker companies. But up High Street, less than a mile away is Premium Kicks, a consignment sneaker store. “There is plenty of room [in Columbus] for sneaker shops to coexist, “ Johnson says. “Yes, we’re in competition, but theirs is always a place for a consignment shop to do their thing. We are a little more beholden to the sneaker companies, whereas they have a little more freedom.”

What is also helping the sneaker scene thrive is the innovative chances sneaker companies are taking (see the re-release of the Air Jordan 4 and the new Nike line of kicks called Have a Nike Day), combined with online media. When new kicks get released it’s a feeding frenzy. “Once upon a time you had to go into a store to hear about the release date; to find out what was dropping that weekend, “Johnson says. “Now, with the internet, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in rural Ohio or in New York City, you’re going to know about the product at the same time. It has expanded the sneaker community exponentially. Tons of people now know about a sneaker they would normally not.”

Does he see the internet ruining the brick-and-mortar, mom and pop shops, more than it already has? “Retail will settle back down,” he says. “Convenience is what people are into—paper towels delivered to your front door—but nothing can replace human contact. Life is about what you’re experiencing, and it’s not usually sitting behind a computer.”

“We took the beat from the street and put it on TV.”

When I ask Dionte who his biggest influences were when he first started out in the sneaker/fashion world, he cites his favorite nineties’ shows and actors: Martin, Will Smith, and even Seinfeld (with those dope white running shoes and jeans—not!). “I was heavily influenced by what I saw on TV because they were setting the trend. It was how I saw what other people were experimenting with.”

 “My Adidas only bring good news.”

Run-DMC is from Hollis, Queens, and Dionte from Columbus. Big difference. But nobody can deny they both have a love for the squeaks of their sneaks. Their collective “sole” has brought communities together and left an indelible footprint.•

Sole Classics is located in the Short North at 846 N High St. and in Dublin at 6391 Sawmill Rd. Visit soleclassics.com for all the latest sneaker looks.

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Clothing and Community: Black Fashion Expo

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Expect nothing but instead appreciate everything.

The statement is a mantra that Black Fashion Expo founder Bobby Couch lives by, describing the event for designers of color to set up shop and showcase their products on a grand scale. While he juggles multiple hats as a creative director at Art of Republic and as an assistant with traveling dinner party, The High End Affair, his intention with creative umbrella Fashion is Columbus and brainchild Black Fashion Expo was to be inclusive and celebrate fashion brands that deserve a larger following. After the inaugural BFE in February, Couch hosted the expo’s ‘Intent’ theme in October at Gravity, as a marketplace featuring panel discussions and live attractions and demonstrations that showcased fashion that goes beyond the runway.

“When you’re curating an experience that’s new, there’s a level of anticipation, but people know that every component of what’s happening will likely be unexpected,” Couch said. “It’s important to conform that Black fashion is also Columbus fashion. Until we can say it’s time to celebrate the success of Black artists with an inclusive and diverse audience, it’s important to continue celebrating one another to drive their goals and business.”

An avid Beyoncé fan, Couch has taken cues from the singer to drive his own business, noting Beyoncé publicized her decision to leave a Reebok board meeting after there were no people of color present. The singer ventured into a joint athleisure partnership with Adidas instead, and Bobby supports her decision, noting that Black voices on design teams are the first step into the process of inclusion.

“Some of the larger luxury brands definitely started the shift from the Gucci blackface sweaters to blackness and wokeness being a trend. Sometimes it just takes conversations like those to ruffle the feathers of the white supremacy and implement change, even if just temporary,” he said. “During these times of gentrification and the restoration of urban areas, [Black Fashion Expo] wants to ensure there are safe spaces curated specifically for those coming from inner city schools to create their own footprint.”

In agreement with Couch’s sentiments is founder of clothing line Ohio Girls Do It Better and BFE contributor, Chanel Jack. “There are major dangers of Black designers leading majority white teams because it keeps the cycle going and lessens our opportunities as a culture,” she said. “When a Black designer does have the power to change the narrative, it is important to bring other Black creatives to the top with them.”

While Columbus fashion is still on an incline—the city is also a leading hub for fashion with LBrands, CCAD, and Fashion Week Columbus—Couch is forward-thinking with offering services to further benefit the city. With a full team of curators behind Black Fashion Expo, Couch credits Art of Republic, StarstrukT Apparel, Cloud City 614 and more for fulfilling his vision of propelling local Black fashion to greater heights. He also wants the favor to be returned to other brands, as StarstrukT Apparel is a hub for listening parties and shopping alike, and Sole Classics continually hosts a seasonal Streetwear Flea event. “It costs nothing to repost your friend who’s an entrepreneur, [their] business or pop-up flyers on social media; that’s a great start,” Couch said.

There are still gripes with apects of Columbus fashion, as noted by hosts of BFE segment “Thread Talk”, Genevieve Effa and Xiao Mei. “I’ve noticed there are so many more designers and brands that aren’t getting attention. The fashion scene can be improved best if more of those with a fashion platform in the city collaborate more often,” Effa said. “Whether that’s creating an event where designers or brands can apply to be a part of it, or just throwing a mixer for designers and fashion brands to network, the best way to really show why Columbus is ranked third in the fashion industry would be through collaborating.”

“Those in the fashion industry are standing their ground more than ever. From their morals to their values and principles, many Blacks are comprehending the importance of unity within the Black culture and Black fashion industry,” Mei adds. “Columbus offers diverse people of different backgrounds, but lacks flavor in apparel. It is a comfortable city and not many are willing to step beyond their comfort zones—even in their clothing.”

