Allbirds Quietly Adds Lanes | You must be – 50 Years of Beats & Sneaks – Mana Contemporary

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Buried in the details around this dope celebration of Hip-Hop and Sneaker Culture is a small detail: Allbirds and Veja are involved in this event. To my knowledge this is the first effort by environmentally conscious brands to participate in the instruction of the sneaker community. The information Allbirds and Veja will discuss isn’t presented as the main thing, but I would have never expected these two brands to participate in a celebration of this kind. Nike and adidas run sneaker culture and those brands have been referenced in Hip-Hop since the foundation of the movement.

Allbirds is currently facing an uphill battle in overcoming a drastic decline in share price. The startup is still opening stores, but the brand has yet to find a connection to a new consumer demographic and they haven’t maintained the market they once owned. Finding this small detail is interesting and could signal that the company recognizes one of their biggest issues is the lack of cool around their brand. This is a very small step, but I wonder if it could be the start of an attempt to gain a more diverse consumer base. Allbirds has attempted to ingratiate itself with sneaker culture by partnering with Staple, but the attempt wasn’t authentic and didn’t lead to a sustainable relationship. This subtle, quiet partnership with Obsessive Sneaker Disorder might be the connection needed to plant seeds. Check out information on this new exhibit opening tonight!

Source: You must be – 50 Years of Beats & Sneaks – Mana Contemporary

In honor of this year’s 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop, Mana Contemporary and Obsessive Sneaker Disorder (OSD) are proud to present You must be, a celebration of the uniquely inseparable connection between Sneaker Culture and Hip-Hop. Chronologically featuring 50 sneakers dating back to 1973, this exhibition highlights seminal crossover collaborations between commercial brands, musicians, and sports icons.

These kicks share stories, celebrate music milestones and provide examples of innovation that were embraced and adopted into the ethos of modern fashion and Hip-Hop culture. Looking towards the next 50 years, viewers will also see how brand leaders are leveraging the latest technologies to advance sneakers towards the cutting edge of sustainability in streetwear.

Laced Up (2015, 102 mins), a special documentary about the lives of “sneaker head” collectors, will also be on view in the back room gallery. Directed by Shawn David and starring David Payne.

Exhibition curated by Sean Williams of Obsessive Sneaker Disorder/ SOLEcial Studies COMMUNITY Academy.

Sneakers provided by Sean Williams, Shaunette Mahfood-Williams, Cayla Ramos, Dee Wells, Steve “RDQLUS” Gordon, Marcus “Gatsby” Edmonds, Ryan Soney aka “DJ Ryno”, and sustainability by artist Bradley Hart and brand leaders: Allbirds (US) and Veja (Paris).


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Sean Williams is a born and raised Brooklynite who fell in love with sneakers at the age of 13. By age 15 he began buying sneakers with his own money, no longer asking mom for the latest and freshest kicks. Since then he has become an avid collector, educator, and mentor within the sneaker culture universe.

In 2007, long time friend Dee Wells founded OSD (Obsessive Sneaker Disorder), a sneaker talk show and podcast that is currently the longest-running of its kind. Joining as a business partner, Sean created a three word mission for the company: “Appreciate, Educate, Elevate”. This mantra is central to Sean’s personal mission of ensuring younger generations know the potential that exists for them in the athletic footwear business, not only as consumers, but also as future professionals in the industry.

In 2018, Sean became a Rankin Scholar at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, the first such honor bestowed upon someone in sneaker culture. In 2019, Sean made history as co-curator of the first Hip-Hop apparel and sneaker exhibition at NYC’s Port Authority Bus Terminal. In 88 days of residency, this exhibition amassed the foot traffic and exposure of 9.8 million commuters. In 2020, Business Insider added Sean to the “Power List: 28 Most Outstanding People of Color Transforming the Sneaker Industry”.

Sean has been featured in a number of TV shows, publications and websites such as “The Today Show” on NBC, Maxim Magazine,, and Sneaker Freaker. In 2012, Sean and his partner Dee made the list of “50 Most Influential People in Sneakers Right Now” published by Complex magazine.


From the feet up