James Whiteside on His Limited-Edition Sneaker Collab With KOIO

November 30, 2017

If you pay attention to James Whiteside‘s Instagram as closely as we do, you’ll notice the American Ballet Theatre principal spends almost as much time in sneakers as he does ballet slippers. His affinity for classic styles (his collection primarily includes Reeboks, Converse and Vans) recently brought a unique opportunity with sneaker brand, KOIO, to design his very own kicks.

“My commercial agent called me and said, ‘Hey, this sneaker brand is interested in collaborating with you,'” Whiteside tells us. “And so basically, I just went down to their Soho store and hung out with them and chatted—and the sneaker was born out of that.”

KOIO x James Whiteside sneakers

When working on his design, Whiteside knew he wanted to reference ballet. “I didn’t want it to look like a ballet slipper, so I decided to tie in a fabric,” he explains. “I thought of old satin ballet shoes and how pointe shoes are satin, and so I brought up the idea of a satin sneaker. I wear white ballet shoes, but a white satin sneaker is going to get dirty in like two seconds, so we decided to go with a wine color that’s really beautiful and great for the season. It’s got a dressy look to it.”

To further personalize his sneakers, Whiteside had a replica of his tattoo—a claw mark on his ribcage—embroidered on either side of the outside heel. “My tattoo means to make something beautiful out of perhaps something ugly,” Whiteside says. “We all have our own personal scars and such, and this is my way of wearing mine proudly and overcoming some obstacles.”

The limited-edition sneakers officially launch on KOIO’s site and in two New York City stores on December 9, but Whiteside has already been sporting his. “I’ve been wearing them with jeans and a t-shirt and a layered fall look. But I think it would be really cute with a suit for a formal event, too.”