Some people are passionate about sneakers, while others love their cheese. Now, thanks to the creative minds of Milwaukee resident Noel Alvarado and the city of Milwaukee, you can celebrate both at once with cheese-inspired sneakers.
In collaboration with VISIT Milwaukee, Alvarado has released Cream City Kicks, limited edition sneakers that pay homage to the city of Milwaukee and Wisconsin’s heritage of cheesemaking. The hand-painted Nike Air Force 1's feature the Nike "swoosh" logo in a golden cheddar orange hue and hand-painted accents.
When VISIT Milwaukee was looking for a way to debut the city's tourism board's new booth at the IMAX trade show last fall, the team wanted to create a staff uniform that told the story of different sides of the city.
After brainstorming a theme, the team landed on playing on "We wanted to make them cheesy," recalls Claire Koenig, Communications Director for VISIT Milwaukee.
When Food Meets Fashion
The concept of food on your feet may seem strange initially, but it makes sense with the recent fashion trend of brands incorporating food into their designs. This includes everything from watermelon purses and beer-inspired outdoor wear to pizza-inspired apparel.
America's love of cheese is also reflected in our eating habits–daily cheese consumption has more than doubled over the past forty years, according to USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) data. Wisconsin is a leading cheese-producing state, producing over 600 varieties of cheese, and home to over 20% of dairy farms in the US. “We've got one of the only urban creameries in the country, and obviously we're in a state that has the world's best cheese,” recalled Koenig. “We thought, ‘why don't we just lean into it in a really playful way?’”
Local Artist Provides Wearable Taste of Place
VISIT Milwaukee teamed up with artist Noel Alvarado to create the custom design after connecting with him as part of their video series Good Things Brewing. Alvarado's love of sneakers spawned into a career with his work creating custom kicks worn by players for both Milwaukee professional sports teams, the Milwaukee Bucks and Milwaukee Brewers.
"When VISIT Milwaukee reached out to me for this opportunity, they came prepared with a few ideas in mind," says Alvarado. "I drew up some concepts on my iPad based on their ideas, and the cheese design just stood out."
Alvarado uses paint pens to create the designs on each shoe, making each pair unique.
"This all began in my basement as a hobby, and to now team up with an organization whose sole reason is to bring more people and a positive outlook to the city of Milwaukee as a whole; it is still hard to comprehend how big of an opportunity this truly is."
Paying Tribute to the Cream City
While Milwaukee is primarily known for its place in beer history and the home of Harley Davidson, the pale-colored buildings are another element that has made the city famous. Milwaukee's nickname, "The Cream City," comes from the widespread use of its limestone, dolomite, and clay, which was used to create buildings with smooth bricks that were supposedly reminiscent of cream after they had been cleaned.
The sneakers were a hit with the meeting planners and other attendees, paying tribute to the "Creamy City." While there is genuine pride in the state's place in cheesemaking and dairy farming, Koenig shares that this collaboration offers a different side "to pride of place. "It shows that Milwaukeans, in general, can have a really good sense of humor about themselves."
"I travel often, and there's no place like Milwaukee's food and fashion scene," said Alvarado. "We're in a season of growth and I truly believe in the coming years, Milwaukee will be a top travel destination when it comes to our fashion, things to do, places to see and foods to try!"
Custom Kicks for a Cause
After the IMAX trade show, many requests were received for where to buy a pair of these cheese-inspired sneakers. Offering them for sale as a limited edition, with a portion of the proceeds going to a worthy cause, was a way to give back to the community and support a working artist.
"We know Noel doesn't have a factory where he is cranking out shoes," says Koenig. "They are literally pieces of hand-painted works of art. It's amazing to see the amount of work that goes into each pair."
A portion of each sale will go to the Visit Milwaukee Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports the city's hospitality community by funding scholarships and training initiatives. "We want to help get a pipeline of students in there who can also learn that hospitality and tourism touches so many career paths that are actually way more creative than you think and can be great for growth," says Koenig.
Alvarado is thrilled to be able to team up with Visit Milwaukee for their foundation, which brings new eyes to the city and also funds scholarships and other initiatives that support and grow Milwaukee's hospitality community. "Being able to support such a great cause while also bringing attention to the city's fashion scene is an unbelievable opportunity," he says.
Cream City Kicks are available for purchase at $350 a pair and are hand-painted and made to order with a lead time of 3 to 6 weeks to complete. If you want your pair of these cheesy kicks, you can order them at the link on Alvarado’s website.
This article was produced by Slow Living Kitchen and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.