Kareem Campbell does odd things. We all know he does insane things on a skateboard, but what he occasionally does off the skateboard, when it comes to acquiring shoes … well, he gets pretty close to the edge. It’s weird to imagine Campbell skating around Hollywood with his friends and stopping anybody wearing interesting shoes and offering them money, but he does it. He’ll stop anyone from middle-aged tourists or herds of teenage girls to weightlifters. He says he usually offers them around 100 dollars and some Axion shoes. God only knows what could be going through their minds. Tourists won’t think America is paved with gold–more like LSD.
Campbell admits he’ll do anything to get a pair of shoes that capture his eye. “Some of the really good designs are from Brazil,” he points out like a true connoisseur. In a store, he’ll buy anything from ladies’ shoes to 200-dollar Nikes. The shoe salesmen at the Beverly Center in Hollywood start drooling when they see Campbell walking up. On one memorable trip he dropped 2,300 dollars on sneakers. He’s not only partial to the swanky Beverly Center, though. “I’ll get shoes everywhere: from Payless to Versace,” he says. If he could spend 2,300 dollars at Payless, that would be impressive.
Campbell, the designer and co-owner of Axion footwear, doesn’t look for shoes to rip their designs off; he notices a certain material, or the way a lace loop is placed, and uses it for inspiration. “I won’t copy,” he says, “I’ll see what I can change.”
Campbell’s shoe fetish began when he was a kid. “I’m a shoe man. They have to look better than anything else I’m wearing,” he says. But, it wasn’t until six-years ago that he redlined it in fifth gear. “The Patrick Ewing was the first model I started collecting. I started collecting every color. I had maybe ten or eleven pairs and paid around 50 bucks a pair. Then I started on the Chuck Taylors and eventually had 30 or 40 pairs.” They came in different color schemes and a variety of materials, so, naturally, Campbell had to try and get them all.
Today, he’s in the middle of collecting all the different Nike Michael Jordans. He has seven different colors, and at roughly 170 bucks a pop, that means Campbell has spent close to 1,200 dollars on M.J.’s shoes. And that’s only counting the most recent style. Campbell has a collection of the previous Jordan models, too. He has such a vast collection of shoes, he can’t fit them in his own house. With land prices being what they are in Southern California, owning well over 1,000 pair can present a problem. His house has piles of shoes in every room and his mother’s house has shoes–literally–in the rafters in massive garment bags. They do, though, have a way of thinning out. Campbell laughs and says he has quite a few guests who happen to be the same shoe size–or close enough–and often “borrow” pairs when they visit.
But, Campbell has a way of turning his fetish into profit. Through his many shoe hunts, he has met some serious collectors. They’ll pay big bucks for old shoes (especially in Japan), and he has no problem mining his shoe mountain for a few bills. The other lucrative result of Campbell’s obsession is Axion. The brand is currently one of the best-selling shoe companies around. Part of this popularity can be attributed to Campbell’s innovative–not to mention extremely popular–shoe designs, and they all stem from a lifetime of obsessing. Even if Campbell does freak-out the occasional tourist, it’s a small price to pay.