If you spend time on Styleforum, you understand what it’s like to be part of an enthusiast community. You know the archetypes – from noob to tastemaker – and the abbreviations, from BB, ESF, and OCBD, to C&J and GMTO. You’ve also probably seen users band together to get the products they wanted – this is a core piece of any enthusiast community, and it’s why we created Massdrop. I’ve been a Styleforum member since 2011, and I’ve often been a part of those groups that are looking to put together something unique.
Here at Massdrop, our job is to work with community members and help them engage with each other to find the products they want. You may recognize us from our affiliate thread on Styleforum, where we share some of our community-driven creations. By getting the community to work together (like they often do already), we’ve been able to get them the quality products they want for a better price. We’ve also found that if we work directly with brands to create new products, we can do even more to get the community what they want. If you’ve spent any time on Styleforum, you know that the people here are quite discerning. Almost any product, no matter how great, will inevitably be met with “if only this aspect were different, this would be perfect.” With our collaborative projects, our goal is to work with the manufacturers of these products to “tune” them to the desires of the community and offer them at a great price, resulting in an exclusive product that caters to what the community’s wants.
When we decided to kick off collaborations in the Massdrop Men’s Style community, the biggest question was who to partner with. We wanted to work with a brand with a strong forum following, as well as in-house manufacturing. Allen Edmonds quickly came out as a ideal choice – they have a huge fanbase on forums and beyond, and are a great go-to for those just getting into fine footwear. And while the quality of their products is quite high, many of the designs are less catered to the hardcore shoe enthusiast. Which led us to the question: what if they made a shoe specifically for us, the community?
The next step was landing on a style to pursue for the Massdrop x Styleforum project. We decided on the unlined suede chukka due to its popularity, as well as the fact that Allen Edmonds had released a few models that were ripe for tweaking (you can find many threads on the forum discussing the pros and cons of Allen Edmonds models like the Amok and Mojave). I reached out to Fok and pitched the idea to him. He has a long history of partnering with Allen Edmonds on the forum, and was able to perform the critical step of getting Massdrop in touch with Paul, the CEO of Allen Edmonds, which got the ball rolling.
I worked with Allen Edmonds production and the Massdrop team to learn about what the community’s options were in terms of materials, design, and so forth. We started working on prototypes, and once I had some samples to look at I reached out to respected members on Styleforum. With their help, we were able to hone in on what exactly a forumite would want in these shoes. After a couple months of prototyping, we landed on a style we all felt was a winner, and from there it was pretty easy.
The most important aspects that we worked on were the material and the last. For the the suede, we sampled a few materials from CF Stead’s Janus line, and quickly agreed that Janus calf was the right call, even with the increased cost. For last shape, we wanted to shoot for the middle ground and offer something with a comfortable round shape for casual wear, without being too shapeless. Allen Edmonds’ 511 last was the natural choice, and the fact that it fits most people well was the icing on the cake.
From there, it was simple – introduce the shoes to the Massdrop and Styleforum communities. The project went live last week, and we’ve since sold over 700 pairs. The best part, however, is that it’s just the beginning. With this powerful example of what happens when a brand partners directly with the community they serve, we’ll be able to continue bringing projects like this to fruition. Styleforum members are full of good project ideas, and we’re going to do our best to keep up.
The Massdrop Allen Edmonds unlined chukka is available for purchase here.
The Styleforum Journal is supported by retailers such as Massdrop. This article is sponsored content.