For self-confessed sneaker geek Anand Ahuja, footwear is not merely an accessory, it is a subject to be studied. Be it the technique behind soles, the design, or colourways, Ahuja, owner of the multi-brand sneaker store VegNonVeg, which he opened in 2016, takes his love for sneakers to the next level by studying every minutia involved in their creation.
A look at his Instagram feed is enough to prove this. Images of his world travel, tributes to basketball legends, and fitness routine are interspersed with shots of his sneakers, most rare finds that he tells his followers about. So be it the latest trainer he has purchased or a picture of him getting Virgil Abloh to sign a shoe, scrolling his feed is like a initiation ceremony for young enthusiasts.
The latest in his love for sneakers is VegNonVeg’s collaboration with sporting brand FILA, to create the limited edition shoe, Masala Box Mindblower.The silhouette pays tribute to the classic FILA Mindblower sneaker, and is inspired by the ‘masala’ box found in every Indian home.
“The shoe has been made with the right usage and mix of premium materials like multi-textured leather, short-haired suede, and the perfect balance of the colours, making it a must-have for all sneaker lovers,” says Abdon Lepcha, creative director, FILA India. “It was an incredible experience working with VegNonVeg, sharing of ideas, knowledge, and expertise, which resulted in a statement product.”
The Masala Mindblower is another example of Ahuja’s scientific approach to sneakers. Lifestyle Asia caught up with him to understand how it fits into his vision to help sneaker culture evolve in India.
On the VegNonVeg-FILA collaboration
VegNonVeg turns three this summer, and since we are a multi-brand store, we have known FILA for a while and got into talking terms with them back in 2017. The idea was to do a shoe with a cool new idea. Our Masala Box Mindblower sneaker is a very colourful shoe. It is not a beginner’s shoe – it is for someone who understands sneakers to the core, understands the story behind it. The ‘masala’ box is present in every Indian household, no matter how diverse our country. We wanted to create something tricky and on-the-edge.
It was great to closely work with Abdon Lepcha, creative director, FILA India. He is based out of India, and understands Indian consumers and culture well. He was instrumental in the marketing and positioning of the shoe.
On his love for sneakers
I am more of sneaker geek than a sneakerhead. I am driven by innovation behind the product. I grew up playing and watching basketball. Growing up, every summer when I travelled to the US, I would pick up pairs. I would closely analyse the sneaker I wanted to buy – I wanted to know about the materials used and other techniques involved.
On his all-time favourite sneakers
The one that I wore at my wedding. They were the Nike Flyknit trainers. It was for the first time that Nike used a knit in the shoe. What appealed to me most about the shoe was the innovation. The ability to experiment with colour combination multiplies when you use knit. One can take many different colours and put them together in one shoe.
Another shoe that I really like is Adidas 4D runner. I love the technique involved in its sole, 3D printwork, design, and colourways.
On the evolving sneaker culture in India
India has a huge population that is young and interested in sneakers. The sneaker culture in India is not just growing but people are actually trying to learn more and explore the idea of statement sneakers. We all grew up wearing the Bata PT shoes and it very is interesting to see the kind of shoes we talk about now.
On how to start experimenting with sneakers
The first thing I would suggest is to not get carried away by the hype. Go to a store where you trust the brand. Then see what the sneaker offers you. Most people today who understand sneakers are the ones who have developed their own story with sneakers.
It all depends on what you are looking for and what fits your requirement and style. It can be a simple, uncomplicated silhouette that works with everything – Reebok classic, Adidas Stan Smith, and Nike Air Max are examples of great shoes which have stood the test of time and have appealed to a number of sneakerheads.
Whatever brands like Nike, Adidas, and Puma have done is great. It’s not easy to spot a younger sneaker brand as creating a sneaker and understanding the nuances involved is a complicated process. But these days you do get to see a lot of collaborations – the one between Fear Of God and Nike is one of a kind. They waited for a year and rather doing just a new colourway they created a new silhouette. What Kanye has done for Adidas is amazing. Yeezys have completely changed the way sneakers are perceived globally. I am also a fan of sneakers by Alexander Wang – his designs speak to me. Rihanna and Puma have also come with some amazing silhouettes – girly yet strong.
It was while studying fashion journalism at London College of Fashion that Anupam developed a keen interest in the anthropological aspect of the discipline; for him, fashion only makes sense when seen in the context of its environment. He is always on the hunt for great stories, and in his spare time binge-watches films/shows starring Whoopi Goldberg, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders.