Inside South Africa’s Sneaker Exchange With Zaid Osman

Cape Town sneaker pioneer Zaid Osman talks his love for kicks and South African sneaker culture.

Images courtesy of Sneaker Exchange
22-year-old Cape Town sneaker mogul Zaid Osman has created an event where, for the past three years, sole lovers meet up regularly to buy, sell and trade their prized pair of kicks.

Sneaker Exchange has grown to become the marquee event for South African sneaker heads. It's bred a community of old and new connoisseurs to indulge in, educate and appreciate the culture.

The Johannesburg leg of Sneaker Exchange is taking place at Carfax in Newtown this Saturday. We caught up with Osman a few days before to discuss the event, his love for kicks and his other entrepreneurial endeavors.

Ncumisa Makhonjwa for Okayafrica: What inspired you to start Sneaker Exchange?

Zaid Osman: I was living in the States for a while and had been to a few of the sneaker trade shows that side—there was nothing like that in South Africa. People in South Africa would rarely trade sneakers with one another. At the time, I had a lot of sneakers and I needed money to pay accounts so I decided to sell or exchange my sneakers.

The event was at a coffee shop in Woodstock and was very small but the response was insane. People I had never met came through with some limited edition sneakers and from there I just knew we had to make the event big.

Sneaker Exchange has become such an integral part of sneaker culture in SA. How did you make it unique?

Yeah, it's really crazy actually. No one was really focused on doing anything for the sneaker culture. When we used to approach brands they were always hesitant to get involved, but now that has changed. We also got a really great team at Sneaker Exchange making sure everything gets done as well as making sure we are pushing the boundaries with each event.

What can we expect with this particular sneaker exchange?

This Saturday is set to be the biggest Sneaker Exchange yet. The line up is crazy featuring AKA, Reason, Nomuzi, Mashayabhuqe KaMamba and Prinston. The brands we have on board are doing some really cool activations and there will be a lot of really dope sneakers that have never been made available locally.

Courtesy of Sneaker Exchange
Do you generally find that sneaker culture differs from city to city or is it one huge global community?

It does differ. When I moved back to SA at the end of 2008, I wasn't really exposed to the South African sneaker culture other than in the Cape Flats. Dudes in Cape Town go crazy for your old school basketball sneakers and their passion for these sneakers is a lot more cultural driven. Whereas in Johannesburg it seems to be a lot more hype driven. Nevertheless, it gives South Africa its own unique taste of sneaker culture.

You also founded Lost Property, a unique online store for limited kicks. How did that come about?

People would always ask where we got the kicks my brother and I were wearing. It led to us being asked if we can import for them. We did just that. And from there, the demand was crazy. Eventually, brands started seeing what we were doing and latched on.

What have been some of your best sneaker finds?

Jordan BIN 5s sitting at a Nike Factory Outlet. I will never forget this. There were only 2,133 pairs worldwide, and they had like 15 pairs at that factory.

And what are some of the sneakers you cannot live without?

It's never that serious that you can't live without it... But some of my favorites in my collection are my New Balance 999 x Concepts "Kennedy", Yeezy Boost 35 and the Puma x Bape discs.

Being a sneaker head can be likened to an addiction. What are some of the craziest things you've seen people do just to acquire their perfect kicks?

It would probably be camping weeks for a sneaker release when the release date hasn't been confirmed.

Ncumisa Makhonjwa is a Cape Town-based writer, currently working as an assistant editor for a teen mag.

Photo: Kelenna Ogboso.

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