If you run into Kings guard Ty Lawson and wonder why he’s wearing sneakers way bigger than his 5’11” frame, make sure you do a double take. They’re actually not sneakers.
They’re his new creation called SLKRS—sneaker-looking slippers. After a soft launch in March at his former Nuggets teammate J.R. Smith’s charity event in New York City, Lawson will be officially releasing them for sale this holiday season at SLKRSOfficial.com.
“It feels like you’re just walking on clouds to be honest,” Lawson told the NBPA. “It feels like just a puff of cloud under your feet.”
About two years ago, Lawson thought of the idea for SLKRS because he didn’t like wearing white socks with black sports sandals as leisure shoes, and sometimes he would trip over the front part of them. So he wanted to design “something in the middle,” tying in popular sneakers for the visual appeal. And wah-lah! SLKRS came to life featuring three styles: the Sleezys themed after the Nike Air Yeezy 2 NRG with the “Sl” from SLKRS; the Sleezy Red Octobers themed after the Nike Air Yeezy 2 “Red October”; and a pair themed after the Air Jordan III.
Lawson initially turned to some friends in the fashion business for advice, learning aspects of production like manufacturing and a tech pack, the blueprint for developing a product that includes trim, tags, colors, grading, materials and measurements. From there, he’s been directing the project on his own, deciding to add a hard sole to the bottom to prevent a person from slipping and the SLKRS from ripping on an outdoor surface.
“I’m actually trying to do it myself, so I can actually learn and not just hire somebody to do it for me—from starting a bank account for the business to doing the website to making sure you answer back e-mails, social media, everything like that,” the seven-year NBA veteran said. “It’s tough. You’ve got to be so hands-on with this. You’ve got to spend so much time with starting a business.”
Lawson literally wears the SLKRS everywhere for comfort. For NBA road trips, he wears them to the airport and on plane rides, and to and from arenas for games. He even wore them when he went to the bank last week. As it turns out, he got a future sale out of the visit.
“The lady was, like, ‘What are those?’ and I told her,” he said. “She said, ‘Aw, they’re cute. I should get it for my little sister. Do you have girl sizes and baby sizes?’ That’s the main thing I want to do next.”
Lawson also wants to create customized sizes for his teammates and NBA friends around the league who have size 13 feet or bigger. He said Montrezl Harrell, his teammate last season in Houston, bought a pair, but just squeezes his size 13 feet into them. Kings teammate DeMarcus Cousins, Hawks center Dwight Howard, Jazz point guard George Hill and previous teammates from Houston and Indiana all want in, but their feet are too big for the current stock.
“When I do my next order, I’ll make sure I do enough for them,” Lawson said. “I’m actually going to get a lot of players in the league—just send a lot of sample pairs to see if they like them. I’m also going to send a couple pairs to even Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas—guys with small feet.”
So far, besides Harrell, the other players who have purchased SLKRS are Kings teammates Rudy Gay and Ben McLemore, and the Cavaliers’ Channing Frye and the Heat’s Hassan Whiteside. Lawson said word of mouth is spreading, with players enjoying the “comfort and different look” of the sporty slippers.
“They’re interesting because they’ve got an old-school sneaker look like with Jordans, but they’re actually slippers,” Harrell said. “They’re like walk-around sandals, but they cover your whole foot so you can use them as house shoes. That’s what I use them as. They’re great shoes, comfortable.”
Lawson said even senior citizens he’s run into have raved about the kicks.
“The funny thing is a lot of older people ask, ‘What are those? Those are so cute,'” he said. “I wouldn’t even expect that. I would probably think they thought they were dumb, but they actually like them.”
Lawson first got the entrepreneurial bug about four years ago when he was in Denver with then and now Kings teammate Arron Afflalo. They came up with the idea for a mobile app called Quick Run, which they pitched as a personal assistant for any need. However, they didn’t pursue it after Afflalo was traded in 2012 to the Magic.
Would they re-approach the concept?
“We talk about it since we’re on the same team now. But I think the wave is over,” he said. “I think Postmates has the market, like everybody is using it. I use it all the time.”
For now, Lawson is focused on SLKRS’ upcoming launch and a holiday giveaway for fans. Then in 2017, he’s going to release four more SLKRS themed after sought-after Air Jordan sneakers: the XI, VI Rings, IV Cool Grey and XII GS Vivid Pink. He also has plans to solicit marketing support from the Kings and his sneaker endorser, adidas, but he wants to wait to show that he’s been fully committed to making SLKRS successful.
“I want to do it in a bigger way and then I’ll go to them with actual numbers,” he said. “I want to show this is what I’ve done and this is where I want to go, to see if they’ll back behind me. I don’t want them to think I’m just playing around with it. I want them to know that I’m serious.”