Sneakerheads invade Mohegan Sun
Mohegan ― Growing up in the foster care system, Hype Williams said the one thing she was always able to hold onto were her sneakers.
Now Williams and her partner, Samantha Vaughn, are co-founders of The Urban Collab, which held its second annual Sneakerhead Invasion event on Sunday.
“To be able to take my love and my passion for sneakers and invest it in something else, it’s just for me, it’s something big,” Williams said.
Previously held at the XL Center in Hartford, Sunday’s invasion was at the Earth Expo and Convention Center at Mohegan Sun. Williams said they planned for about 200 vendors and hoped to double last year’s attendance of 1,000 people.
Williams said The Urban Collab is an “an all-encompassing business for the culture” and aims to host events like the Sneakerhead Invasion to provide a space for buyers and sellers to conduct business and build professional relationships.
“We’re honestly the only two females in the game right now hosting this big of an event,” Williams said. “The event is predominately male-heavy. The fact that we’re two Black females in the industry that’s really trying to turn around the game and bring a different and diverse culture is very nice.”
Williams is a self-proclaimed sneakerhead, which was the foundation for starting the Hartford-based business. Though the two founders realized The Urban Collab was not well-suited for a storefront early on, they transitioned to hosting events and it soon took off.
“It grew really quickly without us even knowing it was going to grow this fast,” Vaughn said.
Williams said the business is her baby, and Vaughn credited her partner for being the visionary while she herself acts in more of a support role in the business they started two years ago.
Williams, a former Mitchell College basketball player, said her own collection really started with a pair of Air Jordan 13 “Altitudes” around 2005. Now, her collection is so big she declined to give a number, and she has become a big fan of New Balance.
Williams hopes both The Urban Collab and Sneakerhead Invasion can grow in a similar manner to her shoe collection. She hopes it can grow to a multi-day event with an award show.
“To be the next ComplexCon for the East Coast, that’s the goal,” Williams said, comparing her own event to the two-day festival in California.
Sebastian Pelosi and Lenny Samatulski, co-owners of the West Haven-based SoleFeedIG, were one of the nearly 200 vendors on hand, which included artists, apparel, a 360-degree photo booth and even a barber.
Pelosi said he and Samatulski had heard of the event through Instagram and made sure to bring up their collection of Nike SBs, Off-Whites and Air Jordans. He said the 35 pairs ranged in price from $100 to $900.
Pelosi said the two had been to other similar events, but this was their first time at Sneakerhead Invasion. Though making a buck or two was the priority, Pelosi said he was looking to take advantage of the social aspect of the day.
“Money, obviously, but just to meet the people and make more business partners as we go,” Pelosi said on his goal for the day.
Pelosi said a pair of “Jedi” Nike Dunks were a pair that made their collection, one he started as a kid when he got a pair of powder blue Air Jordan 3s.
Pelosi said the art of bartering prices with buyers comes down to knowing the worth of the shoe, what you put into it, and at what price point you’re willing to part with it.
Burns Lewis was ready to part with all 200 shoes he brought to the event.
Lewis was operating a table at the Get Money Kicks tent and had a variety of Air Jordans, Nike Dunks and designer shoes, like a pair of red-bottom Louis Vuitton shoes priced at $600.
He said though the pairs he brought with him in a sprinter van from his home in Pennsylvania were just a fraction of his own personal collection, he was ready to sell what he brought and was not too interested in trading with other collectors.
He said he wasn’t turning down too many offers, as long as they were serious and respectable.
“But once it starts taking over the house it’s like, ‘aight, let’s take 100 of them and get rid of them’,” Lewis said of his collection.
Groton resident Zachary Cleetus had never been to an event like the Sneakerhead Invasion before but walked away impressed and with two pairs of shoes.
“You can see everyone has their own style,” Cleetues said. “You can see what everyone collects and I think that’s just cool.”
Cleetus added a pair of Nike “Panda” Dunks and a pair of Air Jordan 3s to his collection, which has already surpassed 20 pairs.
Greg Baden and his son Atticus Baden made the two-hour drive down from their home in Massachusetts to attend Sunday’s event.
Atticus brought a handful of shoes from his collection of about 20 pairs to trade and sell at his first time at such an event. He said he plans on attending more sneaker events in the future because of the experience.
“A good selection of shoes,” Greg Baden said. “A really good selection.”
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