Sneakers to boots, our shoes carry our stories with them. That is one of the things luxury sneaker brand Woollier hopes will resonate with their footwear. By incorporating storytelling into their shoe, the Dreamer, the brand hopes to have a message that will not only connect, but also become a reflection of whoever wears them.
Woollier grew from an idea that was originally a dream. Founded by Aaron Leon, the brand came to fruition after Leon realized he wanted to pursue a different career path than his finance job. Refocusing on his career aspirations, he found that sneakers were where all his passions, interests, and skills intersected. Although he was never your typical sneakerhead growing up, Leon always had a love for sneakers. In 2014, he connected with artisan factories in Italy to have his first batch of samples manufactured.
The name Woollier came about from Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection. One of the animals that Darwin observed was a herd of sheep throughout cold winters. Each winter, Darwin had noticed that it was always the wooliest sheep that would survive, with each generation becoming woollier and woollier.
Similarly, Woollier represents the new generation that is adding its own original concept, design, and execution onto classic, old-school silhouettes. It’s about “acknowledging the rich history sneakers have” while also “trying to refresh them and make them relevant.” It’s including that “aspect of nostalgia” but also “pushing the conversation forward.”
When Leon launched his first collection, Woollier’s business model was more relationship-based and word-of-mouth that relied on his personal network. He didn’t implement any advertising, and it was an “if you knew about it, you knew about it” brand. Regardless, Leon was still able to score high-profile clients, such as Dwayne Wade.
In 2019, Leon collaborated with stylist Vick Michel to create The Dreamer. The design takes the classic low-top silhouette but evolves it by adding an innovative lace construction. Every sneaker is also handmade and constructed from premium materials, including calfskin sourced from Italy. The sneaker itself represents a reset that utilizes deeper meanings and storytelling to support hardworking dreamers. “Dreamers are active, not passive. It’s something you have to realize every day. You have to work hard to make your dreams reality,” says Leon on the vision he wants to pair with the shoe.
The story behind The Dreamer becomes even more profound when you consider how its original drop was planned before the pandemic hit in 2020. The combination of COVID and social unrest had interrupted Woollier’s business, and Leon considered quitting as the future became dicier. “At the end of the day, I can’t have a sneaker called The Dreamer and then give up on my own dreams,” says Leon.
Nevertheless, one advantage that the pandemic did have was making casual pieces and streetwear the trend. It’s similar to the Los Angeles aesthetic where even if you’re dressed up, “you’re still not super dressed because you’ll find a way to make it a little more casual.” That aesthetic has also found itself reaching cities beyond California, and it has contributed to the exciting energy men’s fashion has now.
However, the sneaker space has also become oversaturated with this energy. To differentiate Woollier in an overcrowded market, Leon hopes to communicate his unique story and perspective. He’s adding his story told through The Dreamer to the conversation because it can’t be replicated by any of the big sneaker brands.
To create his designs, Leon always asks himself what’s missing in his closet, to also answer, “What’s going to make Woollier convince other people that my sneaker deserves a place in their closet?” This ties back into whether or not customers will be impressed by the message Leon is communicating through Woollier, and whether they are willing to use Woollier to reflect themselves in their personal style.
Leon sees Woollier growing into a household name. “It’s a unique feeling to see someone walking down the street wearing something that you made. It’s a feeling that I want more often.”