A day in the life and exclusive advice — with Ari Lauren of Quw'utsun' Made.
Having lived everywhere from the high-rises of Vancouver to the deep deserts of Albuquerque; Arianna Lauren of Quw’utsun’ Made, has felt the hardships of being a sneakerhead in a place where her peers are few and far-between. The difference today, is that the global sneaker community has grown immensely through programs like the #NikeCraftWearTester initiative – which she’s proud to be a part of as she enters her fourth week of Phase 2.
For Ari, before having been selected as a Wear Tester, a day in the life might have included harvesting raw medicine materials, pouring and packing candles, or cruising whichever city she’s currently inhabiting on her way to the post office. Amazingly enough, her bustling business is a one-person-show.
Join us in getting to know Arianna and the ever-elusive #NikeCraftWearTester campaign below!
Before we get started, could you tell us about yourself, your business, and your relationship with sneakers?
"First off, my name is Arianna but everyone calls me Ari. I am the owner & founder of Quw’utsun’ Made (pronounced Kow-wut-zun), a contemporary Indigenous lifestyle & apothecary brand that combines ancestral knowledge with northwest native plant extracts. I hand make a variety of products that range from candles to skin care to custom made merch. I am one of a few Indigenous small businesses in my field and I certainly stand out amongst them by the way I dress and speak out on my social platforms.
My relationship with sneakers isn't much different than the average millennial. However, I was that kid growing up that did not have access to name brand apparel or footwear so when I started making my own money in high school, I would buy and sell shoes just so I could continue buying & selling more shoes. Nowadays, I love the thrill of a W but those are harder and harder to come by with how invested the newer generation is with buying to resell. I also don't buy shoes to sell anymore, everything comes straight out of the box and goes directly on foot. Shoes are meant to be worn."
The #NikeCraftWearTester program has quite a bit of mystery to it – can you tell us more about how it works? What’s being asked of you as a Phase 2 Tester?
"The #NikeCraftWearTester program DOES have mystery to it, I agree. I wouldn't have known how to apply if it hadn't been for some rad Instagram followers tipping me off. I did follow a girl in Berlin who wore for Phase 1 but I didn't know how she got the opportunity or what it really entailed. I was just enamored with her fit pics. From what I understand now, Tom Sachs & the Nike team put a callout via their website, SNKRS App, and Instagram for folks to submit a video on how they would wear Mars Yard 2.5’s “to death”.
I submitted my video just days before the deadline and made sure to theme mine after my culture and heritage so I would be interesting. Once I was chosen, Tom Sachs contacted me for my size and to let me know that I would be receiving a pair of shoes worn in Phase 1. Within the week my package arrived with a badge, tee, Ten Bullets notebook, and a pair of UNWORN Mars Yard’s. We (roughly 150 wear testers) were instructed to meet via Zoom every Monday morning to report & converse with Tom. We have challenges that he assigns and we go about them in our own unique way."
So, now that you’re a couple of weeks into the program – what does a day in the life look like for you? Has it changed your usual day-to-day?
"We are going into the 3 week shortly and I will say that this program has completely changed my routine. First off, every Monday we jump on the Zoom call I mentioned at 7am PST. So now I'm awake earlier than I usually am. In week 2 we were assigned a challenge, the 9th one since the wear testing program began. This challenge is called “Output Before Input”. Its a great challenge and it has potential to alter my morning routine forever. In a nutshell, we spend the first 5 minutes after waking up by NOT going on our phones and instead doing something creative.
I chose to set up a station on my bedside to draw a word in my native language. By the end of this program I should have at least 50 cards with illustrations. Other than that, I wear the shoes instead of my runners when I'm at the gym, riding my bike, or while I'm gardening. I've chosen to substitute whatever footwear I would normally wear for the Mars Yards and I log a few notes each day in my Ten Bullets journal. I do occasionally get stopped by fellow sneakerheads at the gym for them to ask me a few questions, that part is actually really funny."
Should we expect to see a Phase 3 soon?
