The inaugural regular season home opener for the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclays Center was a star-studded affair for the team and minority owner Jay-Z. After years of haggling and construction and a billion dollars of development at the Atlantic Yards, the official unveiling of the borough's first professional team since the Dodgers left town in 1957 was a gala affair.
Hova was courtside with wife Beyonce next to him and a special pair of shoes on his feet: the Brooklyn Zoo Jordan 1s, made with nine (yes, nine) different animal skins, from boa constrictor to stingray to ostrich. Retail: $2500. 10 pairs were made. And they were created by PMK Customs in Cleveland, the shoe company brainchild of Andre Scott.
When you use the skin of any animal on clothing, PETA will be there to knock your door down, but Scott wasn't afraid. Scott admits that the idea was controversial, but says that it embodied the original controversy of the Air Jordan 1; the shoes that Michael Jordan was infamously fined for every time he wore them on the court.
"Everybody told us not to do it." Scott says from his cell phone in New York City, having just walked out of a business meeting with Puma. "But who cares? It was legal, and it was hot, so we did it."
And the risk they took on making such a provocative custom ended up paying off in a huge way. Scott's minority partner Emery Jones, who has ties to Jay-Z, showed the concept to Mr. Beyonce, who liked the shoes, so the first pair they made were given to him. Jay-Z immediately blessed PMK and Scott with the highest endorsement: the gold seal of approval from a hip-hop and fashion icon.
"It doesn't get any bigger than Jay." Scott remarks.
Scott, a Cleveland native, has always been a 9-5 guy, but always had the desire to have a company he could call his own. After a couple of small business ventures that never quite bloomed, Scott started PMK -- short for Perfectly Made Kicks -- in 2011. Little did he know that his shoe-customizing business would receive high-profile attention so soon.
They've done business with a number of big clients, like as Ulysses Nardin and the president of the Cincinnati Reds.
There are two kinds of innovators in the world: the ones who make things that change the way we live our lives, and the ones who make those things look more stylish than they were before. The first automobile has gone through a lot of cosmetic changes to make it look like the sleek sports cars of today, and cell phones were Zack Morris-approved bricks before they started looking like something you wanted to be seen using in public. PMK is in the business of putting their magic touch on shoes, and while they're not necessarily reinventing the wheel, they're definitely making it look better.
Though the Brooklyn Zoo Jordan 1s were worth more than a few paychecks to a Regular Joe, not all of PMK's shoes are bank-breaking, and not all of their shoes require a piece of an exotic animal. In collaboration with Microsoft, PMK has launched a "design lab" page on their website (pmkcustoms.com) where people can choose from select kinds of shoes and use colors to make their own design.
"We do airbrushed customs, painted customs, reconstructions, etc.," says Scott. "They range from $200 to $5000. But it's more about our designs than anything. Nobody can compete with our ideas and our concepts."
The credit of those design ideas and concepts go to PMK's creative director, A.J. Ballard, who handles the artistic side of PMK. Scott trusts him implicitly.
"A.J. brings a lot of artistic flavor, and he knows his stuff," he says. "He's really important to PMK; he's a beast."
In just two years, PMK has built a resume that'd be impressive for a company five times as old. "Our first major client was Nickelodeon," Scott says. "We did Nickelodeon's Worldwide Day of Play in 2011. We did shoes for their whole staff and cast. Once you build your resume with a client like them, people look at you and think 'these guys are the real deal."
After Nickelodeon, the momentum started to roll: PMK collaborated with Reebok and Kraft Foods together and was responsible for designing a "Miracle Whip"-themed pair of shoes for Questlove, drummer of The Roots. Though the first thing that comes to mind when you hear "Miracle Whip" isn't "fashionable shoes," PMK wasn't going to turn down the opportunity.
"Kraft Foods wanted to thank Questlove for his Miracle Whip shout-out, and Reebok wanted to re-launch their 'Question' shoes, so it all came together nicely," he says. "Questlove is definitely a sneaker-head, and everybody in the sneaker community looks up to his kicks."
Though a very secretive person when it comes to future business endeavors with PMK, Scott is open about wanting to give back to the community. More specifically, Rainbow's Hospital for Children and Babies, who took care of Scott when he was in a coma for 23 days when he was a teenager. Scott is also looking to expand PMK into other facets than just shoe design, including a fashion line, which will be premiering next month at a flagship store in Tower City, and an online publication, PMK Mag, which is shaping itself to be like GQ or Complex.
"I have a great vision of where I want to take this company," Scott says. "I have a great team, great partners, everything is moving forward. In a humble way, I say that this is only the beginning."
And while that will likely include branching out from Cleveland to a bigger city with a bigger market, Scott is adamant that Cleveland will always be PMK's headquarters.
"This is our turf. We will maneuver through the world and do business, but Cleveland will always be our home office."