Sneaker Politics, a French Quarter sneaker boutique, partnered with Café du Monde and retro running shoe brand Saucony to develop a new pair of sneakers inspired by the famous beignet stand. The shoes go on sale starting Saturday, according to a news release.
Blaine McGowan, a product designer at Sneaker Politics, a statewide brand with stores in Lafayette and Baton Rouge as well, said the collaboration was a mix of luck and hard work. McGowan, a 26-year-old Baton Rouge native, moved to New Orleans in 2017 and was obsessed with Café du Monde, “eating there, like, 50 times a week,” he joked.
Inspired by the iconic brand, McGowan said he Googled the address of their French Quarter office, walked in and, on the same day, pitched Café du Monde Vice President Burt Benrud on a sneaker inspired by the coffee and beignet stand. Benrud was immediately on board, McGowan said. McGowan got to work designing, and two years and a formal collaboration later, the sneaker was born.
Most people don’t even think about the process that goes into designing a sneaker, but “this one was designed right here in New Orleans,” McGowan said.
“So, that’s pretty cool,” he said.
Sneaker Politics released a preview of the sneakers Monday on Instagram in a series of photos complete with mounds of powdered sugar. The design is Saucony’s Shadow 5000 style, with a combo of brown and tan upper panels (reminiscent of pillowy fried dough) and a green outsole (a nod to Café du Monde’s iconic green and white awnings). The awning motif extends to the shoe’s insole, which has the familiar green and white striping. The official Café du Monde logo appears on the tongue.
The shoes sell for $120 and are available in men’s sizes 4-14. They come in a box that resembles Café du Monde’s take-home beignet mix, completing the homage. The set will include beignet mix and cans of Café du Monde-branded ground coffee and chicory.
McGowan said Sneaker Politics will be getting roughly 400 pairs, including 200 that will be set aside for a family and friends release. A few hundred more will go out to stores nationwide, though quantities will be limited, he said.
“It’ll be super rare,” he said.
The Café du Monde inspiration will continue for Saturday’s release party at Sneaker Politics’ Chartres Street store, with in-store cafe tables, green and white banners and, of course, beignets. McGowan is working on getting a pair of the Café du Monde sneakers to celebrity Kim Kardashian, whose beignet fandom has been well-documented during her past visits to the city. It’s a long shot, but worth it, he said. One social media mention from Kardashian, and demand for the sneakers could explode, he noted.
McGowan also has his sights set on collaborations with other well-known Louisiana brands, like Tabasco and Abita Brewing Co. There’s a big opening for the oldest brands in New Orleans to try something new and reach young customers in New Orleans and nationwide, he said.
“I think this city is the coolest city in the world and I never want to leave,” McGowan said. “And if I’m never going to leave, I want to make cool stuff happen here.”