"I could see Tom continuing the program but that hasn't been brought up or mentioned to any of us yet. I would hope so though. I really wish everyone could wear these sneakers for at least 1 day. They’re pretty comfortable and stylish in my opinion but I am super biased having worn them."
When, where and how did your road to becoming a #NikeCraftWearTester begin?
"As I mentioned earlier, I was recommended to apply by my homegirl on Instagram. She told me to make a minute long video and post it before the deadline which was coming up quickly at that point. I went into filming it after watching the requirements in Tom’s video and checking the hashtag on Insta. I really had no idea what I was doing until I was doing it. I did a quick little edit on my phone and posted. Friends and followers tried to help me out by excessively tagging Tom Sachs and I have no idea if that helped or not but eventually Tom saw my video. It wasn’t until he DM'd me that I knew my submission had even been counted."
What were you doing when the DM from Tom Sachs came through?
"Sleeping. I actually woke up to the DM and yelled OMG then closed Instagram. I honestly didn't believe it so I waited like 10 minutes before opening the app back up to re-read it. I don't think I ever typed a response DM so fast in my life."
You mentioned that your heritage was a distinctive part of your submission. Is it safe to say that your contribution to this initiative is a step forward in the fight for Indigenous representation in popular media? What can we do as your audience to support this movement?
"I mean, I really hope so. After the other wear-testers were posted live on their website I did see another Native guy was selected and that made my day. I think representation matters no matter what the project or work is. Indigenous people (or natives as I say) are human beings with just as much value as anyone else. We don't often get invited into spaces like this where we are not tokenized so this opportunity was refreshing and exciting.
We (natives) need more time & space offered to us so we don't always have to demand or fight for it. I think the path we are on as a society, right now, is really positive. I’ve seen more native faces on magazines, in movies, media, literature, now more than I ever did in my entire childhood. Representation really does matter."
What are some other things you hope to achieve through this program, and others like it?
"I just want to give a perspective that might have been otherwise excluded. I wanted to share what it was like as a native woman who loves sneakers for the culture & style but also for their purpose. In my submission video, I said I would wear the shoes until the death, while also giving them life. I want to be a part of conversations on sustainability and conservation- be a part of projects that impact the earth in a good way. It would be cool if I also maybe help others to see sneaker culture differently by re-evaluating their own relationship with shoes but who knows."
As a consumer and a small business owner, how do you balance your love for sneakers with your passion for traditional medicine and sustainability?
"To be frank, I refuse to pay resale on a shoe that's only worth maybe $130-$170. Don't get me wrong, I love shoes and some releases are instant “grails” but at the end of the day, I love what I do more. I have a few extra dollars to put back into my business or into my community as mutual-aid then I opt for the latter. I’ve let go of the idea of owning every pair that I fall in love with. That's unrealistic in today's sneaker economy. Also, no one needs 100 pairs of shoes, that is insane and not sustainable in any way. I say that out-loud so I can hold myself accountable."
Are there other Wear Testers you look to for inspiration as you navigate your working relationship with Nike and Tom Sachs?
"I’ve been actively engaging with the current cohort via social media and they’re all so dope. It took me a few days to find inspiration for the newest challenge but after seeing my peers post theirs, my idea manifested into something cooler than I would have come up with on my own. Some of the wear testers are taking this as seriously as a full time day job and others are more casual so I really appreciate seeing the range and finding my place amongst that."
Before we let you go, can you provide some words of wisdom for up-n-comers who hope to be included in programs like the #NikeCraftWearTester campaign?
"Be proactive. WearTest with us by becoming a “self-selected” WearTester. Tom has opened up the program to include those who choose to participate on their own. The challenges are shared publicly so anyone can join in. In the case that there is a phase 3, submit that video. Just do it, don't overthink it. Listen to the instructions carefully and be yourself. It's easy to stand out when you’re standing in your own lane and I believe everyone has something valuable to offer this unique experience. Also, I.W.F.B.O.M."
Thats a wrap! Head to @quwutsunmade to follow along with Ari's journey, and keep it locked to our socials for the latest!