I have known Anand for a while now and am a fan of his clothing brand, Bhane. What I did not know was his in-depth knowledge on sneakers. His passion runs so deep, you won’t find another sneaker aficionado quite like him. Sneaker culture in India is still in its infancy but it is definitely picking up pace. At the forefront of this trend is Veg/NonVeg, a sneaker store chain founded by Anand and his partner Abhineet Singh. It’s a unique space that carries everything from special edition trainers to limited editions sneakers which are difficult to find anywhere in the Indian market. I spoke to Anand recently and asked him about his passion and the future of the sneaker biz.
Tell me about the first pair of sneakers you picked out for yourself.
I was too young to remember that, but my most memorable first was the Nike Foamposite in Orlando Magic Blue.
Do you have a go-to sneaker style?
I like wearing ‘training’ style sneakers daily. I especially like innovation-based sneakers — knit sneakers, in particular.
For you, what matters the most when it comes to sneakers?
The story matters the most. And innovation.
Where did your passion for sneakers come from and how has it lasted?
I was born with it, I’m told. I used to complain about what shoes I wanted to wear. I also take these ‘shoe-fies’ now — looking down — which reminds me to stay present.
Sneakers have evolved beyond our wildest imagination with high-end fashion houses as excited about them as sports brands. Are these collabs just a temporary fad?
Sneakers are just footwear and now everyone is making them. The best part is, designer sneakers have their own place in the world. They are quite different from athletic sneakers. Every brand can have its own place in the “sneakers” category.
In India, sneakers are still mostly linked to sports. Do you see this trend changing here?
It will continue in this way. There will be sneakers for sports, fashion sneakers and people wearing sports sneakers for fashion.
Veg/NonVeg reminds me of a record store back in the day, where the entire experience felt curated by those passionate about what they’re selling. How do you spread this message about sneakers to the non-believers?
We just want to communicate our passion. But truth be told, we could do better about communicating to newcomers and we are working on that.
We see Sonam Kapoor Ahuja now excitedly posting about her new kicks.
She’s got the best understanding of style and she already had some sneakers — in fact, one of our first conversations was when she posted a photograph of her wearing gold toe Stan Smiths with her skirt — so when I started buying more sneakers for her, she knew what to do with them.
Do you believe sport-specific sneakers should only be worn for that sport?
Well, yes and no — sport-specific shoes are made to be most productive and protective for that sport — some shoes can cross into other sports and, of course, they can cross into daily wear, but yes, sport-specific shoes really do work best for that specific sport.
You are vegan and we’ve talked about sustainability and the environment. But the sneaker biz still heavily relies on leather. Do you think that will change?
It is not spoken about a lot because the product is not truly vegan yet, but knit uppers have become lighter and as protective as old leather. So, shoe brands are using knit more and more in performance sneakers. They just can’t say it’s vegan yet because additional products are still non-vegan. While I do own many, I no longer buy leather sneakers and it’s not really an issue.
If you had to pick just one pair, which pair would it be and why?
Flyknit trainers. I was just so excited about the innovation behind it, it was non-leather and sustainable. I wore the white one at my wedding. But, my one shoe would probably be the black one. It’s called Oreo — because it’s black and white.