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For streetwear fanatics, New York City has long been a cultural mecca. The thriving metropolis has born countless movements, labels, artists, designers, and boutiques that make up the social fabric of the style movement. One of the defining forces in the formation of this identity is undoubtedly Alife, the progressive brand that’s been operating in New York for more than 15 years. Recently, the label has teamed up with European sneaker giants Puma to create a limited run capsule collection. The brainchild of Alife’s Jesse Villanueva and Manny Sanchez, the range speaks to the twin heritage of two brands that are intrinsically tied to the DNA of street culture. We spoke with the designers about the impetus for the capsule collection.

Can you tell us about the founding of Alife? What was the initial vision for the brand?

Alife was founded in 1999, the concept was simple – the best of quality. The goal was to exceed expectations, to wow and amaze.

New York’s changed a lot since 1999, do you think the brand still best represents the street style of the Lower East Side?

New York has changed a lot and we’ve adapted with it. Gentrification and the Bloomberg administration has played a major role on ‘old New York’ fading away. But we’ve adapted, unlike our friends in Soho we don’t have the luxury of high traffic and have to continue to be creative.

What do you think of the current state of streetwear? It’s exploded exponentially, and you guys are some of the originals in the game.

We keep our heads down, often brands look at what other brands are doing. We don’t pay attention, We focus on what we like, what  we are passionate about and allow that to speak for us.

How did the collab with Puma come to be?

Our sales manager Ari Langsdorf actually, he called me and said the Puma crew want to meet with you guys. A week later we were meeting with the Puma team, Nuwoe Goteh and Yassine Saidi.

What was your design vision? How do you keep things fresh after 15 years in the industry?

The design and inspiration for the Puma project was simple; a celebration of the Alife shop and its 15 year history as a landmark in the Lower East Side.

New  york is a gritty city, no matter how much it changes. There will always be an “edge” to New York. Where Wall Street meets all streets. Yes apartment prices rise, but I think it’s crucial to New York that a car window is broken into, a pocket book snatched. We need the balance. New York is about art, culture, music, fashion, it’s important that the people that pursue those things aren’t pushed out due to inflated costs of living.

The Suede model in particular has a really worn in aesthetic, how did that design come about?

The Suede is classic, the iconic late ’80s sneaker, it alone signifies New York style.

What pulled you to the R698 silhouette? Tell us about the aesthetic of that model, it speaks to the Alife store right?

The R698 inspiration is pulled from the hand painted ESPO “Welcome” sign that has greeted customers at the shop over the last 15 years.

Is it important for you guys to balance respect for history, while still making sure that you’re progressing?

Progress and innovation are crucial. Each year a new generation is evolving and ensuring we continue to remain fresh and creative is absolutely at the core of our focus. We strive to push the envelope. We aim to introduce the culture to not only things that are obvious, but we want the Alife fan to desire to seek and learn. Some designs or projects we launch need to remain a mystery and be discovered. We don’t want the customer who only wants to buy what’s popular.

Where do you see streetwear moving in the next decade?

Streetwear isn’t going anywhere. Unlike ten years ago with the Rocawears, Phat Farms, Ecko’s, Streetwear is not one dimensional, it’s dynamic.  It’s skate one day, King Krule on Thursday, Drake on Friday and a Piet Parra exhibit on the weekend. It’s HBA perhaps and then Palace or Gosha Rubinsky. It’s Alife and Puma. Streetwear is the youth and it will only grow and become more dynamic over the next 10 years.

The Puma x Alife collab range is available now.