Sitting down for our latest discussion, we talk to Jason Faustino who for the last year and a half has worked as marketing manager of at Saucony’s Original brand.
Having originally co-founded the iconic Extra Butter store in New York, we managed to catch up with Jason about this time in his life and how it’s led him to where he is today. From designing Saucony’s collaborations with Extra Butter to what they have to offer in the coming years. Jason gives a great insight into this historical brand.
Footpatrol: Hey Jason, hope you are keeping well during these times! For our reader please can you introduce yourself and what you do over at Saucony?
Jason: I’m Jason Faustino, I’ve been at Saucony for a year and a half as the Marketing Manager for Originals at HQ in Massachusetts. We’ve got a pretty lean team, and I’m lucky to have been able to support the team on product and overall Originals brand strategy.
FP: Prior to joining the team at Saucony you were one of the co-founders for iconic New York store Extra Butter.
Can you tell us a little about your time there and how it led to where you are today? Did you work on the colourways and themes for some of the Extra Butter x Saucony collaborations?
JF: My experience in starting that company definitely prepared me for my time now at Saucony and we had a lot of success with the brand during my time. I actually began working in footwear through a mom & pop store, where I met a Saucony sales rep – Eddie Joyce, who was my first real intro to the brand outside of knowing a style or two. He put me in my first running shoe which was the Saucony Pro Grid Triumph 4 in gold. And, I got my first taste of the role of a buyer placing orders with the brand. As a former b-boy I remember being so excited being able place orders for the Saucony Courageous in a special version by legendary breakdance crew – The Floorlords.
I did concept and ideation on all of the EB x Saucony collabs, including another pack that may or may not be on the way in the future. I’m often asked which my favorite is and from a wear standpoint it’s the Shadow Master based on astronaut ice cream which was ⅓ of the “Space Race” pack. But from a conceptual standpoint, I’m most proud of the “For The People” project. Always maintaining a close relationship with customers I thought it’d be cool to bring them as close to the collaboration process as I could, allowing them to vote for and be in on every aspect of the project from reviewing samples and making changes on color and materials. I feel it was in the beginning stages of crowdsourced design, and I’ve always been thankful to Saucony for letting me run with that concept.
FP: Saucony is a brand that’s been around for well over 100 years and i feel people still have trouble with the pronunciation to this day. Please can you elaborate how the brand got its name and how it’s evident within the logo?
JF: Explaining this always gets the best reactions from “a-ha” moments to leaving people in utter disbelief that they’ve been saying it wrong their whole life. The name is derived from the Saucony river in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Pronounced “sock-a-knee” as the brand had on various ads and even boxes over the years to emphasize it’s correct pronunciation, the name is derived from the Native American word “saconk” – where 2 rivers run together, a concept that served as the inspiration for our recent Courageous Moc collaboration with Lapstone & Hammer. The logo, and all of it’s versions you’ve seen on the side of the shoe represents the river, with the 3 dots acting as 3 boulders in the middle of the stream. You asked me during a great time considering we just did a deep dive into a re-branding of sorts, and have recently unveiled a new logo, that focuses in on those 3 boulders, while still keeping the curvy “S” looking river logo as well.
FP: In its early years, Saucony were pioneers in running shoes, a key area of the business still to this day! But it wasn’t until the 1980’s and the arrival of the Originals Era where things really ramped up. Can you shed a little more insight into Saucony Originals during its early years?
JF: I’m not entirely sure how “Originals” came about, but if I had to guess it’s because runners were still choosing to run in the older models. Even today, our brand can put out the best running shoe on the market, full of amazing technical specs and modern advancements, and still you’ll find casual runners who prefer to delve into the archives and run with one of our past silhouettes. I think it speaks to the strength of the brand’s design language through the years, but also the craftsmanship. There’s no such thing as an uncomfortable pair of Saucony’s so while technology has changed over the years, the comfort and fit has always remained. I think that gave good reason to retro some fan favorites and create the category of “Originals”, transitioning functional athletic to fashion style with the most popular style leading the charge for the brand in the 1981 Saucony Jazz.
FP: Originals with its lifestyle approach and limited collaborations is what our consumers have known and loved over the years! For the consumers reading can you shed a little more light into how a collaboration can come to light and what its like working on the process?
JF: I’m happy to share because this somehow still remains somewhat of a mystery to footwear enthusiasts. It’s almost always based on relationships. Even if you don’t have an existing relationship with the brand, it’s how you go about developing one and from there maintaining it, being able to show a true enthusiasm for the brand, as well as having something to offer on your side that attracts the brand to working with you in a more meaningful way.
I can say that the process has tweaked a bit just recently.. As of last week, Eric Smolin (Originals Product Line Manager) and I declared that we won’t be taking in any more collaborations or projects unless they have a do-good component, give back, or spread awareness for a worthy cause. Our brand platform is “Run For Good”, it has a few different ways it can be looked at and interpreted, but if we extract the literal aspect of the “for good” piece, we want our projects to do just that and be a beacon of goodness, rather than just an opportunistic moment of combining logos and manufacturing hype. There is enough hype in our industry and I’m not knocking it because we love that energy, but we need to do our part in doing more good for our world and our people, so it starts with us.
