Music mogul Scooter Braun is reviving sneaker brand British Knights, popularized by its association with hip-hop culture in the late ’80s and early ’90s, for a new generation. In a new joint venture with British Knights founders Jack Schwartz Shoes, Inc., Braun has enlisted creative director Darren Romanelli (aka DrX) to bring a fresh look to the high-top non-performance shoes, much like the streetwise designs he’s developed over the years for brands like Coca-Cola, Converse and Nike.The first designs will be going on sale at select high-end retailers beginning March 15. Beyond two designs -- one an update on the classic black high-top, another Union Jack take on the classic design. Braun wants to re-establish British Knights (or “BKs,” as they were affectionately called back in the day) as a premium shoe for a certain type of urban trendsetter. To accomplish that cachet, Braun and Romanelli will collaborate with “some of the world’s greatest street artists” on limited-edition designs.
Footwear is the latest venture for Braun, who’s been diversifying his portfolio as of late with tech investments like Pinterest, Spotify, Songza, Uber, Viddy and StageIt, and a fund with an estimated value of $120 million to invest in management companies rumored to include Sandbox Entertainment, October’s Very Own and Atom Factory, among others. He’s often cited David Geffen, Jimmy Iovine and Lucian Grainge as mentors and inspirations for placing bets outside the core music industry. So, British Knights is a bid to become his Beats by Dre.
The British Knights of yore relied on endorsements from rappers like MC Hammer and Kool Moe Dee over athletes (“they did have a great relationship with Derrick Coleman,” Braun notes of the former New Jersey Net). And Justin Bieber could very well be among the SB Projects clients who could soon be soon rocking a pair of BKs, having inked a non-exclusive endorsement deal with Adidas last year premised on the fact that the singer is often snapped in the hottest shoes (he was recently seen wearing a pair of Balenciaga sneakers.) The versatility of the sneaker has contributed to its continues growth in the fashion footwear category, as sales of sport leisure shoes for men grew 5% in 2013, accounting for 18% of a $12.5 billion marketplace, according to the NPD Group.