behind the sneakers: @ttfinlay
- Hi Titi, thank you so much for sitting down with us. Where did your love for the sneaker industry begin?
I’ve always loved footwear, but my love for sneaker culture really started the moment I moved to London and was immersed in the scene here. Back in Scotland, sneakers aren’t as ingrained in street culture, so it was really exciting to discover that for the first time in my early 20s. I would visit all the stores around Soho and just take in what people were wearing on the streets, and when I had finally saved up enough cash to buy my first pair (Air Max 95s), it was an instant obsession – and 60+ pairs later, the rest is history!
- How did you get into working within the sneaker industry?
I started off working in London restaurants and feeling a bit lost to be honest – I knew I wanted to work in this industry but I had no idea how. Moving here from a small town in Scotland, I didn’t have any contacts or experience, so my approach to getting a job was to cold email people I admired and say yes to every opportunity that came up. Even if I couldn’t do it, I would teach myself. This lead to me gaining skills in everything from graphic design, copywriting, journalism, creative direction, social media, producing and styling – and eventually I got a couple of internships at major fashion publications before securing a job at ASOS. I made it known to all my employers how passionate I was about sneakers in particular, so when a role came up to work on sneakers for the ASOS Social Media Team, I jumped at it. At this job I made contacts with all the major sneaker brands, got to go on crazy trips and shoots and also hosted ASOS’ weekly sneaker show. I was headhunted by Laced in 2020 and around the same time I started sharing bold graphics on my Instagram which lead to my ongoing partnership with Nike.
- Recently you have become freelance, what type of projects have you been working on and are you enjoying it?
Going freelance is the best thing I have ever done, and I feel so fortunate that I’m in an industry where that is possible. I’ve been able to triple my salary by working only on fun projects that I love doing – so it’s a dream come true! Recently I’ve been working with Nike on some more workshops and designing spaces and experiences at Niketown. I’ve also been working on a collab of phone cases which will launch soon! Aside from that, I’m planning an exhibition of my paintings, while some smaller projects like writing and creative directing for brands are keeping me busy – every day is different, but most importantly my quality of life is great. It’s been a real 180 flip from 9-5 work!
- Creating your own Airmax 90 for Nike must have been a massive achievement, how did you reach this point and what was your inspiration behind the colourway?
In 2020 they put a call-out for the project and I’m pretty sure every creative in London applied! We only had a few sentences to pitch on what our sneaker would represent (the theme was ‘Unseen London’) so I chose to make mine about the female sneaker community in London. I already had some contacts at Nike who had been following my work, so I think that helped me get recognised. But I still couldn’t believe it when I got the DM from them! My colourway was inspired partly by the colour blocking of the Sacai AM90 (to reference another female designer!), and a little by previous Air Max silhouettes that only dropped in men’s sizes. The white space on the sneaker represents the space there is for women in sneakers. The most important element for me, however, was the fact it dropped in a full size run. Designed by women, made for everyone.
- What is your favourite silhouette?
I love the OG Air Max silhouettes, particularly the BW, 90, 95, 97 and the Tailwind IV. But I also love retro basketball styles like the Reebok Shaqnosis and the Air Penny. I can’t just pick one!
- What is your holy-grail sneaker?
The Air Max BW Persian Violet! Been trying to track down a pair in my size for about 4 years.
- What is your day-to-day fashion?
Sporty, unisex and simple. I love a pop of neon but a lot of the time I wear black. I love baggy cargos, bike shorts and baggy tees – and when I’m dressing a little nicer I’ll always go for some kind of tight lycra top. I love mixing sporty stuff with tailoring so that’s my vibe.
- How do you get all your sneakers?
It depends, I don’t buy as much as I used to as I have a rule that I only buy sneakers that make me feel a certain way, so I know I will love them forever. I don’t tend to enter raffles anymore, so I’ll just try and cop on the release day instead and pray I get lucky. I’m in a very fortunate position now that I get gifted most pairs, and if I work with a retailer they will sometimes gift me a hype release as part of the payment, so I tend to save these “I Owe Yous” for upcoming shoes I really want.
- What is your favourite brand at the moment? Has this changed from what it used to be?
For sneakers it will always be Nike, but I do have a deep appreciation for the innovation Yeezy are doing, and the storytelling and retro stuff from New Balance. For clothing, I love Awake NY, Coperni and Opera Sport – I’ve always loved brands that merge sporty basics with high fashion!
- You speak out on enhancing inclusivity within the sneaker industry often, what are the steps that need to be taken?
So much great stuff has happened in the last few years, particularly authentic storytelling around female sneakerheads. But brands still need to tackle size runs (especially for major releases) and ensure that pink/pastel colour ways aren’t being marketed solely to women – men want them too. Aside from that, gatekeeping needs to go – everyone is welcome in the sneaker community as far as I’m concerned! It doesn’t matter if you only have one pair of sneakers or 1000 pairs, as long as the authentic passion is there, you can get involved.
- You champion female sneakerheads daily, how important do you think Pam Pam London is to the female sneakerhead movement?
In London, Pam Pam is iconic within female sneaker culture, and widely considered one of the OG’s of this movement towards inclusivity. It created a space for women to shop (and enjoy) sneakers knowing there would be no issues with sizing or discrimination. It’s such an important staple to our community!
- What do you think is instore for your future?
I’m working on developing more product and artwork, my goal is to continue creating physical and digital work, and continue to partner with brands I love. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing right now – on a much bigger scale!