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Up Close with Alan Cunningham, VP Brand & Retail Sales EMEA

May 30, 2022

We recently sat down with our unofficial style guru and official VP of brand and retail, Alan, to get his take on the streetwear industry and how its future will be influenced by the ever-evolving metaverse.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Alan Cunningham and I’m the VP of Sales for Brand & Retail EMEA. I joined JOOR 9 months ago from the fashion industry, where I’d been working in wholesale buying and sales for the last 18 years. I’ve always been interested in fashion and what started as a part-time sales job on the shop floor at 16, has developed into a thoroughly enjoyable career.

I’ve always had a passion for streetwear (although truth be told, I’m not in love with the label “streetwear”). For me, it started in the mid 90s. My first job when I was 16 was in the Nike store in Dublin City Center. This was where a passion for trainers started, that has stuck with me to this day.

Back then the label “streetwear” hadn’t yet been coined, so it was more sports/casual wear. As I moved from shop floor to head office roles and progressed in my career, I found the most enjoyable and engaging jobs were those working with brands that I had a personal interest in. A perfect example of this is my time spent managing the UK business of Billionaire Boys Club at a London multi brand agency. The founder of the agency and the guys I worked with, lived and breathed the streetwear side of the industry. They knew the hip-hop industry and streetwear’s roots are firmly intertwined—think LL Cool J x Fila or Run DMC x Adidas/Superstar. They also knew the importance of going above and beyond in PR and Marketing, creating hype around product drops, launches, and in store events. They really opened my eyes to the fantastic world of Japanese streetwear brands, which still fascinates me to this day—brands like Neighborhood, Cavempt, WTAPS…the list of incredible brands emerging from Japan is ever-growing. Those few years were thoroughly enjoyable and I learned a huge amount from the team, which I will always be grateful for.

2. How do you define 'streetwear'?

Streetwear is now such a broad, all-encompassing term it’s become difficult to define. It used to be very self-explanatory—comfortable (usually relaxed and oversized) clothing that was worn with sneakers, more often than not in urban environments.

Now, thanks to the adoption of streetwear by luxury brands, it’s much more open to interpretation. Take the Fear of God x Ermenegildo Zegna collab a couple of years ago as a perfect example. The two brands couldn’t be more worlds apart—the ultimate relaxed Californian luxury brand combining with Italian sartorial fashion at its finest…beautiful tailored pieces in slightly exaggerated fits, combined with elevated sportswear. The product is impeccable… beautifully styled & shot…Is this streetwear?

3. What's your biggest takeaway from the position of the streetwear industry at the moment? 

The rate that luxury brands continue to partner with sports and streetwear brands—which ensures their relevance across younger age groups and demographics—highlights that this trend is here to stay. Look at the recent collabs Dior x Stussy…Prada x Adidas…Gucci x The North Face…the list just keeps on growing and will continue, long into the foreseeable future!

This is an elevation for streetwear that 10 years ago, no one saw coming. Yet it has become the norm and continues to develop and evolve, through contrasting and polarizing brands coming together to see what they can create. It’s exciting times.

4. Favorite piece of clothing or shoe?

Clothing - Engineered Garments balloon pants in a beautiful grey wool (not suitable in summer months)

Quite a few shoes – probably the Chicago Jordan 1’s (2015 release) or Black Cement 3’s (2011)

5. Favorite streetwear designer?

There are so many so instead of committing to 1, I’ll rattle off a few names of designers I like–

Nigo is hands down one of the best to ever do it. From creating BAPE in the early 90s, to taking on his most recent role as creative director for Kenzo. He’s managed to stay relevant through decades… Billionaire Boys Club, Ice Cream…. not to mention his own label Human Made—the weight of the fabrics, the cut of the garments…no detail is left untouched.

Another favorite is Jerry Lorenzo. What he’s done with Fear of God in less than a decade is incredible… the quality is flawless and his vision for luxury fabrics combined with looser, more relaxed fits is amazing.

You can’t go wrong with Stussy either though… true OG.  

There are so many amazing designers in this space…obviously, you can’t mention streetwear designers without highlighting Virgil (RIP) and the incredible work he did breaking barriers on so many levels.

6. How have you seen streetwear evolve over the years?

As mentioned above, the elevation of streetwear through luxury collabs has been incredible—no collabs epitomizes this more than Louis Vuitton x Supreme in 2017.

Supreme, a NY skate brand with roots firmly in skating and streetwear and Louis Vuitton, the ultimate luxury brand. For Supreme to go from selling $50 printed tees, to reselling monogrammed LV hoodies (and even an LV trunk) for thousands of dollars, is so far removed from the brand’s original inception, it’s crazy. But it worked—immediately sold out and still reselling for silly amounts of money.

This collaboration could also be what whet LV’s appetite for streetwear. This in turn could have been the motivation to sign up Virgil, who at the time, was at the helm of the one of the most sought-after streetwear brands at the time, Off White. This is speculative but the timelines lend themselves well to this theory!

7. Anything else we must know? 

Long live streetwear—in whatever form it may take as it continues to evolve!

8. How do you see the role of NFTs playing into the future of the streetwear industry?

NFT’s & streetwear have a few fundamental things in common. When you think of the latest sneaker drop, it’s all about limited edition runs that, often, are exclusive and difficult to purchase unless you’re willing to pay inflated resell prices. NFT’s follow the same principles.

NFT’s in streetwear are at such an early stage, there will inevitably be some ups and downs as the ecosystem evolves. We’re already seeing lawsuits by major sports brands against artists using the brands intellectual property without consent.

What I do know is this—NFT’s, the metaverse, cryptocurrency… all of these digital advancements are in such early stages of infancy, combined with the fact they’re all developing at such a phenomenal rate, no one truly knows what role they’ll play in two years, let alone five to ten years.

It will be very interesting, not just to watch, but be part of these digital advancements…. such as JOOR! (boom)

Interested in learning more about JOOR? Request a demo today.

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