In the process of opening his first storefront in next year with an artistic coworking space, Couch envisions that fashion in 2020 will be a transition into theory, uniform and minimalistic silhouettes being intertwined with substantial fabrics. “Eco-friendly and more vegan leathers will be used in the projects I’m endorsing [as well as] the freedom of the late 90’s when it comes to styling and editorial execution,” he said. “Less is so much more.”

Couch plans to resume Black Fashion Expo next February, and much like his idol, Beyoncé, 2020 will be the year to officially get Columbus fashion in formation.

Donations and request for sponsorship information can be found online at fashioniscolumbus.com. Follow on Instagram at @blackfashionexpo.

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Local designer offers shopping tips for fashionista on your list

Regina Fox

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Ever since she was a little girl, Joan Madison has had an affinity for fashion. From making custom-fitting Barbie doll outfits when she was in elementary school, to developing her natural talent at the acclaimed Fashion Institute of Technology, to landing designer positions at The Limited and Express, to eventually opening her own bridal boutique in Reynoldsburg, Madison has amassed over 20 years experience in the fashion industry. Madison shared some of her insights with (614) to help those holiday shoppers looking to cross gifts for the fashionista in their life off their list.

(614): If you're having trouble identifying your friend's unique style or items that would fit into that style, what are some staple pieces that everyone can love and use?

JM: Some staple pieces that everyone loves and uses are items that match the season! I love to accessorize! If it is fall [or] winter, I love to go for soft cashmere scarves, gloves or even winter sunglasses—they make the perfect accent as a thoughtful gift or for a stylish friend, and you can never go wrong with items that make you warmer in the cooler months. If it is spring [or] summer, I love to match accessories that add a touch of color or metallic to anyone’s wardrobe. Items like handheld purses, fanciful flats and color-pop earrings are always my go to faves for everyone, no matter the taste.

(614): For those working on a tight budget, what pieces make the best gifts?

JM: I like that even on a budget, these gift ideas work! What I like most about these staple pieces are that these items come in a variety of colors and prices. I like that I can buy all of my favorites, no matter the budget!

(614): For bigger ticket items—let's say a handbag or coat, for example—how can the average shopper distinguish a quality item from one that is simply overpriced?

JM: As a couturier, I find it necessary to first examine the stitching on any garment. Make sure it’s lined, and that all plaids, stripes, or patterns match. Most people think it is about the textiles, but what sets a unique piece apart is the time and expertise it takes to engineer and craft a high quality garment, to really pour into the work, while also embodying the design and detail. Good quality is also evident in the fit of the garment, the hanger loops, and the overall hanger appeal. Often, overpriced items skip these components and this part of the process.

(614): What are some of your favorite shops and boutiques around Central Ohio that offer thoughtful, accessible fashion?

JM: One of my favorite boutiques around Central Ohio that offers thoughtful and accessible fashion is Minka’s Furs in the Shops at Worthington Place, and I also love to draw inspiration and support many of our local festival artisans. And we also offer holiday party dresses and evening gowns here at Joan’s Bridal Couture.

(614): What are some of your favorite trends you've seen this winter season?

JM: There are several trends I like this winter season, including anything in sequin with bling. Metallic is also still popular, [as is] wearing shades of green and earthier tones with a pop of color. For extra warmth, try layering your sweaters, dusters, and shawls. Additionally, anything with fur, and the reemergence of leopard prints [are current trends].

(614): What are some "fast fashion" items common during the winter that shoppers should avoid and why?

JM: Remember "fast fashion" doesn’t last—we are in an area where you want to wear that cute sport coat year-round, and have it for next season as well. Fast fashion is based off of trends as feelers, and I like a more traditional approach. Some "fast fashion" items to avoid this winter would be garments made in cheap polyester knit fabric, like scarves, crewnecks, and leggings. After being worn once, the garment starts to pill. The quality will be evident in the weight of the knit. Alternatively, go with a natural fiber like wool, which is a bit pricier but will last longer.

This conversation has been lightly edited. Visit Joan’s Bridal Couture at 7382 E Main St., Reynoldsburg or online at joansbridalcouture.com.

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Short North shop offers convenient ways for men to boost wardrobes

Mitch Hooper

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Fashion trends come in waves, and at the moment in men’s fashion, it seems no wave is bigger than streetwear. It’s a combination of sleekly-designed hoodies and shirts with versatile bottoms. Graphic t-shirts—both long sleeve and short—have found new life with unlikely brands collaborating such as Supreme and Carhartt. It’s no longer a crime to walk out of the house wearing a groutfit (an all-gray outfit) and earth tones provide unique color options. And shoes? It seems shoes show no sign of slowing down as the “rare” value of finding a high end pair of Jordans or Yeezys is a race to the top. If there were a male version of Carrie Bradshaw, he’d be wearing streetwear.

This trend is no secret to our city either. Right in the heart of the Short North is Madison USA, a men’s fashion store with everything from your next favorite crew neck to a pair of shoes that might cost you upwards of $650. It’s all worth it in the end if you get that clout. Our photographer, Zane Osler, hooked us up with a few looks for men this season to get a leg up on the competition. Four Pins, if you’re reading this, put us on your fit watch 2019 list.

Brand: Darryl Brown. Top: White painter coat, $750. Pants: Paint Trouser, $308.
Brand: Aime Leon Dore. Top: Kanga Hoodie Sweatshirt, $137. Hat: Waffle Stitch beanie, $60.
Brand: Aime Leon Dore. Top: Crewneck sweatshirt w/pocket, $112. Pants: Camper pants, $112.

Madison USA is located at 1219 N. High St. For more information and to see what's new, visit madison-usa.com.

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