Collegium is a premium footwear label, founded by Nick Sisombath, created with the concept of bringing visibility to quality. Make sure to continue below for the complete interview in its entirety to learn more about Nick Sisombath and his role at Collegium.
Sisombath was raised by the footwear industry, working for large umbrella companies to learn design, sourcing, and manufacturing in his teenage years. He then wanted to learn more about the values and traditions of shoemaking, so he began interning with The Council of Fashion Designers of America Fashion Awards Finalists, like George Esquivel. It was then that his beliefs in footwear having a voice and having substance were refined. He continued to follow his passion to work with footwear by joining retail, learning about the needs of both the sneaker connoisseur and the general consumer firsthand.
After years of being forced to push shoes to consumers by advertising their quality, without actually believing in the quality himself, he had enough. He became more and more dissatisfied with the lack of visibility, and how brands vaguely labeled themselves as premium quality. He saw a huge need in footwear, so he decided to create his own label - one he could be proud to sell. Hear what Nick had to say himself in our interview below:
TH: First off, can we get a quick introduction for the people who may be unfamiliar? Name, age, occupation & hometown?
Nick: Nick Sisombath, 23, Campaign Manager by day/Collegium Creative Director by night/ Albuquerque, NM.
TH: Where are you currently based?
Nick: Initially LA, now operations in Orange County.
TH: How would you title yourself at Collegium? Owner? Founder? CEO? Designer? All of the above?
Nick: A guy that loves footwear. Wants to move culture in a different way. And makes small runs of his creations for those that share the same values in the depth of footwear.
TH: When, where, and how was Collegium founded?
Nick: My Sophomore year of College, 2013, I was 100% sure I was going to start Collegium. I sold my sneaker collection and other hyped up stuff, came out around $10k-$15k, got a small family loan for the rest, and took my first flight to Italy. Sneakers and basketball raised me, and it’s been a long journey. My family growing up didn’t have money, and economically priced generic sneakers were the best things I was going to be in. However, my parents did not skip out on showing me what quality sneakers were, so I learned early to appreciate “quality.” So when I was 6 years old I got my first brand name basketball shoe, The Reebok Answer VII’s for $84.99 (that was expensive back then), and the rest was history. From slanging “Pink Box SBs” in middle school to make money, to working at a local Finishline in high school to up my sneaker game, to interning for umbrella footwear companies to learn about the traditional footwear process, to getting CDFA mentors, to starting my own footwear label. A combination of passion, a decade worth or grueling retail life, to internships, to driving in the hills of Italy to see my first Collegium samples, I love it.
TH: You attended USC, correct? Did your college career have any impact or inspiration on Collegium?
Nick: Yes. As a first generation Asian American, school was mandatory, and I simply wanted to make my parents proud. They sacrificed so much for me to chase the “American Dream” they never got to. However, becoming a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or accountant wasn’t the dream I wanted to chase. But, what school did for me was created a solid foundation for me to own my own business. A foundation from academic knowledge and creative knowledge.
TH: You mention that your manufacturing takes place in Civitanova, Italy, under your story page on your website. How is it working with an international manufacturer?
Nick: It is not easy. Culture, communication, and distance. But if you want the best, then you do what you need to do.
TH: What is next for Collegium?
Nick: Collegium is a passion project for me. I don’t care to create the next iconic silhouette. I care about the iconic vision of redefining quality. I want something I can wear for years to come, with a story and substance in its materials. I want to bring back depth in the footwear industry. I want Collegium to move culture. I feel like we’ve come to a point where the consumer is left in the dark on what quality actually is. The words, “premium quality” are touted so much, it has become empty adjectives. I know quality may be a subjective subject, but I hope there is a small group of people out there that share my values. As a business major, you don’t go into the apparel space to make money; you do it because you love it. It’s an amazing thing to have something you created out there for other people to see and have for themselves. If I have to enslave myself to multiple corporate jobs to keep this thing alive, I will, because I love it (I already do that…). Oh, and a simple way to answer this… More silhouettes and more stories coming really soon.
Additionally, Collegium is releasing has debuted their first chelsea boot silhouette, named The Pillar Chelsea in Sand Suede, included in the Triumph release. Collegium's Triumph releases highlight master Artisan craft with special materials featuring water and age resistant Italian suede. The Pillar Zipped Boot will be available online February 25th at 12:00 PM (EST).