Patrizio Vita, co-founder and co-owner of the Milanese independent “sneaker culture” specialized store One Block Down, and consultant for the sneaker/streetwear area of the Brian&Barry Building San Babila store, knows how savvy sneaker consumers shop. “Brand and a product’s fame are driving our customer’s purchases,” he explains. “The emotion to buy vintage styles or rare models are guiding their decisions, not the price.” Despite its tiny size (18 sqm), the NY suburban playground atmosphere and the rich product selection makes anyone feel like on a different planet only inhabited by specialized sneaker connoisseurs. Interview by Maria Cristina Pavarini

What are the current bestsellers and why?
They are mostly innovative sneaker models such as Nike Flyknit, an incredible high-tech mix between light-weightiness and practicality. Also vintage basket models such as Nike Air Jordan have a strong appeal thanks to trendsetters wearing them now, but also thanks to memories of that mythic shoe we wanted so much when we were kids.

Do people buy according to their favorite brand, style, or impulse?
Our customers buy according to brands and to a product’s fame. We can consider ourselves lucky enough to have a significant part of our clientele being experts in the history and the characteristics of what we are offering. Though, also the emotional aspect pushes those clients passing our store that are fascinated by those models that were sold years ago.

How do get in touch with brands? How do you inform yourself about trends?
Companies collaborate with us in order to communicate through our offer. In fact we represent the top of the pyramid among trendsetting retailers. We learn about novelties through most different channels such as, for instance, music, trade shows and multimedia channels such as blogs.

Sneakers en masse at One Block Down
Sneakers en masse at One Block Down

How do you communicate
with your regular customers?

Communication with our clients happens also through most different channels such as, for instance, a weekly newsletter through which we inform them about our most special novelties and also through Instagram and Facebook where we post pictures and special features about our products.

How do you choose products to offer your most affectionate customers?
We mostly choose them according to their quality and the story behind them.

How do the collections you offer for next fall/winter look like?
Soccer will be influencing most collections. We are strongly focusing our research on teams’ uniforms and color combinations.

What are the most important trends, in general?
The trends we mostly follow are those tied to the history of a product. This way, we try to bring back sneakers to our customers’ attention that were successful on the track field and bring back to their mind how mythic athletes won prizes and championships.

Did you add any new labels to your assortment?
There are quite a few. New Balance – strictly the Made in USA or Made in England products because we want to show and offer handmade shoes that are only available in very limited quantities and which are of an excellent quality level only. When we added Asics and Onitsuka Tiger, for instance, we did it because we consider them glorious pioneers among sneakers. It is enough if we think that Nike was born by imitating Onitsuka Tiger.

Inside the small spaced store
Inside the small spaced store

How does your store differ from other stores?
It differentiates itself especially through the passion and culture that stands behind it, but also for the frankness of us working here. We make the difference by being ourselves first of all.

What do you like about your customers?
We like their passion and trust they give us when they follow our advice. Plus, we are the same age and share the same imagination and passions. Though, we also appreciate their fidelity that makes them choose us instead of multinational chain stores, which may, sometimes, make them pay higher prices.

How important is the interior, the atmosphere and the whole package?
Very important, if not the number one element for the decision of buying here or somewhere else. In fact, if there was no atmosphere we would not be able to communicate the passion that pushes us and helps us being excellent and not mediocre.

One Block Down
Corso XXII Marzo 12
I_20135 Milan

Tel. +39 02 89055065

Some history
One Block Down opened its doors in September 2009 from four shop assistants who had previously worked for another Milanese popular sneaker store, 5° Round (founded in 2005 and closed at the end of 2009) . “We four shared the same desire to work in the independent ‘sneaker culture’ panorama,” explains Patrizio Vita, co-founder and co-owner of this store, which name is inspired by some typical slang expression of the 1980s-1990s New York suburb as if one asked for indications such as “Where is the playground?” and the answer might have been: “It's one block down”.

All four partners have grown up while working for important sport brands, playing sports since their childhood. Then they basically fell in love with one product – Nike Air Jordan – and all admired Michael Jordan, all the NBA team players. The models they started looking for most then became Nike Maestro, Air Max, Flight Light, 180 Force, Penny, CB and similar ones.

“In 2009, when we founded this store, it was hard finding our favorite sneakers in Italy,” Vita explains. “For this we traveled to Barcelona, Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles and New York looking for rare product stocks to be sold in our store such as, for instance, exclusive color variants and special editions of Kobe and Jordan Nike models only sold in the US.

One Block Down is celebrating its 5th anniversary this year and is a most appreciated shopping location, because it is one of the very few independent sneaker stores of Italy. Its website – that will be completely restyled from mid May 2014 – is visited by both Italian and international sneaker addicts.