At first glance, Fuggit’s shoes appear like, well, sneakers. There is a pair of Yeezy Boost 700 wave runners complete with the distinctive orange and blue detailing, and Jordans 1s that boast Nike’s unmistakable swoosh. The difference here is that all of the footwear is crochet. Created by Rich Riley, Fuggit is a brand of handmade sneaker-slippers that riffs on those much-coveted styles. For extra comfort, all of them come with an internal layer of Sherpa and a sole similar to that of a Birkenstock. At a time when many of us are leaning into a stay-at-home wardrobe, Fuggit has become a destination for sneakerheads who want to be that little bit cozier.
A former teacher, Riley has a backstory that’s far from ordinary. His impulse to design was born out of a moment of loss, after a college friend was killed in a drug-related incident in 2013. “At his candlelight vigil, I was thinking that he lived his life with a lot of energy and his whole vibe was ‘fuck it,’ ” he says in reference to the brand’s name. A native of Maryland, he owes his crocheting skills to his Jamaican grandmother. “I see it as therapy,” says the designer who left his 9-to-5 to commit to the craft full-time the same year.
With a team of eight other craftspeople supporting his operation, Riley’s come a long way since launching as a one-man crochet band. Still, ironing out the initial kinks took some time. “The first sample took me three months to make and looked like a potato,” he says. “There was a lot of trial and error.” He also felt it imperative that the label address issues beyond fashion right from the start. “I always have been into researching consumerism and material violence and sneaker violence,” he says. “That was one thing that always bothered me, because being in that community of sneakerheads, and going to sneaker cons, it was never addressed.” Some of his first pairs, including the Air Jordan Concord 11s, have been the cause of sneaker-related violence. Fuggit’s socially conscious message has attracted numerous high-profile and stylish fans, including Erykah Badu. “She is the queen of that holistic aesthetic,” says Riley of the musician who has purchased several pairs, including an incarnation of the Nike Air Max. “She definitely represents the way we want to go with the look and vibe, that intersection of hip hop and social issues. It’s a look that is not so opulent and shiny, which makes it more wholesome. It has quality, love, and texture.”
More than anything, Riley is committed to building a sense of community with his brand. “We sometimes have crochet artists who don’t have money to buy the shoes but want to take on the challenge,” says Riley. It’s why the patterns for his designs are available to download on Etsy at the modest price of $10 a piece. As a nonprofit, every purchase from Fuggit is considered a donation, with a focus on helping families directly affected by sneaker violence. “Ultimately we want to be able to create products that promote arts and education,” he says. “In this way we can create peace in the communities that have helped to build up these big brands.”