Brand Royalty: Buscemi
Written by: Geo Hagan Images courtesy of: Buscemi

Jon Buscemi is the epitome of New York hustle. Whenever the phrase, “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere” is uttered, it should be accompanied by a hologram of Buscemi’s bearded visage. A New Yorker to the core, he soaked up all the diversity, kinetic energy and velocity of the city and infused these qualities into everything he attempted. That includes successful stints on Wall Street and branding positions with major names like DC Shoes and Oliver Peoples. He eventually went on to launch his own successful footwear brand named Gourmet. But that was just the amuse-bouche to the main dish. In 2013, he unveiled an ultra-luxe collection of high-end, Italian-made sneakers that carried his own last name. It was part art project and part experiment in avant-garde luxury. These new kicks were the sneaker equivalent to the fashion world’s Birkin bag. The demand was high and the supply was limited (deliberately so), resulting in huge buzz and excitement for the new brand. A few years down the line, Buscemi sneakers continue to aspire to even greater heights. See the exclusive SNC interview with Jon Buscemi below:

“I have always wanted to outdo my peers in the industry …”

In the beginning stages of the Buscemi brand, it was all about creating scarcity and high demand for an uber-luxury sneaker. Is that still the business model or has it since changed? 

The beginnings of the brand really were about creating art.  There was scarcity by default as we made a very small amount of pieces for a few great shops around the world.  We have grown the landscape and we offer more now but we still make a limited amount of pieces because of the nature of the way our collection is made.  For instance our 100mm shoe takes over 20 hours to make. The painted edge and the custom hardware are like a nice sauce; it needs to cook.  

The craftsmanship and quality of Buscemi has always been a strong selling point – what is it exactly that makes your product tower above the rest in these particular areas? 

At the end of the day we are making sneakers and leather accouterments.  What makes us stand apart is the attention to detail.  I have always loved the painted edge of fine French and Italian brands and we took this approach to our sneakers. This makes us stand apart.  To have a man hand paint the edge of a sneaker and to have that 4-5 hour process involved, makes the shoes timeless.  

Were you surprised about the explosive exponential growth of your brand right out the gate – or was it all part of the plan? 

The beginning of this brand was quite the opposite.  It was more of a project than a traditional brand launch.  I wanted to get an idea out there, for lack of a better term I was telling a story of a certain nostalgia or lifestyle.  I was looking back to the early 80’s and the birth of hip-hop and street culture in NYC but elevated.  I thought of the first collection like a stylist; what would this one guy would wear or use.  

Do you ever think the Buscemi brand will expand into areas other than footwear? 

The dream has always been to tell a full story.  Shoes have always been the most important piece of my outfit- since 3rd grade, literally.  The shoes tell all and are very easy to build from.  When we design the accessories and soon to be eyewear and then in the future the full look, it becomes easy as it is just introducing new characters into the already written script.  To answer the question, yes: the dream is always the full look.

Jourdan Dunn really looked fly in your Holiday collection lookbook – how did you hook up with her for your shoot? 

Jourdan has been a huge supporter of the brand since the early days.  She showed up to a few events wearing our pieces and the media picked up on it.  She also was posting on Instagram bumping and bragging about the shoes.  It was really amazing to get her to cosign and we were already such big fans.  We are both parents of young boys and have a lot in common including our mutual friend Ryan Molloy from Women’s Management.  Ryan set us up with Jourdan and it was a perfect fit for the Holiday shoot. We had a blast.

Is that part of the strategy going forward … to do more visible, celebrity-driven campaigns? 

Working with iconic figures vs. celebs has been the movement since we started doing the campaigns.  We’ve now featured a handful of icons including Lauren Hutton, Larry Flynt and Quincy Jones for starters.  Jourdan is very iconic and leading in her field.  I think the pieces resonate since they have a certain iconic look.  

What would you say is the biggest compliment you have ever received about your brand to date? 

I have always wanted to outdo my peers in the industry.  Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted to outdo my friends in everything whether it was skateboarding or sports or games or graffiti and now design.  The biggest compliment you can get is the approval and overwhelming compliments from your peers.  It is the ultimate compliment. 

Switching directions for a second – can you tell us a little bit about your own lifestyle: Your favorite city to visit, favorite pastimes, the fashion brands you remain loyal to, and also, your go-to accessories brands (hats/sunglasses) …

Favorite City:  NYC, for obvious reasons

Favorite Past-Time:  Going to the batting cage with my son Benny, especially because he wants to be there and is a super talented hitter.

Favorite Brands:  Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.  Two old school New York guys that keep it consistent.

Go To Accessories Brand:  Hoorsenbuhs, Garrett Leight, Headlight, Le Labo

What surprises and new projects can we expect from Buscemi in 2016? 

 I am happy to announce the launch of our flagship shop in Soho, NYC this Fall.  A true dream come true.  Also look out for something really cool with Colette this year.

Lastly, can you finish this sentence : Buscemi is going to be around for a very long time because … 

 …we made it this far, now you are stuck with us.

To see more of the Buscemi Spring collection, visit

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