Fabled pop-up

A former Major League Soccer player is launching what he hopes will be an innovative approach at retail.

Fabled, which bills itself as a “narrative retailing company,” is based out of San Francisco and looks to produce pop-up experiences around special sneaker collaborations.

“It’s a big task, but we decided to do that by buying or developing compelling stories and then narrating them through sneakers, content and impact initiatives,” explained former San Jose Earthquakes defender Chris Roner, who goes by his middle name Thor. “We like to think of Fabled as a half-media, half-retail company.”

Fabled marks its debut first in the Los Angeles market Thursday with a pop-up open through Nov. 17 where it will have its sneaker paying tribute to the late University of California at Los Angeles head basketball coach John Wooden. The shoe retails for $89 and becomes available to a broader audience on Fabled’s web site beginning Nov. 24.

The 1,200-square-foot store in Westwood Village, fittingly just a few blocks from UCLA, will be a place to not only sell the shoe but tell the story of Wooden via an exhibition with memorabilia on display. Events will also be part of the Fabled pop-up experience and, in this case, pay tribute to Wooden’s interest in poetry with a competition soliciting anyone for rap, rhymes or riffs and a special song by band Warm Brew dedicated to the coaching legend.

“I think everyone’s trying to figure out the mix between bricks-and-mortar and online, and if you do bricks-and-mortar what are those shops and what are those experiences? How can you draw people into it?” Roner said. “There are some great companies out there exploring different concepts and I think Fabled can continue to push that concept.”

Roner said he “got a taste” of the impact of sponsorships from his days playing professional sports. He later went on to work in the advertising industry, and it was the combination of those experiences that informed the creation of Fabled. Why footwear made sense was also based on his observations of what’s worked historically.

“There’s something about shoes,” he said. “I felt they were a great storytelling vehicle to execute this idea. There’s an aspirational element to them I think unlike anything else in retail. There’s a reason that some of the biggest brands started in footwear.”

Fabled, which has raised an undisclosed seed round, currently counts four employees in addition to a group of advisers that includes former Nike global marketing director Steve Miller; Rob Reynolds, who manages bands The Killers and Imagine Dragons, and Apple industrial designer Ben Shaffer.

Roner said additional projects are in the works, but declined to cite specifics, instead returning the focus to the John Wooden project.

“We wanted to figure out the blueprint, get data, learn and then we plan to ramp up,” he said. “We are working on a number of projects right now.”

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