You’d be hard-pressed to find someone with a problem with Kidane “Fresco” Wilson. The 80’s baby with the easy smile is a staple at sneaker consignment destination Stadium Goods, where he’s worked since it first opened in 2015 (“From day zero, I been here,” he says.)
With the tall frame fitting of his past as a Division I basketball player, Fresco might be intimidating to someone with an unconscious bias that they need to get over. But after one conversation any anxiety should quickly dissipate because the Brooklyn native possesses a settling charm, has his finger on the pulse of the sneaker business and just plain knows his sh*t.
Fresco is also a teacher—he’s an instructor in the SOLEcial Studies program that teaches the ins and outs of the sneaker biz in schools. So a Sneaker Game feature was an easy decision. But catching up with him proved to be a minor struggle because he always has something going on with your favorite brand or at the day job. So we ran up on him at Stadium Goods, where he thoroughly and expertly answered our questions, all while interacting with customers—including one tourist who asked for a photo, which he graciously granted.
All that to say, when Fresco shares game, you should listen.
CASSIUS: What was your first gig in the sneaker business?
Fresco: I would say it was my brother putting me on to selling sneakers. I didn’t necessarily have a job but I knew everybody in all the Foot Lockers, all the Footactions. Before the resale industry really boomed we had the opportunity to get shoes at a lower cost and sell them under retail while still profiting. That of course has gradually changed into what this is, which is great at the same time. This was 2007.
C: So where y’all even dealing with Flight Club back then?
Fresco: We weren’t even thinking about Flight Club. We were thinking with the mentality of “direct to the people.” If people know you for one thing, they’ll tend to come to you.
My brother already had a business that he’d been running since high school in Canarsie. He sold so much sneakers he ended up selling bulk sneakers to spots in BK. His story is amazing. That transitioned into him putting me on. I used to sell G-Shock watches prior to selling sneakers cause that was booming at the time. He put me on to the shoes and that changed everything.
C: So, what about your first proper sneaker job, job?
Fresco: I guess my first sneaker gig per se is being a storyteller with Game 7 Marketing. That’s my first job outside of playing ball in high school and in college. I knew I wasn’t going to the league, so I take my education.
C: Can you tell us about the Solecial Studies and why it’s important to you?
Fresco: Solecial Studies is a program that [covers] the cultural and business side of footwear. People know the cosmetic side, which is what you see at the end. But there’s 20, 30, 40 jobs that go into bringing a shoe to life. Whether the marketing perspective or branding or design, materials—there’s so many things that go into what they see at the end but they don’t know anything about it.
“They” being the children or the people interested in taking the program—it’s not just for kids. It’s an easy segue to grasp children’s minds because it’s something they’re generally interested in. There’s teaching about math, geometry, chemistry; there’s so much that goes into sneakers. The base or the soul of the program is to just give people the opportunity to see the one thing that can expand their mind and spawn into so many other things.
There’s going to come a time when that influencer is going to actually have to be influential to somebody.”
C: That leads to my next question, at the ground level you might see a lot of people of color, but as you rise through the ranks in the sneaker business you see less and less Black people. What do you tell a kid of color trying to make their way in the game?
Fresco: I’d tell them one, if you’re really into something, learn about it yourself [even] without anyone teaching. So when you’re stepping into these arenas you’re prepared. You’re already going to stand out as you grind or grow in this realm of the world because a lot of those people don’t look like you. So that’s also your advantage, because you’re the person who they’re looking to market to. And if they’re trying to market to you and you know the market because you studied this game, then you are even that much more powerful. Not only am I intimidating you with this [points to himself], but I’m intimidating you with this [points to his brain].
C: Flipping that intimidation or fear of the other into something else…
Fresco: I said it in a panel, Integrity, Intelligence and Intimidation. If you hold yourself in a certain regard as far as your integrity, and you know that you come in with a higher level of intelligence, that provides a higher level of intimidation. They gotta get down or lay down. It’s a comforting space, but it’s, “Damn, I really know what I’m talking about.”
I want all of those [brown] kids to know their own worth in this particular space. They don’t know that all of this stuff has been marketed to them. If you know that balance of knowing, then you’re one step ahead.
C: Where do you see the sneaker game going and growing?
Fresco: Because it’s grown into the high fashion space, that’s the reintroduction to sneakers now. In order for things to survive and to progress, it has to be a constant reintroduction. Now that people are realizing their power within this footwear space, the opportunity for people to capitalize off getting their own shoes and start to get royalties…
C: Not just athletes…
Fresco: Not just athletes. Just regular…someone with [motions air quotes] influence… Likes don’t dictate dollars. There’s going to come a time when that influencer is going to actually have to be influential to somebody. You take the Nipsey [Hussle] mentality which is how I’ve lived my entire life, he touched the people. I don’t have a crazy following on Instagram compared to some people, but I have a great interaction with the people that I touch.