FP: Saucony Collaborations i feel are known for telling a story or displaying a strong theme via the shoe itself, through the marketing campaign even down to the special packaging and store installations. Why is this all round experience so key to a project launch?
I always felt that love is fleeting in regards to projects without a story. Strength of design certainly means a lot, as well as what a brand stands for, but having a story to be told through the shoe’s design itself, it’s packaging, or the events and marketing attached – that connects the emotions. You don’t forget emotions – especially when connected to meaningful stories or even fun moments and reasons to celebrate in general. The highest level of design and marketing can achieve that energy and vibe communication without needing to spell it out.
Models like the Shadow 5000, 6000 & the Grid 8000 for example have been key to these collaborations over the years. But in the last year or so we have started to see more archival models return with partner collaborations and inline launches with the likes of the Grid Web and Azura 2000 most recently.
FP: How have you decided on what to bring back and how has the process been in bringing them back to market?
Eric and Josh Fraser (Originals Designer) deserve all the credit for the 5 archival styles that have been brought back over the past year – Azura, Jazz 4000, Aya, Grid Azura 2000, and the Grid Web. The process is a long one, the brand hasn’t kept original molds for all the shoes in it’s archive, so each silhouette had to be brought back from scratch. It starts with obtaining an original pair, from there it’s working on so many levels with our expert team of designers and product developers in conjunction with our factories to bring the shoes back to life close to it’s original, but still meeting today’s brand standards. The decision to expand the line with those 5 bringbacks was one of the major reasons for my interest in working at Saucony. I’ve always felt that Saucony’s archive is a full arsenal of bangers, and the decision to start bringing back models to team up with it’s established classics was the key to diversifying our consumer and taking the brand to new heights..
FP: Within the Saucony brand there is so much technology on display with the likes ISO and EVERUN collections to the customisable elements of the Mad River TR. With technical footwear, even trail running becoming more and more fashionable, are there any plans for these models to see the likes of store or partner collaborations?
JF: I love this question – it didn’t even need to be a plan. Without prompt some some of our partners seek out our trail and performance products because they’re just that good. White Mountaineering showed interest in a personal favorite of mine, the Switchback ISO, a minimalist trail shoe with a boa lacing construct. From there they created their own colorway dropping later this year in accompaniment to 2 Grid Webs as well. We’ve also got other partners that are cooking up some special Originals and giving their take on performance products.
Outside of partners our brand has given our team the freedom of giving performance and trail product the “Originals” take on it, afterall, once a product comes out with a new version, the 1st one then becomes an original. I’m leaking info here a bit, but I’ve brief in a 4 shoe pack that combines 2 trail shoes with 2 Originals inspired by Astrology. It’s a love of mine but also something I felt connects with our community’s constant pursuit of exploration, whether it be in the world, through various creative arts, and of course knowledge of self..
FP: While we have all been spending a lot more time indoors lately, we have all been missing our sneakers! A question we have liked asking lately is what would your go to footwear be for each of the below:
Working out – Endorphin Pro. People think new running shoe technology isn’t much different than previous versions, but not the case here. This shoe is truly like nothing else and an absolute beast.
Casual every day – The Jazz – forever a classic and looks good with everything.
Impressing someone – Grid Azura 2000, the design is as eye catching as it gets.
Staying at home – The Aya, if you’ve slept on it, they feel like slippers, in fact they feel lighter than some slippers, so comfy.
Travelling – Grid Web, I love that heel cushioning, but I cover having something unique that will stand out as well with any version of that shoe.
FP: Jason, thank you for your time speaking to us today! To close out can you just let us know what you are currently doing to keep active and inspired during these difficult times and what we can expect to see from Saucony throughout the rest of 2020 and into 2021?
JF: Thank you! And thanks to anyone reading, Foot Patrol has always been considered by me to be a legend in this industry so it’s an honor (Only in Soho Shadow 6000 Size 12 😉). As for these unprecedented times, I haven’t been as active as I would have liked to be physically but I’ve been incredibly active on the work front as I think we have a lot of good stuff in store. I need hockey rinks and movie theatres to open back up for me to keep myself busy otherwise, those are my sanctuaries. Other than that, I’m already a homebody and an introvert, I felt now was a good time to take it back to my upbringing where I soaked in movies and music in a different way, more intimately. I feel at various stages of my life, when I’ve connected deeper to those arts, it’s only set me up for years ahead to be able to do what I do with love.
As for what you can expect from Saucony – hopefully something that continues to make change and progress every single day. Especially in light of the awful injustices going on in our world, it’s forced us to take an even closer look into who we are, and what we do. Saucony is about it’s community and we want to do a better job of not just being a part of it, but being a leader. One thing you can look forward to that’s more tangible – the proper celebration and heroing of the brand’s most iconic shoe ever – the Jazz, with it’s 40th Anniversary coming in 2021. Thanks again for this opportunity, my love to all!
Thank you, Stay Safe!