It’s an absurdly warm Saturday to be outside on a raised patio overlooking Cabana Pool Bar, Toronto’s own Miami-esque escape. Between the Cîroc-based cocktails, the very-nearly-too-rich truffle fries, and the sea of beautiful people (ahem, Stacey McKenzie in a pitch-perfect dress, ahem), it’s a fitting setting for the Canadian launch of Cîroc Ultra Premium—and their collaboration with Toronto sneaker brand Sully Wong.
You probably know Sully Wong. The brainchild of designers Henry Wong and George Sully, Sully Wong produces streetwear accessories and cool sneakers. Like, seriously cool. They have a roster of high-profile collaborations under their belt, including ONEXONE, Vitaly Designs, GotStyle, and Amanda Kew Lee, and they’ve managed to reach impressive heights after just a few years in business. It bears mentioning that their Karim for Sully Wong sneaker was a particularly bang-on representation of the designer’s pop aesthetic. They also produce streamlined knapsacks, messenger bags and totes, as well as a succinct line of branded hats.
Sully Wong boasts showrooms and retail outlets in New York, California, Japan, and Korea. More importantly, the now-global company is Toronto-based and even has two showrooms in the 6ix. Amidst the excitement of the Cîroc party, George Sully tells me, “Toronto’s the best city in the world, and Toronto has given us everything.” Later, he elaborates: “Toronto will always be a part of us, its giving us the legs to market our wares across the globe. We live and operate here and don’t see us having to move elsewhere to rule the world!”
A probable key to their success is the relative timelessness of their designs. Even the sneakers that are splashed with colour show a level of restraint and minimalism. When asked about influences, Sully confirms this: “I guess our look is our look….Henry and I have had so many influences from our travels that our look has become truly unique into its self, on trend or not. One of our very first sneaker designs is still as popular as it was when first released 4 years ago!” Speaking of travels, Sully Wong personally check in on all their factories to make sure that everything is above board–it’s a level of responsibility and accountability that warrants respect.
So, why shoes (and bags)? “Both items are hard and very exclusive to produce, immediately separating us from the overwhelming number of clothing designers. As of the four years we’ve been operation, we are still just a handful.” You get a sense of keen business minds at work. When asked what’s missing from the footwear scene, and how Sully Wong fills that gap, Sully replies “We believe you can find just about anything in the market if you take the time to look for it. I believe Henry and I offer a premium quality product a very reasonable price—that’s why I think we’ve been able to fill the gap easily.”
Given the lavish Cîroc party, the in-demand designs, and the heaps of great press, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that Sully and Wong are first and foremost entrepreneurs. They developed an idea and nurtured it into a successful brand; like all entrepreneurial ventures, there are both perks and challenges along the way. “As an entrepreneur,” Sully writes, “the obvious favourite is being your own boss. If there are any challenges that scream out at us, it’s expanding and the hell that comes with it! Shipping, receiving, customs, tariffs, harmonized codes, exchange rates, taxes..arghhh!”
Don’t worry, ladies: they do also cater to women, but with a more limited selection. Sully hints that there might be an expansion in the works. “We are working on that now and hope to have something in the market for this coming fall/winter.”
Sully Wong’s most popular sneaker, the SWJ MID, belongs to a line inspired by Jack Johnson, the first African American World Heavyweight Champion. It’s a fine example of storytelling through fashion—the sneaker is evocative of turn-of-the-century boxing styles in a modern silhouette. As for Sully Wong’s favourite Sully Wong shoe (say that three times fast)? “Henry and I’s most favourite shoe we’ve ever designed has to be the SW OTOKO Hi-top, inspired while in Tokyo, hands down!” The SW OTOKO is their latest design, and is now trickling into stores around Canada, with online purchase available shortly. One look at it and two words come to mind: Instantly covetable. Okay, two more: So. Slick.
But back to the SW x Cîroc Bluestone Low shoes, and the epic event to launch them. The low tops have a slim profile, all-leather upper, and subtle branding (Cîroc and Sully Wong in blue stitching) on either side. This is all moot to most, as the exclusive sneakers aren’t available for sale—however, it is another feather in the cap of a design team that hints at ever-bigger things to come: “At the moment we are being courted by some of the biggest and brightest the entertainment industry has to offer, so I can comfortably say that are future is bright…and busy,” Sully says.
Displayed alongside the elegant blue Cîroc bottle in full-on sunlight, the all-white shoes looked to be tailor-made for the event, against the gleaming white of Cabana Pool Bar and the white sailboats choreographed to move conveyor belt-like along our sightline for the afternoon. Have we mentioned the man gamely performing loop de loops with a water jet pack? How about the Cîroc mermaids clad in carnival-style blue sequins, trailing blue and white balloons, dancing on platforms, and quite memorably, promenading in a large bubble—”Can they breathe?” we asked, as they upturned into the pool.
How did two Toronto-based streetwear designers who are steadily making their mark on the sneaker world end up pairing with a premium vodka?
“Simply but…’they asked, we delivered!’ As it was scheduled for a summer release, we wanted to make a low top summer silhouette, using their white and blue colours as the lead. The key to making the shoe was to keep it sleek, simple and premium like the vodka itself. Clean premium leather upper, with a bold blue insole. Pretty happy with the final results.”
What’s your favourite pair of Sully Wong sneakers? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.