Marketing genius or mad man? The man who sells sneakers for $132K

This story appeared in CNN Style on December 1, 2016 and is written by Steve Dool of Complex magazine. I spoke with Steve for this story.

Shoppers who enter the Buscemi boutique in downtown Manhattan searching for the footwear brand’s signature leather sneakers are greeted first by five gilded pyramids.

The structures, according to the label’s founder, Jon Buscemi, have significance beyond their role as an eye-catching display.

“It’s a mix to showcase the shoe and to tell the story of going to the beginning, where luxury started,” Buscemi explains. “In Egypt.”

Though the reference Buscemi is making with the tableau is historical, the product he’s using them to highlight is modern. Since the store opened in September, the largest pyramid has housed a one-of-a-kind pair of diamond-encrusted white sneakers that retail for $132,000.

It’s an astronomical sum for a pair of shoes, but speaks to a strategy Buscemi has employed with great success since launching his namesake brand in 2013.

With the appeal of conspicuous consumption waning, Buscemi and like-minded brands are emphasizing the uniqueness of well-made products, and the value of providing an experience for today’s luxury consumer.

“Buscemi is an incredibly smart combination of modern and traditional luxury,” says Ana Andjelic, senior vice president and global strategy director at Havas LuxHub, a consulting firm specializing in the luxury sector.

“He provides ammunition for one’s lifestyle and creates culture codes — versus status symbols — that express certain tastes. Luxury today is less about having money to buy something expensive, and more about having taste to know what to buy.”

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