With owner and curator – James Lepp
What inspired the concept?
About 7 years ago, I started making golf shoes, which developed into a brand. I then felt the need to expand further and beyond into making casual shoes that my friends could wear. That was the catalyst which birthed the original idea of Six Hundred Four. I had wanted to open a retail location with my previous brand. Being originally from Abbottsford, a friend of mine from Gastown suggested that I come to the neighbourhood to check out a few retail locations. We stumbled upon the location we now have and I was inspired to create an entirely new line of shoes. Anyone can create unique and artistically designed sneakers but I wanted to take it further by synthesizing visual art and sneakers into one space. It was down to finding the right artists and having them create pieces that would translate clearly onto shoes. It’s a really cool way for a tourist or a local person to wear a piece of Vancouver – either as a unique souvenir or as a proud pair that is from a Vancouver artist and created by a local company.
How did the name come about?
My idea was to produce shoes in limited editions. From working with shoe suppliers they say that you should make at least 600 pairs of a style and color to maximize production costs. We brought it a little further to make 604 the number. Each artist is featured on 604 pairs of shoes, where 151 pairs are made in each style – 4 different styles per limited collection. Each pair has its own unique pair code etched into the side; no two pairs are the same.
Gastown is a perfect fit for Six Hundred Four. We have a regular flow of discerning retail shoppers and many tourists who spend at a higher price point, visiting the neighbourhood and that is our target market. As I was creating our brand, it became clear while working with Vancouver artists and being a Vancouver based company ourselves, that Gastown is the most supportive environment for our brand.
Six Hundred Four is more than a sneaker store. It really is like a little local art gallery and collective that fairly compensates artists and gives back to those in need. How does it all work?
We pay the artists upfront for their art piece and then a commission on the shoe sales. When it’s all said and done, the artist will end up receiving more than if they simply sold the art through a gallery. We also donate 6.04% of each shoe sale to a charity that is chosen by the artist. The artists have a huge impact on everything. They help us with many aspects of production including where the art will be placed on the shoes. We have made a documentary that features each artist and it will screened here in the store.
Exciting things coming up for Six Hundred Four?
We’re so fresh and this is all very new. We have 7 artists and 7 collections along with our line of shoes. Our plan is to introduce a new artist every month and that will begin by the summer. As a collection begins to sell out, we will then sell the art piece, possibly by auction style here in the store.
The Six Hundred Four Sneaker Gallery is located on 101-123 Cambie St (under Lumas Gallery).