Feature: Mikhayel Tesfaye of Passport Collective Footwear

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Many brands of footwear we follow are based on some sort of lifestyle, whether it be the rich, the “sneakerhead”, or whatever else you can think of. Passport Collective footwear really has a lifestyle all its own. Created by Mikhayel Tesfaye, the Passport name is based off of his life travels (Mikhayel’s family immigrated from Ethiopia), and the travels will not stop anytime soon.

Passport has made a huge push into the footwear limelight over the past year or so, and expect to see the Passport name many times more in 2010. The products you’ll see from Passport are (as of right now) high-tops in leather, suede, patent leather, with tremendous stitching. Plus, there is some apparel and eyewear coming soon. Read on into this interview with Passport’s creator; Mikhayel Tesfaye.

Mike B: Passport has really popped up overnight, and the products look great; what is Passport going to do in 2010 that sets them apart from the other footwear companies?

Mikhayel: Actually I have been working on the brand about 18 months now, thanks man. In 2010 and beyond, Passport stands apart because it’s not just a shoe company; it’s a way of life. Each individual design tells a story, from the unique combination of fabrics to the blend of color the shoes have a character all their own. This year we will be expanding into several product categories including apparel, eyewear, and accessories.

Mike B: What is your inspiration to keep creating footwear?

Mikhayel: Honestly, I love the challenge of footwear, I come from an extensive apparel background but with shoes there are infinite fabric possibilities within one silhouette; it’s wild after time to see how many ways you can reinterpret a silhouette and even crazier to see people’s reactions.

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Mike B: Passport is a footwear company based off of culture and lifestyle, do you see Passport doing any collaborations in art, design, or fashion soon?

Mikhayel: I love doing projects with other creative minds, but right now I’m focused on building the brand’s equity; but I have designed a small capsule collection for Adidas basketball scheduled for release this February; stay tuned for that! The collection turned out great and the shoes are actually branded Passport by Mikhayel Tesfaye. It was great working with Jack Gray and his team over there! Pics of the collection are coming soon.

Mike B: What pushed you to start creating footwear?

Mikhayel: I created apparel for so long, but was a fan of footwear since I was like 14-15 years old; so I feel like it’s just a natural evolution.

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Mike B: What makes Passport different than the other brands that are on the come up this year?

Mikhayel: For me this brand is a representation of my life story, my family immigrated here from Ethiopia and I have been immersed in different cultures since I was a kid; that mixed with a love of fashion and years of experience has now brought this brand to life. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this brand is a new extension of my career of over a decade now, so even though the brand is new, I don’t consider it a “start-up”.
It’s kind of crazy, through my community of artists, celebrities, and my social network base on-line community of influencing people and fans have watched this brand grow over the last year from ground up; that’s been a great experience as well.

Mike B: Besides Passport, what other footwear company do you see making a big push this year?

Mikhayel: I love what Clae, Creative Recreation, and Gourmet are doing; the creatives from all of these brands are all good friends as well as guys that I “came-up” in the business with. To me they are the front runners of the next decade of footwear, each of them have had pivotal growth in their brands in the last couple of years to insure a major global position in the future.

Mike B: What is one product from Passport that we all should look out for this year?

Mikhayel: The glasses, I premiered them in the Keri Hilson video “Knock You Down”; it’s funny, I just made them for myself and people just took a liking to them. I got an order from Kanye (West) himself that day on set.

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Mike B: Tell us all something that everybody should know about the Passport company, and the people at Passport?

Mikhayel: We are a dedicated team of young; but seasoned professionals. I assembled the team myself everyone has a unique strength in our respective fields, so the combined effort makes for a great squad!

Roll Call of the Passport Team:
Mikhayel Tesfaye/ CEO/ Creative Director
Kevin “The Coach” Baker/ President/ Sales Director
Matt Zimbric/ Partner/ Sales Manager
Lou Lombard/ Partner/ Production Manager

Mike B: Lastly, off topic, what was the best holiday present you ever received?

Mikhayel: Hmmm, tough one. It would have to be some vintage Cartier sunglasses that I got myself a couple years ago!

I’d really like to thank Mikhayel for this in-depth interview, and I need everyone to head over to Passport’s website and check out all their great footwear. Passport is also up for purchase at Pick Your Shoes.

-Mike Bagnato