In September 2018, Public School co-founder Dao-Yi Chow approached Mel Peralta, head of Foot Locker’s innovation incubator, Greenhouse, with an idea to bring together streetwear and sustainability — two worlds that have not had much interaction.
The concept, eventually named O-1, has taken the form of a new marketplace hosted on the Greenhouse app. It will release regular, exclusive products manufactured in a sustainable way from big names in sneakers and streetwear. In order to get access to the products, customers will have to participate in environmental causes, whether through attending environmental seminars or taking part in a beach clean-up.
“Before, streetwear was so niche that the brands didn’t feel like they needed to or could make a difference,” Chow said. “But streetwear is so huge now and so mainstream that more brands are deciding that they can and should be making this a focus.”
According to Peralta, the move is part of a larger transformation on Foot Locker’s part to more deeply embed itself in youth culture by creating programs that are about more than just selling a product. Foot Locker CMO Jed Berger has previously said that Greenhouse is “less about the cash register and more about youth cultural relevance.” It’s a necessary move for the company to maintain its audience while the sneaker and sneaker-adjacent worlds get bigger and more competitive.
While Chow created the idea and led the curation of the first few drops, which will also include a collection from Public School and Russell, it was Peralta’s team at Greenhouse that built the e-commerce infrastructure of the platform and will fulfill all the orders. Greenhouse also helped bring Adidas on board for the first drop, which will be limited to 400 pairs. The brand will release its new 4D Parley for the Oceans shoe this weekend. In order to get access to it, customers can help clean up a beach or participate in a fundraising run in Miami, share environmental educational material online or attend a panel on ocean plastic. Customers will have to register for events through the Greenhouse app, which is also how they will place their orders afterward.
Each product will have a specific set of actions customers will need to do to purchase it. But Chow said his plan for a “2.0” version of the platform will be a rolling system, where customers can support environmental causes to earn general-use credits which can then be used to unlock any product at any time. For example, a customer could participate in an event tied to one product release to earn credit, but not redeem those credits for that product, instead saving them for a later release.
“It also, hopefully, will change the way people relate to the product,” Chow said. “The old model of drops was: You find out about it, you share it with friends, you wait in line and, if you’re lucky, you get it. With this, you have to be active; you’re incentivized to do something related to the product. So you sort of have a new relationship with the product because you worked for it and you earned it.”
Working for access to products or rewards is a relatively untapped idea in fashion, with the closest comparison being the Global Citizens Festival, a music festival that lets customers earn points for rewards like tickets to concerts by participating in humanitarian causes. Greenhouse is promoting O-1 through its social channels, and it will be featured on the main page of the Greenhouse app.
Chow said that every product sold through O-1 will have to meet certain standards and criteria. Chow is specifically looking to partner with brands that have certifications from established environmental organizations like the Better Cotton Initiative or the 1% for the Planet initiative.
O-1 is the largest project undertaken by Greenhouse since it was launched in August 2018, both in terms of the resources used and the geographic scale, with O-1 activations planned in multiple states across the U.S. Peralta declined to offer exact figures but said that Foot Locker has provided generous resources both in building the infrastructure of the marketplace and in planning and staffing the activations that will accompany each drop.