At long last, Athletic Propulsion Labs has landed in SoHo.
After a years-long search for just the right spot, the Los Angeles-based performance sneaker brand will be opening only its second retail store in New York City to the public on Thursday.
The space at 75 Prince Street is 3,800 square feet and located in one of the neighborhood’s most popular and highly trafficked locations.
“We looked for two and a half years,” said Adam Goldston, who created APL with his twin brother Ryan in 2009. “We looked at over 23 locations until we found this one. We needed scale and breadth to create something architecturally significant. When we walked in, we knew immediately that this was it.”
“We knew we wanted a flagship in SoHo,” his brother added. But unlike the L.A. store in The Grove where they had conceived a design before they found the space that opened in 2019, this time, they let the space dictate the design.
What they built is the “world of APL,” Ryan Goldston said, inspired by the City That Never Sleeps. “We created a dreamscape. We’ve aimed to convey New York’s intoxicating blend of heightened senses, questioning reality, and the thrill of fantasy. In addition to coming here to buy shoes, we also want you to come for the experience.”
Although they wouldn’t say how much they spent, it’s obvious that the brothers spared no expense in creating the store. As Adam Goldston said: “We’re 100 percent independent and have no investors, so we can do things we believe in. We pay a lot of attention to detail and have decided to do only a few things but do them the best we can.”
Case in point is the store they designed in partnership with London-based design firm Al-Jawad Pike and Tricarico Architects. The space is intended to evoke a sense of reflection by using light and scale. An arching curved perimeter wall is broken up by teardrop-shaped columns that reach to an illuminated ceiling and contrast with the roughly textured artisan-plastered walls.
To display the men’s, women’s and children’s shoes, custom-designed golden Viabuzzano “trophy boxes,” as Ryan Goldston said, were installed that feature a brushed finish intended to be a nod to the gold Audemars Piguet watches both brothers wear. The boxes are intended to create a gallery-like experience while customers browse the assortment.
The amphitheater-shaped retail space is anchored by a Roman travertine base that runs throughout, forming areas of seating, low walls and point-of-sale desks. Scattered throughout the space are cast boulder-shaped plinths with flat tops, lit from above to highlight the shoes displayed on them.
Ryan Goldston said the idea for the boulders came about after noticing how many large rocks were scattered around the city. “It felt very New York,” he said.
The front of the store boasts 80 feet of frontage and a streamlined entryway that opens into the street.
But the piece de resistance is at the rear of the store: five vanity rooms in rare natural onyx stones that Ryan Goldston searched the world to find. The stones, which range in color from peaceful blue and vibrant pink to a kaleidoscope-colored one in the center, come together in a point to draw people into one-of-a-kind fitting rooms that scream “Instagram moment.”
In front of the fitting rooms is a stadium seating area that is a nod to the brand’s basketball heritage. The brothers played basketball and football during college at the University of Southern California. Because they’re only six feet tall, they set out to create a shoe that would allow them to jump higher. They created the Concept 1 basketball shoe with an eight-spring Load ‘N Launch Technology that instantly increased vertical leap. The technology also drew the attention of the National Basketball Association, which banned its use for performance enhancing reasons.
Since then APL has introduced a wide range of other footwear in the luxury performance segment of the market that is carried at some of the top high-end retailers around the world including Nordstrom, Selfridges, Net-a-porter, Mr Porter, Lane Crawford, Harvey Nichols and others. The brothers were the first two members inducted into the CFDA from an athletic brand.
Since then, APL has branched out into new basketball shoes, the Superfuture and APL Concept X, as well as the TechLoom Dream, featuring a midsole with shock absorption. It also offers a variety of running shoes, all-terrain shoes and even slides.
In the store, some 200 pairs are on display of the 15 models they offer. And when new silhouettes are introduced, they will be added. “We’re going to introduce more silhouettes over the next two years than ever before,” Ryan Goldston said. “During COVID-19, we spent a long time working on our innovation pipeline. In the past, there were lots of colors in a few silhouettes, now there are more silhouettes and fewer colors.”
The top-selling model is the TechLoom Zipline, which retails for $320, followed by the McLaren sneaker at $450. The bulk of the offering sells for between $160 and $450, although the slides are less expensive.
APL has a global partnership with the Oracle Red Bull Racing team of Formula 1 and has also worked with McLaren as well as The Woolmark Co., Creatures of the Wind, the beauty brand Summer Fridays and others over the years.
The brothers have also become known for the large diamond-encrusted sports-inspired rings they both wear. “They were inspired by our sports careers,” Adam Goldston explained. When the brand was starting out, they traveled the world to show their shoes to retailers around the globe. So they created these Super Bowl-style rings that read “APL World’s Finest” that couldn’t be missed when they held up shoes.
“There are no real trophies for what we do, so this was our not-so-subtle marketing,” Adam Goldston said with a laugh.
It has apparently worked. APL has built a rabid following of fans seeking high-end performance sneakers with excellence in design.
The store carries only APL shoes, no other brands or categories, and there’s no videos or other distractions to interrupt the vibe the Goldstons have created. As they put it: “This space blurs the lines between dream and reality. The World of APL SoHo flagship stands as a testament to dreams materialized, where fantasy and reality intertwine seamlessly.”
There are no immediate plans to open other stores, they said, but that is expected to change in the future. “We always thought of retail as super-important to APL,” Adam Goldston said. “Our goal is to open in global gateway cities over the next five to seven years. We feel that’s the best way to expand the brand, by immersing you in the experience.”