Meet footwear collector Kevin Downie & his 400 pairs of limited edition sneakers

IMG_0490 Kevin Downie is the definition of a sneaker freak. With a collection of over 400 rare and limited edition sneakers, his home in Invercargill is literally filled with the best sneaker brands including Nike, Adidas, and most of all, New Balance. The sneaker way of life is engrained in Kevin, with a background working globally for some of the world’s biggest sportswear brands. He has now settled comfortably in lower New Zealand as the national lifestyle account manager for New Balance. Born in Scotland in the ‘80s where football was the all-ruling sport, Kevin ensconced himself into the spirit of the game, and the culture that is ‘hooliganism’. Soon enough, out of a love of both the game and the lure of expensive sport fashion, Kevin found himself right in the heart of the sneaker freak collectors sub-culture in the UK known as ‘The Casuals’. Best explored in films such as The Football Factory, the Casuals were fashion and football driven men who were ready to create anarchy at anytime. Coming out of an economy that left many poor, out of pocket and lacking employment was pure rage, rebellion and of course, a lot of time to attend football matches. ‘I happened to be in London on the 31st of March 1990 on my first ever visit to London on the day of the largest riot in London in years,’ says Kevin of the 200,000 person strong political protest. ‘I was shocked at the damage that was done to London that day and went back to Scotland with stories of looting, burnt cars and widespread anarchy!’ P1300343 copy Kevin’s first job was at a Sportswear store that sold designer clothing and sneakers aimed at The Casuals. ‘I think I got the job to stop all the other casuals from shoplifting,’ says Kevin. Others unsurprisingly included fighting and rioting.’ Working in the industry sure had it’s perks, Kevin quickly became the envy of his friends, snapping up the crème of the crop in limited edition sneakers from around the world before they even hit stores. ‘Compliments raise your confidence when you’re 20 years old and it made me someone worth knowing!’ says Kevin of his newfound respect. ‘I remember wearing Reebok gl6000, Puma G Villas, Nike Wimbledon and Adidas samba, ZX 8000, gazelle and trim trab in a variety of highly bright colours. The more exclusive the shoe the better and this has stuck with me all my life.’ Working for New Balance has only heightened his passion for sneakers, allowing Kevin the opportunity to nab some of the rarest of those sweet and bright suede and netted sneakers with the ‘N’ on the side. ‘The highlight of working for New Balance is working at my hobby,’ says Kevin. ‘I love my work and do what I enjoy every day.’ Kevin also rates the fact he gets to travel with New Balance, both New Zealand wide and overseas. ‘I've been to sneaker factories in Italy, to New Balance HQ in the UK and to China. Picking the range is the best part of the job,’ adds Kevin. ‘I just wish I was sample size!’ For more information on New Balance visit them online here and get all the latest updates on their Facebook page. Words by Isabella van Heusden.