On the flight from JFK to LAX, I was a little wary wondering what kind of people would be joining me on my first sneaker press trip. Would we have anything in common other than the the goal of heading to Coachella with Reebok to celebrate the brand’s Classic Leather silhouette? Would they be people who take shoes way too seriously? Maybe they would be the types who line up for 17 hours outside of Supreme in the pouring rain. Who the hell knows—but I was positive I would be completely out of my element.
Thankfully, my expectations were off. When I hopped in the car at LAX shuttling us to the festival, there were two women inside from publications targeted at women. ”Well damn, there’s hope,” I thought to myself. After two hours on the road, we arrived at an impressive lakeside chateau somewhere in the California desert. Think waterfront views, palm trees, a grand staircase, fire pits, and a pool with cabanas. Reebok had completely transformed the space into the “Classics Crib,” the shoes appearing at every turn. They even had a trailer stacked from floor to ceiling with Classic Leathers that visitors could grab pairs from for free.
The weekend kicked off with a welcome dinner and as I sat down I quickly realized there were mostly women at the table. “Oh word?” I thought, “I was completely wrong—it’s not all dudes—this is amazing.” As that realization set in, Reebok informed us that the next couple days would center around the “three pillars” of the brand’s DNA: music, fashion, and fitness. I didn’t know exactly what they meant but soon enough, I would.
We started the weekend off with a private performance by Sampha, who serenaded as we sat lakeside. The connection with him was intimate throughout the weekend; it took a while to get used to seeing the singer casually walking around the house we stayed at.
On Friday, L.A. tattoo artists Grace Neutral and Norm Will Rise stopped by the house to customize our sneakers. They tagged them with spray paint, drew roses on them—whatever we wanted, they were down. I had them spray paint my initials on a pair, and now I actually own a one-of-one sneaker (Yes, I know what that means).
On Saturday morning, Reebok continued the music portion of the experience when Solange stopped by the chateau for an intimate performance. There is no extra fluff with Solo—just her, her band, and her backup vocalists. Her performance was followed by a conversation on the convergence of music and style, another element tying things back to our sneaker sponsor for the weekend. Following our surreal day with Solange, we headed to the festival.
In case you’ve never been to Coachella, it’s overwhelming. There really are people rocking excessive amounts of flower crowns, glitter, and fringe. There are five stages that seem miles apart, and while attempting to navigate those miles, just know that your sneakers will be stepped on and you will step on people with your sneakers.
I wore the Classic Leather to Coachella every night. The sneakers can be dressed up or down, are comfortable enough for a retro, and look sleek. If you’re wearing them to Coachella, it means wearing them dirty. Not only will your sneakers be stepped on, they will have drinks spilled all over them, they will be covered in dust, and you will drag them through God knows what.
The weekend painted a different picture of the sneaker world than I’d anticipated. It wasn’t stuffy and silly like I previously assumed, at least not the parts I was exposed to. It can be fun, inclusive, and expressive. That’s not to say that there weren’t some disappointments at the festival, headliner Beyonce pulling out being the biggest one. That aside, the experience—from the VIP access to the free sneakers to getting to interview Solange—was unforgettable. And hey, it certainly helped me appreciate the Classic Leather a little bit more. OK, a lot more.