While it may be easy to call yourself an entrepreneur these days, it’s important to have a product that stands out about the rest. Insert John Geiger, the man behind his own self-titled footwear brand that aims to leave a long-lasting imprint on the world in the most positive light possible. Each sneaker hails a unique story, one that Geiger spends much time and effort perfecting.
Created back in 2017 by Geiger, alongside business partner Sean Davis, John Geiger Co has since grown into one of the most highly sought-after brands, one that frequently sells out every time a collection drops. The selling point? Versatility, style, and comfort… most recently even expanding into an apparel line of shirts, hoodies, outerwear, sweatpants, basketball shorts, and hats.
Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Geiger actually graduated Point Park University with a degree in Criminal Justice over a decade ago. His taste of designing arrived when in sports management. Fast forward to today, the 36-year-old is just as passionate as when he started, and plans to expand his further even further.
Flaunt caught up with both Geiger and Sean via Zoom to discuss how they got into footwear, the reality behind launching John Geiger Co, their core designs, expanding into apparel, favorite items, goals, and more!
How did both of you guys get into footwear?
John: This is John Geiger, designer, creative, entrepreneur. As a kid growing up, you know what you like. I was always into fashion, but I never knew there was a route to have a business for it. It wasn’t until I was with friends who were around Nike a lot, I got to learn how shoes were made. I realized there was a path to make your own shoe, that’s the gist of getting into footwear. Ever since I was younger, I was always into sneakers. I never knew the business behind making it. Now, that’s what I fell in love with.
Sean: Being from Pittsburgh, it’s not like they teach you “hey, you can be in fashion.” No. John being where he was from, which is a pretty rough neighborhood, going that route was really trailblazing.
John: Yeah, I have a Criminal Justice degree. That’s what I went to college for. [laughs] Not sure what I was going to do there.
Sean: He really had to trailblaze. It’s interesting because now I know where he went to school and where I went to school in Pittsburgh, when we were in school no one was into design. Now they said there’s at least 10 to 20 kids every year that go to college for design. They think John was a trailblazer for that avenue.
You’re both from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, correct?
Sean: I’m from outside of Pittsburgh, I have to say that. Because if I say I’m from Pittsburgh, he’ll get upset. “You’re not from Pittsburgh. I’m from Pittsburgh.”
John: He’s outside the tunnels. [laughs] I’m a city kid.
How did you guys meet?
John: Everybody knows my past about custom shoes. There was a period of time where I got to work with Nike, but I wasn’t a designer at Nike. I’d take Air Force 1s and Jordans and do cool stuff to them. I’d try to release them as customs, not knowing that I could build my own shoe. I’d feed Nike ideas and they’d always turn them down: “we couldn’t do that” or “couldn’t do this.” Around, maybe 2015 or 2016, Sean ended up calling me and said, “why don’t you make your own shoe?” I’d really never thought of it because from the ground up, it’d be so tough to do. Within a couple weeks, we started going to factories, looking up materials. He called me like “hey, let’s really try to do this.”
Sean: I was a sports agent for 10 years, I represented professional basketball players. I represented Iman Shumpert, a bunch of people like that. I remember going to dinner with John and I didn’t know anything about shoes or anything. In Pittsburgh, you don’t really learn those things. That’s not part of the culture. Becoming an agent, I was able to be around Iman and he taught me a lot. Him and John had a separate relationship so we all formed a pretty good bond. Me and John became best friends. I believed he was super talented.
In my eyes, he revolutionized Nike. Because if you look at where Nike’s at now, they revolutionized the brand by moving the swoosh around. When John says, “I’d bring Nike ideas,” he went to Nike with the idea that he wanted to do multiple checks on a shoe. They said “we’d never do that. We’d never misappropriate a check. We’d never put multiple swooshes on a shoe.” He said “cool, I’ll do it myself.” He customized the shoes, created this design. What happened is the design blew up so much that players I represented were coming to me like, “oh my God, you know John Geiger?!” Yeah, he’s one of my best friends. “Oh, well can you get these shoes?” It clicked. Wow, you’re really doing something special. Now fast forward 5 years, you look at Nike and all the new shoes — I was looking at the new drops coming out: 2 checks on a shoe. 3 checks on a shoe. Swooshes mixed around. Swooshes all around, which was never done up until John did that.
What was the reality behind launching John Geiger Co?
John: 001 was the first model. I was really into Margiela shoes, but they’re uncomfortable. I saw that a Jordan 4 might be rising up to $300, $400 if it’s a collab. We went by the definition of a medium where I wanted to use super high in quality, made in the USA, that had a sneaker feel but be in Barney’s. You’d have this dressed up sneaker, that’s my whole take on what we want to do first. The 001 was our learning the business side of it, how to sell it and production.
That was eye-opening to both of us because the timing was always off. The 001, the way I wanted it made now is crazy because it’s made in LA. It was almost 4 hours to make one pair. I thought that was such a cool point, such good points to make to sell it. Thinking back now, that took away from it because no one even cared it took 4 hours to make a shoe. It wasn’t until the 002 came out a year and half after the 001, that’s when celebrities really started wearing it. The 002 model was really special.
Why is it called the 001?
