Voni Robi with fellow #TLKS panelist James Massiah. Photography by Vicky Grout.

Voni Robi with fellow #TLKS panelist James Massiah. Photography by Vicky Grout.

 

Meetings: Voni Robi

Naked is a cult sneaker store in Copenhagen that has been supplying women with rare and hard to find sneakers since 2004. The streetwear scene has always been a male dominated world but with the rise of stores like Naked and Pam Pam in London women can finally get their hands on exclusive drops and limited-edition sneakers. Off the back of Naked’s collaboration with adidas Originals we spoke to Naked’s creative lead Voni Robi about their new collection and the importance of a real commitment to diversity.

On the recent #TLKS panel you discussed the fact that Naked filled a gap where there wasn’t a dedicated female sneaker supplier, what was the landscape like before Naked opened?

The sneaker industry is super male dominated, this has a lot to do with the sports industry. The new releases and collections were always aimed at a male audience but of course women are interested in streetwear and sneakers too. The problem was the new product was never available in women’s sizes, maybe you got lucky if you could get into a size 40. Within the sneaker industry it’s been about exclusivity for a long time with Naked we wanted to change that and offer the latest designs in female sizes—we’re trying to make it more about inclusivity.

Can just you talk a little bit about the new collection?

This new collection with adidas Originals is the first time we’ve released a special apparel collab so it’s really big.  The message behind the ARKYN collection is that it’s about identity and everyone’s identity is never just one thing. It’s much more fluid than that so we’ve tried to create something that people can use as a canvas to express themselves. Everything in the collection is based on vintage and modern fits. The immediate thing about the ARKYN collection is that there’s a piece that everyone will love—everyone can relate to something in the collection which I think is so important. 

 Voni Robi

Voni Robi

How do you decide on the aesthetic for Naked without falling into those stereotypical feminine aesthetics?

I think it’s all about balance. We know everyone has been marketing pink in a certain way for a long time now so we just try and do things in a different way. We know that our consumers are not one set type of person so we mix it up and try to keep it fresh and modern in whatever we do.  We also don’t try and push things onto a product that’s not working. If it’s a pink shoe and it’s girly and fun then we’ll go with that, we don’t try to make it something that it’s not.

You mentioned on the #TLKS panel the importance of diversity in advertising that has real depth and that isn’t just falling into tokenism. How do you approach this with the output at Naked?

I think this is so important. You can’t just throw one woman of colour in your campaign and call it diverse. We do a lot of street casting to show as diverse a range of girls as possible and try to make sure the girls we work with reflect Naked and our ethos. You can’t pretend to be passionate or support a cause if it’s not true, it becomes very obvious very quickly.

Do you think it’s suddenly become cool and trendy to be feminist or pretend to be interested in social issues?

I think it’s just part of some people’s image and what they’re trying to project through social media—they think it’s the right thing to do. Personally, I don’t want to speak about anything that I don’t know a lot about. I believe in equality for all but I’m not going to put out all of these opinions on social media just to seem relevant.  It’s the same with Naked, we’re not doing this to sell more, we believe it equality, it’s in our DNA but we’re not going to exploit the recent interest in feminism and social issues to sell more trainers.

Click through to watch the adidas Originals #TLKS session with Vicky Grout, Princess Nokia, James Massiah and Voni Robi.