Pret-a-Reporter

The Designers Behind Common Projects on the Brand's 10-Year Success

Renee Cascia/Courtesy of MR PORTER
From left: Dan Rookwood, Peter Poopat, Flavio Girolami and Jason Markk

Peter Poopat and Flavio Girolami rarely like to speak about the brand, but on Tuesday evening, the dynamic duo did a Q&A with MR PORTER editor Dan Rookwood.

Common Projects may be one of the most beloved sneaker brands for both the fashion community and celebs including Jay Z, Kanye West, Nick Jonas and John Legend, to name a few, but designers Peter Poopat and Flavio Girolami have remained pretty low key (save for their recent feature on The New York Times) — and they seem to prefer it that way.

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Since launching in 2004, the NY-based footwear brand has never advertised their kicks.

"That's how we started. We just tried letting the product speak for itself," Girolami explained to MR PORTER US editor Dan Rookwood on Tuesday evening during a rare Q&A session held with the designers at Milk Studios in L.A. "We just tried to let people talk about it."

"I think in the same way the shoes that we didn't want to wear were… nothing against that, it just wasn't our style. In the same way they were so colorful and bold and screaming for attention in some ways — the thought of the brand was to not do that," said Poopat, former V magazine art director, who met Girolami, a brand consultant, in New York through mutual friends.

"As Flavio said, 'let it speak for itself.' And just to project something to our audience, we like the audience to project themselves into it and have it become for them rather than us telling them what it is."

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So far it's been working in their favor — Common Projects' minimalist sneakers are carried by more than 150 retailers worldwide including Mr Porter, which recently featured a story called "The World's Best Shoes." According to an interview with Business of Fashion in 2014, Poopat said the Net-a-Porter Group was their largest account at the time.

Asked what led them to create premium shoes (a pair runs between $380 to $535), Poopat explained: "I think it was drawn out of necessity that Flavio and I both appreciated the minor things that, at the time, we couldn't find something we wanted to wear all the time."

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"Back in the day […] there was a lot of colors and we were both wearing very simple things and at the time, my shoes had totally fallen apart. It just kind of happened," he continued. "And we needed to fill that gap, so we created something we both mutually liked and it became the Achilles."

Since the release of the Achilles in 2004, Common Projects has gone on to collaborate with designers Robert Gellar and Tim Coppens, and the eyewear brand Moscot. Most recently, the brand launched a women's shoe collection — one of their latest "projects."

After 10 years of being in business, the founders have no interest in doing anything different.

"We wouldn't have it any other way, at least to this point. I think our process, the way we work together, we don't have to answer to anyone," said Poopat. "We have to answer to our customers. I think that's the most important thing instead of the person counting the number of shoes."

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Added Girolami: "It's also the only way for the product to be true to itself. It doesn't have to report or be forced to be something different because some investor wants to up the numbers. For us, our goal is to keep the products as good as possible and close to what our ideas are."

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