Inside Italy’s Growing Sneaker Expo, Ginnika

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My new article for COOL HUNTING.

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Works by Phil Toys
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Works by Phil Toys
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Works by Phil Toys
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Works by Phil Toys
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Installation by Phil Toys
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Nike Air Mag
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Nike Air Mag

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Andrea Sibaldi
Phil Toys
Phil Toys

Sneaker culture is varied and constantly evolving. It’s a world in which art, music, sports, fashion and of course shoes, all play a part. It generates passions and manias, as well as interesting connections between different places and people that may not otherwise mingle.

This is also the story behind Ginnika, a rapidly expanding event born in Rome in 2014. From now through 25 January, Ginnika is presenting a new edition in the northern city of Verona, while Perugia and other Italian cities are to be announced soon. We had the chance to visit the venue, look at some of the 600 sneakers on display, listen to some of the 48 hours of DJ sets and, most importantly, speak with founder Andrea Sibaldi. Together with Simone Strano, Vito Castellano and Michela Picchi, Sibaldi has turned his lifelong passion into Ginnika Posse, an ever-growing group of people from different backgrounds, united by the love for all that sneaker culture encompasses.

“We knew what it was all about,” Sibaldi tells CH, “but it was not our intention to limit everything to a range of shoes on display.” And that’s clear when we experience the latest edition, between Arena Studio d’Arte art gallery and Move Shop, an authentic cult store in town. “We (Ginnika Posse) are all guys with jobs away from the world of shoes or clothing, but we see this project as our safe heaven where we give in to our passions,” Sibaldi says. “You know, when you grow up it is not easy to be able to play, but with Ginnika, we can still enjoy ourselves very much.”

Playful and artistic are the perfect words to describe the site-specific installations by Phil Toys, a street artist obsessed with paper and boxes. Robots inspired by the colors of famous sneakers are the companions of tiny lo-fi squared shoes. Toys also made a series of custom prints—a literal representation of his love for shoes—inspired by classic styles and true gems like the Nike Air Mag, which against many odds is in fact on display.

Though as sneaker culture continues to evolve and move online, some may ask if this kind of event is still needed. Sibaldi’s ideas about this are pretty clear: “If we consider other international events, Ginnika may seem like just another happening of which people did not feel the need [to attend]. But when we speak of Italy, all is to be observed under a different lens. Indeed Ginnika is the first national project dedicated to sneaker culture at 360 degrees, with shoes, sports, music, art, food, beverage, culture and lots of interaction. This gives relevance to a phenomenon that has spread around the world in such a hectic way, hovering between fetishism and the most trivial forms of consumerism. We really want to act as spokespersons, telling our perspective in relation to existing events. So Ginnika was truly needed—or at least, we felt a great need for it to happen.”

In the land where craftsmen and companies create some of the best shoes in the world, the goal of such activities is to create relationships between various forms of creativity, among people with different stories. If nothing else, Ginnika has changed Sibaldi’s life (and his group of collaborators), as he candidly admits: “Before Ginnika my life was only about my work and some nights out made of stories told among friends. But now we are a movement that has succeeded in creating new horizons and connections. This is for us to achieve an important goal, we have become “concept revolutionaries” in our country, and for that we perfectly embody the spirit of a posse.”

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