A combination of Old World Italian craftsmanship and New Age hip-hop, Jon Buscemi’s eponymous line strikes a fashionable chord.
Having grown up during the hip-hop revolution on New York’s Long Island, Jon Buscemi was predisposed to streetwear long before he made a career out of it. After a stint on Wall Street, the budding designer—and cousin of actor Steve Buscemi—moved to L.A. in 2002 to work for DC Shoes, Lotto North America, and then as a brand director at Oliver Peoples. In 2006, he co-founded indie sneaker line Gourmet, followed by the 2013 debut of Buscemi, his namesake line of men’s and women’s luxury leather kicks handmade in Italy. Sneaker-heads were instantly hooked—despite the starting price tag of $740. We sat down with the Hancock Park-based entrepreneur to talk about everything from his favorite pairs to sports metaphors.
You’ve worked for so many great brands in the past—what was the impetus to start your own company? I wanted the owner’s job, period. I think I was born with a splash of arrogance, confidence and crazy. Secondly and more importantly, I have a deep, burning desire to outdo all of my peers. It stems from that New York competitive spirit. Doing a trick better than your friend on a skateboard or having your brand in Bergdorf’s and Maxfield. It’s all the same.
New York seems to be a big influence on your life and aesthetic. After you moved to L.A., did you feel a shift in your style? Nothing has changed at all really style-wise, other than the fact that my extensive boot, coat and sweater collections rotate much less. I own many more black tees than I ever would have expected.
Any limited editions on the horizon? We have an amazing release with United Arrows & Sons in Tokyo next month designed by my friends at Emotionally Unavailable.
Is it true that you own more than 600 pairs of sneakers? This is sadly true, and it must be well over that by now. It’s very relatable to a DJ and his record collection.
If your house were burning down, which pairs would you save? My original, first-edition Jordan 1; my first-production 100mm in guts red; and my Made in France Adidas Ewing Low.
What’s your proudest design moment to date? These moments have been abundant in the past few years and it really is so hard to choose. A standout always is our signature model, the 100mm.
Your company has already expanded into leather accessories. What’s next? We are planning our first store in NYC starting the back half of 2015. Also, be on the lookout next year for a small men’s range of sportswear. Exciting times.
You have a lot of lacrosse paraphernalia at your house. That’s very East Coast of you. I started playing lacrosse at a very early age and the sport was popular in my area of Long Island. Now, 25 years later, it is getting just as popular in California. Lacrosse is really a metaphor for my life—not to get too deep, but it’s true. The sport is a hybrid: It’s a mix of basketball, football and hockey. My brand and my role is a mix of executive, sales and marketing, and design. Funny how things work. jonbuscemi.com.
Written and edited by Kelsey McKinnon.