John: It was a thing in my mind when I was designing a pair of shoes, I’ve done a hundred different silhouettes in my lifetime. So 001 was numbering. Instead of a Jordan 1, it was a Geiger 001.
Sean: From the business side, it was cool for us. There’s always 2 perspectives: John’s the talent. He does all the design, he does everything. He’s the brilliant star of the show. If you look at it from a business aspect, that’s what John doesn’t talk about a lot is he has to be inputted on all the business decisions. A lot of designers now, they can design how they want to design and do whatever they want, they don’t have to answer to anybody as far as cost and all that.
For John, what makes him really special is he always has to design within a certain budget. “Hey, what can I design to create this cost level that I want to reach? That I think my consumers will buy, that’s pushing the mold of the high quality I want to reach.” Having to answer all those decisions, he carries a lot along with myself. Having to order materials and get ahead, really love the business, which that’s what separates John.
John: It’s crazy to think about it now because we have so much going on and there’s a team, but it’s just me, Sean and Bryson daily. [laughs] Still, everything.
What does a day to day look like?
John: Right now with the lawsuit… man.
Sean: The thing with the lawsuit, it’s really time-consuming. There’s a lot of going back through and talk to all your relationships, all your endorsements. They put pressure on them also. which makes it difficult. I don’t think it’s fair but that’s part of it. From a day to day, I try to do my best to leave John alone so he can design. There’s too many business questions I have to answer. From creating campaigns for all the shoes, designing, thinking ahead, new silhouettes, new shoes, plus he designs all the clothes from top to bottom.
John: Before a release, I still want to take care of the website. It’s something I like to do. Even if someone else does it right, I’ll still go in and check it before a release all the time. I’m starting to delegate and give off tasks, but as far as the everyday it’s me and Sean. It’s so many things: website, designing, talking to retailers.
Sean: Social media.
John: Post to social media. I run both pages because it was so organic. That’s why all the celebrities I have friendships with, they’re all very organic. My friendships with them through social media, DMing, talking back to people, texting, it’s a lot through a day.
What sets your sneakers apart from the rest?
John: Storytelling and the meaning behind a lot of things we do. #1, the quality. Even the GF1s, it’s really materials.
Sean: It’s the quality because we don’t cut any corners ever. No matter what, we’re always making sure we have top gear quality, which obviously will cut your margins. Now, we don’t care about margins. It’s more about creating a project that people love. For John, it’s the storytelling. He designs based off quality and storytelling. He does a really, really good job of designing within what makes sense to people. He doesn’t try to design something that’s super crazy, like “I’m gonna show you how different I am.”
John: The 002s are more sweats. The 003s were more baggier jeans were coming back. That and GF1s, if you hit all those avenues of what’s changing in fashion, then throughout the silhouettes you’ll be able to find something.
You guys have started with 3 core designs, do you plan on expanding on footwear aside from these styles?
John: Yes, working on 004s. Sandals, we have a mule coming in.
Sean: That’s what he’s most excited about for sure, is the mule.
John: I travel a lot so going through security, having to put your shoes back on and tying them. I guess you could always wear sandals, but a mule is what I’d really love.
Sean: It’s cool that he’s going to expand a lot more into ready to wear clothes, higher fashion. That’s part of running a business, he’d love to design on a higher fashion level.
John: We put out a full collection in 2019 going into 2020. We showed at Paris Fashion Week literally a month before COVID hit. Mid-COVID, we scaled back on so many clothes and focused on footwear because that was our main focus. Maybe next year, we’re going to get back into full collections. It took away because retail really wanted footwear, we were showing clothes for retail then everything shut down. We do basics now like sweats, our pocket pants are really big. Hats, Letterman jackets. We’re going to get back into collections early 2022.
What are your personal favorite items?
Sean: I really like the pocket pants and bungee pants we have. It was the first time I saw those types of pockets on pants, the material and the fit. The way the bungee sits on your ankle, it’s a really unique design that’s getting bigger and bigger by the day. He’s ahead of the wave on this fashion, it’s cool. Those are my favorite for sure.
John: He’ll say everything that I won’t say. [laughs] I’ll say it behind closed doors, but I’ll never talk about myself.
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Favorite celebrities that have rocked your items?
John: They’re all very organic friendships. Teyana and Iman, those are family. Wale is another really close friend. This past year was really dope because people like J-Lo and Bieber started wearing it. That was cool. Jack Harlow wore them the other day for VMAs. Damn, okay this is starting to really blow up. When before, my friendships with NBA guys would say at a game, “can I get some shoes?” This is starting to rise now.
Goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
John: Man. I really want to get into full collections. We’re in retail in Europe, Dubai, we’re going to expand overseas because we killed it in consumer in the US. Eventually, we’ll be in more retail worldwide. Everywhere, US and outside. That’s a goal.
Sean: The best thing for us, we’re so aligned on neither of us care about money. We don’t think about selling the brand. We don’t think about anything like that. I want to continue to let him develop more things he really wants to design or what he really wants to do, how he sees things going. Continue to stay authentic. That’s a real goal because if you start growing, it’s so much easier to sell out and do things that’s going to make money. As opposed to really trying to stay authentic.
John: Even now, I’ll start feeling like I’m losing control. Or we’ll up the numbers in production, I’m like alright, let’s just chill. Let’s figure it out, scale back.”