Croat Launches Revolution in Global Sneakers Industry

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Spurce: Licks

Exchangeable sneaker tongues as a future hit?

The first exchangeable sneaker tongues in the world are a Croatian invention which many Croats probably have not yet heard about. But, the most significant global players in the sneaker industry have, and they are delighted, reports Jutarnji List on November 28, 2017.

The idea started to develop in the 1990s, in the mind of a six-year-old boy from Zagreb who did not like simplicity. Little Željko did not immediately have sneakers in his mind. He was thinking more about his dull clothes.

“I grew up with mom and grandmother, and thanks to them I developed a sense of aesthetics very quickly. I was impressed with the clothes, especially sneakers, constantly trying to find a way how to make them unique and less boring. When you are a kid, a regular pair of jeans can be very limiting. Luckily, I had a mother who allowed me to draw a Ninja Turtles design on a pair of trousers. The next day, I wore them to school, and nothing was the same again. A whole new world of possibilities opened up in front of my eyes,” says Željko Hudoletnjak.

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“Soon I realised that anyone could change the world of fashion, so I decided to design my shirts. Still, my strategy failed with the sales, so I ended up with a box full of unsold shirts under my bed,” says the now 32-year-old Hudoletnjak, who has founded the Original Licks startup. His idea is to make it possible to change the look of each sneaker and personalise it without buying a new pair of shoes.

The designer sneaker tongues ​​have not yet been produced, so a few days ago he launched a crowdfunding campaign at the Indiegogo platform, which aims to raise 25,000 dollars that would be sufficient to start production in Croatia and test the market. The idea itself began to become a reality seven years ago. The first few attempts were frustrating, and Željko did not know how to do what he had imagined. His grandma helped him.

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“She could not distinguish Nike from Adidas, but she knew how to sew better than anyone else. I still remember the excitement when I first saw my idea materialised. Then I knew that all the efforts had paid off,” adds Željko, who studied economics and architecture. He learned a lot about marketing.

“With Licks, I have the toughest task in the world: to change habits in the most demanding market in the world, in the United States,” says Željko. He is in touch with some of the major world stars who support his brand, such as Snoop Dogg, DJ Tony Touch who works with Eminem, one of the pioneers of hip-hop culture Grandmaster Flash, and DJ Statik Selektah, who is currently working for Jay-Z’s production house.

“I met Snoop Dogg two years ago at the Fresh Island Festival, and I gave him a Licks, and he was delighted. We talked about my brand for half an hour and concluded that the invention was brilliant,” explains Željko, whose goal is to make the brand go viral, which is best achieved when a product is promoted by major stars.

“The startup was established this year when we opened the first office in Zagreb. Still, the location was an obstacle for us, so we have opened a London office as well. We have ten young employees, and we soon plan to open another office in the US,” explains Željko, who would like to integrate pedometers in sneaker tongues and hopes to launch a children’s collection as well. However, he believes there is no future in the Croatian market.

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“The inspiration for replaceable tongues came when I noticed that big brands had started to emphasise the tongues, which are getting bigger and bigger, while jeans are tighter and tighter. I realised it was a good place for people to express their identity. For us, in Croatia, it is not so important what kind of sneakers we wear, while in America they are a status symbol. White sneakers are a symbol of street fashion and the hip-hop culture, which is why I am glad I have gained the approval of people from that culture,” says the innovator.

He believes that startup investors in Croatia have no experience and focus only on income, with too little engagement with the project. And that is a significant reason why he turned to the US market.

Translated from Jutarnji List.


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