Get To Know Sneaker Exchange Founder, Zaid Osman

And learn more about the event that has stolen the hearts (and soles) of sneakerheads across the country.

Kirsten Curtis |

“I make shoe contact before I make eye contact.”

The above statement has never been more relevant. Sneaker culture has evolved in such a way that your shoes can either make or break your outfit, and there were countless cool kicks on display this weekend at the 5th annual Sneaker Exchange (SXC).

Held at Grand West, Cape Town on 1 December 2018, SXC is a melting pot of modern culture, mixing local brands, food vendors and a star-studded musical line-up, creating the perfect atmosphere for sneaker-heads.

“Whether it’s art, fashion, music or graffiti, we aim to showcase not only sneaker culture, but street culture as a whole – along with the elements that go with it,” says Zaid Osman, founder and co-director of Sneaker Exchange

Zaid grew the event from a coffee shop special in 2013, to a major annual exhibit held in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. We caught up with the 25-year-old to learn more about how he took his footwear fandom and turned it into a platform for everyone to enjoy.

SXC is five years old. How has it grown and where do you see its future?

“The event has grown significantly over the past five years! We started with humble beginnings, with 80 people in attendance at the inaugural SXC, and last November we broke our record with 4000 people in attendance.”

“We are looking to grow the event into the rest of Africa, see other possibilities with activations all across the globe and export a lot of South African talent into the rest of the world. It’s amazing to see local brands growing with us and the state of the market at the moment.”

Last year was the launch of Platform Hour – allowing up-and-coming artists to perform their music on stage. Why is it so important to support local music in SA? 

“A lot of people requested to be on the line-up for SXC, so we came up with the idea of Platform Hour to give kids the opportunity to showcase their talent, get their careers started because there’s so many people that come through to the event, as well as fans, and some of these kids truly are amazing.

“It’s really about supporting the local scene and growing that to the best of our abilities. It’s not an easy industry to break into, so we hope that this helps give them the inspiration to pursue their dreams.”

Related: The Best Sneakers You Need This Summer

Has Sneaker Exchange boosted sneaker culture and education in SA? 

“Yes, definitely, because you’re [conveniently] getting so many people aware of local products and brands, that are available in South Africa, all in one space.

“It’s a great way to showcase our amazing local talent and be part of something bigger than the event itself. It’s a journey that we try to take people on, and show the youth that anything is possible: aim for your dreams and really be yourself.”

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Everybody has a hustle, whether it’s a side project or a full time job. How did you become an entrepeneur at the young age of 25? And what did you learn along the way?

“It’s been crazy! There has been a lot of ups and downs throughout this journey, we always try to stay ahead of the curve and constantly reinvent ourselves.

It’s been an amazing journey and I am lucky that I get to live my dream and passion daily, whether it is SXC or my online store Grade AFRICA. The biggest lesson that I learned is that, through the ups and downs, you need to keep the faith and bounce back.”

What’s your favourite sneaker drop this year?

Photo via Shelflife

“Off-white and Sean Wotherspoon x Nike Air Max 97/1.”

What are the three sneakers that every beginner sneakerhead needs?

“Definitely the staples such as Puma Suedes, Adidas Superstars and Nike Air Force Ones. I would also say wear what you like and what’s comfortable.”

For more info on what went down at this year’s Sneaker Exchange, be sure to follow them on Instagram: @sxc_za.

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Related: 5 Ways to Keep Your White Sneakers Spotless

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