Following a series of investments in recent months, Foot Locker Inc. has planted the seeds for Greenhouse, an in-house incubator for new collaborations, concepts and ideas.
Greenhouse will launch in September to get a better handle on global streetwear trends and opportunities. The setup is divvied up into three sectors — the self-explanatory Collaborations, the brand-targeted Concepts and the more nebulous Think Tank. Leading the three-person in-house team at Greenhouse is seasoned streetwear specialist Mel Peralta. A key pillar to this from-the-ground-up operation is Team Epiphany, Foot Locker’s agency of record, which is consulting on the project. Rhude, Diet Starts Monday and Nicole McLaughlin are a few of the collaborators that Greenhouse has on its roster. Public School’s cofounder Dao-Yi Chow will launch his environmentally minded label via Greenhouse later this year. As is the case with his business partner Maxwell Osborne, who has a side gig with the multifranchise esports operation Andbox, Chow will continue to work for Public School.
Chow suggested considering how they might change consumer behavior around eco-friendly products such as mandating that shoppers can only access the label by doing good in the community like cleaning up a beach or helping to paint a park, according to Peralta. “Each drop will be different and each one will look at eco-friendliness in a different way,” he said. “Is it 100 percent eco-friendly? No, because not every product out can be 100 percent eco-friendly. But there will be an eco friendliness to every product that is made.”
From his point of view, consumers move in a “super versatile way,” so speaking to them in only “one hyper-direct way will not allow you to break through and speak to the youth culture,” Peralta said. What is needed is trying to engage and influence the different aspects of their lives — whether that is with footwear, apparel, accessories, musicians, visual artists. How do we create a space where you’re able to work with faster, younger, newer brand in a way that doesn’t bog them down with all the logistics and everything else that comes with dealing with a big entity?”
Foot Locker’s recent investments include $12.5 million in Rockets of Awesome, $100 million in the Goat Group, $2 million in strategic investment in Pensole, $3 million in Super Heroic and $25 million in Carbon38. Executives declined to comment on the investment in Greenhouse. Greenhouse is teaming with Pensole Footwear Design Academy’s D’Wayne Edwards and his team for a project for next year.
Greenhouse will also have an assortment of franchises including the Creator Series for creators and brands, Showroom Tokyo for Tokyo Fashion Award winners, Titles for women to pair up designers and athletes to reimagine sportswear, Greenhouse Sounds for budding musicians, Canvas for established artists to design sneakers and Kingmaker for up-and-coming talent. The latter will lift off with Treis Hill of Alife mentoring upcoming talent.
“Around here we like to say that the market doesn’t lie. And what’s the market? The kid, youth culture as a whole,” Peralta said. “We had to identify who is having these awesome and impactful moments, and who are the kids responding to.”
Often social media, lines of consumers outside of stores, or an app or a site crashing are the starting points for engagement with shoppers, Peralta said. As for whether consumers will move onto another format at some point due to the preponderance of drops, Peralta said, “Drops as a whole and direct-to-consumer as a whole has been a model that has been super impactful. This type of business is new to Foot Locker. At the same time, you have to dial into something that the kid is somewhat familiar with already.…But we’re not only based on collaborative projects. It’s about enriched storytelling.”
Team Epiphany chief executive officer and founder Coltrane Curtis said, “I think everybody is waiting for this fatigue moment to happen. I don’t think it’s actually fatigue. I think it’s deflected and moves in different places. It’s almost like energy. You can’t really break it. You can only change its direction.”
Curtis added, “When you are as large as Foot Locker and brands are as small and nuanced as they are, sometimes communication gets in the way. Greenhouse is perfectly positioned to change that level of quality and engagement between consumer, Foot Locker and partnering brands. It gives them the opportunity to react a lot quicker and to create trends in the marketplace, leveraging the huge relationships they have with their vendors.”