Francky Bendahan - A Parisian Original | Grailify
Francky Bendahan - A Parisian Original

Francky Bendahan - A Parisian Original

We have a "secret" list of criteria for this section, which we call "Collector's Choice". When we decide to interview someone, it's definitely not about the person with the biggest collection. Nor is it about the most valuable collection. It has to be something more. The idea is to interview important personalities from the world of sneakers - people with character, style and an overriding connection in our little cosmos. Francky Bendahan is the prime example of what we're looking for, which is why we visited him in his hometown Paris for this interview. Have fun!

Francky, it's a pleasure to have you as an interview guest. How are you and what are you doing at the moment?
Hello, the pleasure is all mine. I am glad that you invited me and that I also have the opportunity to tell you a bit more about myself. I've been doing very well lately. The summer was packed with projects and there were hardly any breaks. As some of you might know, I am in charge of Sneakerness Paris, so there is still a lot to do until September. I'm also in charge of this new shop called La Tete Dans Les Nuages, the biggest arcade space in Europe. I plan to use this space as a hub to bring influencers together through events, breakfasts and private rentals.
Before we turn to the present, please tell us how you got into the shoe business? What were your most important influences in your formative years?
I started with shoes when I was younger, around 15-16 years old. It all started when my father often travelled to the US and brought me jerseys from basketball teams. Then I started to get more involved with it. Instead of asking for video games like all the other kids my age, I chose my gifts wisely and just asked him for sneakers. I think the Barcelona Olympics was a major turning point in my interest in sneajers. Playing with the Dream Team shoes was insane and drew me into this passion.

What was the first sneaker that inspired you?
Probably the Jordan 7 Raptors.
When did the sneaker game become your profession? How did it develop into a business?
Sneakers are not really a profession for me. I see it more as a side job that I developed alongside my passion. I started building different projects in this area - pop-up, events, consulting - it kind of developed organically, but I wouldn't say it's my business. I think when you love something, it becomes more of a hobby.
A hobby that you cultivate in an intensive way. You established Sneakerness Paris as one of the biggest European events. Now there are more and more events, it seems like it's weekly. Is there an oversaturation there? And what distinguishes the good events from the average ones?  
Good comment! I wouldn't say it's oversaturated, but I'm a bit afraid that consumers of these kinds of cool events will get bored if they happen too often. We, the Sneakerness team, really have a different approach to sneakers events. We want our visitors to feel that they are part of a movement, a community. We also want them to be able to network directly with the representatives of the brands, because after all, they invest a lot of their money in these brands. Of course, we always keep in mind that the private sellers, who are more commonly called resellers today, were and are the essence of this kind of conventions. The variety of products and the possibility to find good deals are important. The privilege of meeting European brands and people from all over the world makes the event very dynamic.
I think the real difference is that we do it in a professional way, but also with the heart and passion for the sneaker game. Others, however, do it only as business propaganda, which makes it soulless.

But you are undoubtedly a businessman and very entrepreneurial. Are you completely self-taught or do you also have a "formal" education? 
Firstly, thank you for the compliment. I do indeed have a formal education. I did my MBA in Marketing and Advertising a few years ago (I feel old saying that!) and at the time I was working for the Marcel agency, which is part of Publicis Groupe. A few years later, I decided to change my path and learned about the real estate market in the Middle East (Tel Aviv to be precise).
I think studying is important nowadays, but you can also make it to the top with the right motivation. My motto is that you always have to achieve something in everything you do, whether it's a job or a hobby. I am always interested in new challenges. I'm not afraid to invest a lot of time, energy and money sometimes to make it work!
You are also part of the KITH crew. How did this connection come about, how long have you known them and how did it come about? 
I met Ronnie Fieg when he was still working for David Z., about 7-8 years ago. I already knew his project and always tried to get his old collaborations when they were US exclusive.

During a trip to NY, I was sitting in the Broadway store trying on one of the pairs he designed (GL3 Coves, I think) and talking on the phone in Hebrew. Ronnie came up to me and asked me some questions in the same language (he also speaks Hebrew because he has an Israeli background). We had a nice conversation that day until he gave me his business card, so we kept in touch.

After that he visited Paris a few times and we had many nice memories. Since then we have been friends. When he founded KITH, he gave me the chance to become an informal member of the team; so I was able to make the European connection.

KITH is based on the crew principle, "Kith and Kin" or friends and family. Do you also follow the "crew" approach of friends and family in your business?
I really believe that it is difficult to mix business and friendship. I always try to keep things separate for the simple reason that it's not easy to work with me. Of course, the opinion of my friends is very important when I run projects like Sneakerness.

Apart from the guys from KITH, who is doing it right in this industry at the moment?
I think Shinzo here in Paris has a good business approach. Competition is tough these days and retail is not easy to master. I also have a lot of respect for my good friends from SNS - Peter, Eric and Johan, if you are reading this. A different kind of shoe, but still part of the industry, is Filling Pieces! I've followed the brand from day one, and seeing them here now makes me proud to be part of their inner circle.
You just mentioned Paris. How would you describe your relationship with your city?
I am 100% Parisian and proud of it. I have a real devotion to the codes of Paris and France. For me, our nation is synonymous with patriotism and that says a lot about the way we live in this city. In the age of the internet, it's not always easy to be different, but I think Parisians always find a way to make it look good. I think that's what you call "the French touch".
What are your top 5 sneakers of all time?
The Jordan 1 is definitely at the top of my list, no matter what colour. The Air Max 87 OG colours are certainly my classic as well. New Balance 1500 Made in UK have an important place in my collection (CTx Solebox, Blackbeard, Nazar Eye) and Blazer Supreme Flyknit in general.

Shout outs?
To my inner circle, they know who they are. Tebar, my most important soldier, proud that we achieved all these things together!  A round of applause for the people who hate me. You are a great motivation.
Last words? 
It's better to burn out than to fade away. Merci!

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