From Misplaced Checks To Signing His Own Checks: How John Geiger Built His Luxury Sneaker Brand

Through the creation of his 001 shoe, prolific sneaker customizer John Geiger established himself as a bonafide footwear designer in his own right thanks to the 001 silhouette’s sleek form that blends both luxury and streetwear aesthetics. Now a new video goes behind the scenes in Geiger’s studio to reveal how each pair is created, from the prototyping, leather cutting, stitching and right down to the final sign-off.

A tastemaker built for the millennial generation, John Geiger, 32, has turned a passion for high-end streetwear into a profitable business. And his businesses—the Geiger Collection footwear brand and the fashionable Diet Starts Monday clothing line—already have larger companies vying for a piece of the pie. 

Although, without the help of a large corporation named Nike, the John Geiger we know today may not exist. His past with Phil Knight's regime is a story within itself. Geiger rose to superstardom after releasing his "Misplaced Checks" series—countless Air Force 1s embroidered with multiple Swoosh marks across their canvas. Geiger loves Nike. He wanted to work with the brand and show it he could help move the needle.

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“In 2015, I was working on a lot of projects with brands. It was the pre-influencer days. I would get brought in by brands to give my opinion, and they would ask what I thought would happen in the future. Since they weren’t paying me, this sparked the name for the idea. Misplaced Checks was a double entendre from this and about getting checks late in the mail.”

“I took the idea to Nike in 2015, I’ve taken the idea of custom classes to Nike, and I’ve asked to be apart of the Air Force 1 wave now. Nothing ever transpired … I'm one of those people who is going to knock on a door once or twice. After the third time I'm going to find a way In. I'm going to break the damn door down, dig under it or find my way over it."

He’d go one to release the shoes, and they quickly became hugely popular and very difficult to get. “I knew that if I changed a shoe 40 percent that I couldn’t get a cease and desist. Thus, four swooshes rather than one. The crazy part about this custom Nike was that I made a living for two years off of this. No one was releasing custom shoes at this rate and this many pairs. From 2015 to 2018  I’ve grossed over a million dollars from this one idea, which people still love to this day. This set the investment for my own brand, which was the plan the whole time.”

With the DIY movement hitting the mainstream, Geiger opted to finally produce his own shoes, without one of the major players behind him and launch the lifestyle brand and restaurant, Diet Starts Monday, with his partner Davin Gentry. The sneaker brand, John Geiger Co., is entering its second year of operation, Rae Witte with Forbes Magazine sat down to discuss how it’s been for him.

What was the deciding factors to start your own line rather than partner with one of the big existing sneaker manufacturers?

The deciding factor to start my own footwear line instead of working with existing brands was motivated by being able to do it on my own and most importantly keeping full creative control.  I partnered with my current business partner Sean Davis who had the same beliefs as me, and even to this day, we continue the “do it yourself model” turning down several intriguing investment offers. This will sound crazy at the moment, but I feel this brand we are building will be bigger than a Reebok or Balenciaga. Everyone started out just like this and with my belief and confidence in my team's vision our potential is endless. If I don’t think that this can be the biggest footwear line ever, no one will!

So, you had an opportunity to sell John Geiger Co. in the first year. Tell me why you chose not to.

When you are growing at such a fast pace, many investors and brands are looking to buy because it’s became such a household name. With our growth from year one to now, our evaluation is getting higher, so you always have to consider what’s best for the company. In the early stages it’s been important to me to keep creative control, as I mentioned earlier. Reason being, I’ve noticed a lot of companies fall off when the creatives or originators lose control, and I want to be sure that doesn’t happen. As a business person, you always have an end goal or an “out” as some say, but I believe this will be something much bigger and my name as the forefront of this brand I have no interest in selling it, not yet at least.  

Where did Diet Starts Monday come from and how does it fit in?

DSM is an experimental brand. You could say it’s a brand built off of procrastination. The direction was really no direction. One of my best friends (Davin Gentry) and I sat down one day and was like let’s do something together. Stemming from a funny story in 2014 where I said I only worked out to fit into designer clothes, he asked what should we call it and I said Diet Starts Monday. This led into having our retail restaurant and bar in D.C. Now we are having a world tour and pop-ups in major cities and countries. We release sandals later this month in Brazil in collaboration with Rider sandals. Pretty crazy to see both brands grow drastically over the past year and a half.

Your shoe line has been up and running for over a year. Talk to me about the success it’s seen and why you think you’ve been so successful.

The success of the brand so far has been a overwhelming experience. Being independent luxury brand and competing with larger brands has been a challenge. I think it’s a combination of having the right team, my business partner Sean Davis (who is also a NBA agent) has held down the backend and business side. Our collaborations so far have been with Sprint, Forgiato, Mclaren, and Patron Of The New. We are growing at such a fast pace, we recently partnered with the warehouse where we do our production. Putting all the pieces together on the fly. I also think in 2018 is important to have a face to a brand as you can see has become important for every company in the modern day. I’ve been fortunate enough to build a cult following consumers where people know they can relate to me and believe they are "no different than me.” Which is the theme for John Geiger Co’s 002 campaign. This is something that’s very important to me, I want people to feel like at any moment they can do this too, which is true.

Finally, what’s next? What’s in the future for John Geiger Co.?

What’s next? The 002 will release in early November, black with white soles. Volt will release in December along with a special collaboration with club E11even in Miami for Art Basel. We plan to expand and have the 003 model out on the market before summer. We will be adding leather goods along with other small items. We like a steady climb, taking our time and building something right.

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Gary White