Building a nation through sneaker exchange

Tebogo Mogola and Zaid Osman.
Tebogo Mogola and Zaid Osman.
Image: Instagram

Distinctive sneakers have always been the cool kid uniform, more so now than ever. And it is without a doubt that "kicks", as they’re sometimes called, have become part of the urban black culture experience.

A person who knows the sneakers' cultural significance and is a major part of it is Tebogo Mogola, senior creative manager for Viacom South Africa and co-director of the Sneaker Exchange (SXC). 

The SXC has been a fixture on sneakerheads calendars since its inception in 2015.  The exchange started when Mogola and his friend Zaid Osman, the founder of the festival, realised their personal collections could be swapped and exchanged. They then decided to turn this into an event which has since become a huge success.

Those attending the event get to experience music, fashion and the company of like-minded people. Big brands like Nike and Puma showcase their latest releases and people are able to buy sneakers at special rates. Young designers also get the platform to showcase their merchandise and festival goers can also exchange their prized sneakers with other attendees. 

Clean sneakers are a must #SXCJHB @mrsponge_za

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Mogolo believes that sneakers can unify South Africans.  The sneaker exchange has an anti-racism campaign called "Sneakers of No Colour". “For me, sneakers are the one thing I think we undermine. I think it’s the biggest thing that will actually unite us.”  said Mogola.

Mogola is laid back, yet his passion for sneakers burns just as strong as if he were shouting it down the phone at me. We talk trends, and he mentions that a lot of the sneakers that have come out this year are about comfort, mentioning the favoured sock design that a lot of the brands have gone for.  He went on to say the appointment of fashion designer Virgil Abloh as the creative director of Louis Vuitton's menswear collectionwill certainly bring the cool to sneakers.

On the continent, he talks about how the brand Magents, which recently collaborated with rapper Reason, is making waves. The brand has become a staple in urban hip-hop culture. “If we’re trying to be proudly SA, proudly African, we need to start at home by supporting our local brands,” said the man who has more than 400 pairs of sneakers.

@tuchee_freshmoney #SXCZA #Lagos #Nigeria @gidifest

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Mogola and Osman have started testing the waters across the continent, starting in Kenya and Nigeria with pop-ups which, according to Mogola, were a huge success.  “The biggest thing is to position ourselves as Africa’s biggest sneaker exchange, so we’re going after Africa before we even think of going anywhere else. We want to try and make it a big African thing. We’re then going to go overseas and we’re taking all of our friends from Nigeria, Kenya, Namibia."

Mogola says the biggest by-product of the sneaker culture is entrepreneurship, noting that although it starts out as people buying and exchanging sneakers, there are many parts to the process. For instance, once one has a collection, it will have to be cleaned, and there are people who are looking to customise sneakers.

He adds that his passion is to help those entrepreneurs strategise and plan how they will make their businesses work.  “I want people to think of me when they look back at the sneaker culture," says Mogola.

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