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. (An unnamed entity attempted to purchase Geiger's company in 2017. He wouldn't sell.)
"Let's just say the offer was very generous and we would be good, but I'm not even one year in. I know where this can go and where it is going," Geiger tells Bleacher Report.
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. Remember, 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.
Nike balked. "This might sound crazy, but the 'Misplaced Checks' might have been the biggest AF1 concept to ever release without Nike. Why wouldn't they want me to be part of that movement?" he says.
While there are no hard feelings today, Geiger's hunt for approval from the brand he grew up idolizing helped him forge a different, yet equally important, path.
"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."
It's that mentality that has retailers so anxious to cater to him. He possesses the gift of forward thinking. Geiger is a rare personality in footwear who seems to have an organic set of answers. Shying away from trend-driven concepts, he can see into the future.
As today's sneaker culture shifts further toward collaborations and exclusivity—Virgil Abloh and Nike's recent Off-White project or Comme Des Garcons' work with the Air Max 180 both come to mind—Geiger was one of the first to bridge a middle ground between sneakers and high fashion.
The Geiger 001—his debut silhouette—has been priced at $550. It's ultra-premium material base and streetwear style is exactly where John believes the market is headed. "Think about it: High-end kicks are like $900 to $1,000, while Air Jordans are starting to be around something like $300 to $400 on occasion. That middle area is coming and I just wanted to be in that area first, creating my own lane," Geiger reasons.
The disadvantage of Geiger's brand—or any "smaller" footwear operation—is he lacks the manufacturing power of a company like Nike. "I've gone through a ton of challenges finding the right manufacturer for soles and production of the whole shoe," he says.
Generating ideas is one thing; actually making that product a reality is another. "My 001 model consists of 36 pieces and takes three hours and 45 minutes to make each pair by hand. I moved my whole production from Italy to the USA last minute because I just wanted to be more hands-on," Geiger adds, detailing the learning curve he's undertaken.
Finding the right solution has become a moving target. Production techniques from the first 001 have changed leading up to the recent "Two-Tone" colorway. "I'm not saying the first was not as good as the latest. It's one of those things [where] you tweak certain parts. It could be how the stamp is placed on the side or using gold foil instead of heat-embossed stamp," Geiger says.
The volume of product available has also been altered. Compared to the original "White" and "Black" releases of the shoe, the latter "Burnt Orange" edition doubled in quantity.
Despite adjusting on the fly, Geiger believes the quality and aesthetic value of his kicks are what will carry his brand through all the ups and downs. "For John Geiger Co. we just took the organic route and let the product speak for itself."
The chip-on-his-shoulder mentality has helped make the 001 a popular sneaker among high-fashion consumers and celebrities alike. Between Wale, Fabolous and Cleveland Cavaliers swingman Iman Shumpert, Geiger's vision has resonated.
Which isn't to say sustaining a brand is easy. Geiger is planning on using 2018 as a growth period. "Since we are direct-to-consumer, the word spreads at a small pace. People never actually get to see and feel the product until they have it," he says.
The Geiger Collection will be working with "bigger brands" and introducing the 001 to a series of retailers, as well as teasing the upcoming 002 model, which Geiger promises will be the most affordable sneaker he's released so far.
But one thing remains as clear as it did on day one: John Geiger is doing it his way. Whether the rest of the sneaker world is with him or not, he's determined to operate on his own terms and demonstrate to the world—Nike included—that he understands this culture better than "bigger brands" ever could.
All quotes were obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.