Interview: Ola Alabi from Twelvesons
Twelvesons are a relatively new London-based sneaker brand who’ve been on our radar for a little while now.
Their clean and contemporary designs are handmade in Italy using the finest Italian leather, which is why we’re proud to have them as one of the first brands on our new website.
Itching to know more, we caught up with main man Ola Alabi to talk fashion, footwear and football...
Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and how you got into the footwear sector?
My name is Ola, and I was born and raised in London! During my early years, I loved sport and got into football! It's something I've always been passionate about.
I played for a few Academy sets ups, and by the age of 16 I had a YTS for a team called Gretna FC in Scotland, so I relocated and studied while playing too. I played pro to semi-pro football for a while, but the passion just wasn't there. My true love for fashion pushed me to call it a day while I decided how I wanted to enter the fashion world. I started off styling, working in retail and designing for clients before I founded Twelvesons with my wife.
I've always had the same passion for sneakers; you could call me a sneakerhead, my clothes to sneaker ratio was insane. I had like 40 pairs of sneakers at one point and a rotation of maybe five clothing pieces. That was all I was interested in. I used to save all my pocket money to buy the latest Jordans and Air Max sneakers.
"...you could call me a sneakerhead, my clothes to sneaker ratio was insane." - OA
I think you made the right choice. So, for people who might not be familiar with the brand, can you explain a little more about Twelvesons?
Twelvesons is a clean, contemporary footwear brand. We are a growing brand that is just over a year old, run by myself, my wife and my best friend. Me and my wife design all the footwear seasons ahead of time, we're a great duo on the design side. From the very start, we always wanted to create sneakers that were clean, timeless and good quality, sneakers that would appeal to a broader age range.
Twelvesons is a pretty memorable name, how did you come up with it?
The name behind Twelvesons came from me sitting in the coffee shop with my wife; we had already established that we would follow my passion for sneakers and our joint creativity. I kept writing names down on my notepad for an hour, but nothing stuck, finally I uttered "Twelvesons" out of my mouth, and we looked at each other and thought 'yes, that's it!'
Is there a meaning behind it, or did you just like the sound of it?
It actually comes from a biblical story about a father called Jacob who had Twelve sons; he gave all his sons names that had meaning and purpose, we try to live by these meanings daily which relate to our lifestyle, work and passion. So that's how the name Twelvesons came about.
You’ve enjoyed a lot of success in a fairly short space of time, what do you put this down to?
We are a team of hardworking young creatives led by myself. Right now I'm focused on building this fashion house to be a global brand. Just over a year in and we have done incredibly well online and partnered with some amazing stockists. We are building a great business, and as my wife and I are expecting our first child, I have never wanted to succeed so much, our work ethic is on a hundred thousand.
I suppose we better talk about sneakers, tell me more about your designs.
Our sneakers are 100% handmade using Italian materials in Italy. We use a small family run factory in Venice who live for shoes. The skills and craftsmanship the workers demonstrate are second to none.
Our silhouettes are unique and timeless, with a good mix of edgy and safe designs. We cater to the fashion forward individual that wants to stay ahead of the game and to your more mature served dressers who want to look clean and subtle.
Is the trainer marketplace a difficult place to be a new brand? Surrounded by so many established brands, silhouettes and household names?
Yes, of course, it's always difficult coming into a market with so much competition. Especially when the brands we are competing with have been around years before we were even born - but that's the challenge we are enjoying.
I bet it was a tough decision knowing what to launch with in order to establish yourself in that competitive market. What can you tell us about that initial collection?
Our first collection consisted of one design in three colour ways. We started with a production of 70 pairs, it was very hard to find a factory that would do such a small production. Our first collection sold within a month which came as a shock to us, being a completely unknown brand in the grand scheme of things.
It's been a hard journey since getting started, but we try to focus on our designs and the way we present our brand to the consumer through our content creation and tone of voice. I guess when you keep doing the right things, the right people will pay attention.
Do you think that the rise of streetwear and the sneakerhead has allowed new brands to flourish?
Yes, definitely. The sneaker culture is less reserved, everything is so fast paced, which is good because the consumer is willing to see who the new undiscovered brands out there are, which is probably what helped us out coming into this industry. The flip side is it puts pressure on us to keep creating in order for us to keep people on their toes, which is good pressure, I guess.
Twelvesons has gone from strength to strength, do you expect this level of progression to continue?
The rise of streetwear and sneaker culture is at an all-time high and we feel that we are in the game in a strong period, where people are hyped up for the culture and are plugged into what we are doing.
Great stuff. Thanks for chatting with us Ola, we’re looking forward to seeing what's to come from Twelvesons in the future.