Melbourne ‘sneakerhead’ shows off incredible sneaker collection

many pairs of limited-edition sneakers

Danny Baggs

Posted May 31, 2022

Exclusive sneakers are wildly popular in fashion-forward cities like Melbourne. KICKSTW founder Steven Wei’s sneaker collection featuring limited Air Jordan, Nike and Adidas models and more, is one of the best in Victoria and Australia.

In Melbourne’s Royal Arcade, one store stands out from the rest and underlines the city’s love with flashy footwear. It’s KICKSTW: a vast collection of hype sneakers, streetwear and accessories compiled by sneaker enthusiast Steven Wei and his business partner Chris. From a childhood spent longing after Air Jordans he couldn’t afford to founding an exclusive sneaker store full of shoes worth tens of thousands of dollars, Steven is making his mark on Melbourne.

Steven's incredible sneaker collection is truly a sight to behold.

The rise of sneaker culture and sneaker collecting

From Adidas Yeezys to Air Jordans, Nike Air Maxes and runner-inspired designs from New Balance, ‘hype’ sneakers are a booming industry – both for retailers and second-hand marketplaces. While sneakers have been part of pop culture ever since Converse released their Chuck Taylor canvas basketball sneakers in 1921, the 'sneakerhead' culture was truly born in the 1980s, when American basketball superstar Michael Jordan’s eponymous Air Jordan sneaker line was released at the same time as a surge in the popularity of the sport globally.  
With athleisure and streetwear attire becoming increasingly popular in the 2010s (and even appropriate to wear in more settings such as corporate workplaces) more celebrities, sports stars and even designer brands are entering the sneaker fray. In fact, collaborations between luxury designer brands such as Gucci, Christian Dior, Balenciaga and Louis Vuitton, and mainstream sports brands such as Adidas, Nike, Puma and New Balance, are fuelling surging interest in sneaker collecting beyond traditional youth demographics. 
As with the enduring draw of anything limited, hyped and nostalgic, sneaker collection has continued to boom in the pandemic years alongside other trends such as Pokémon cards and retro video games. Nowadays, Australia’s sneaker market is worth a whopping $2 billion annually, and sneaker collecting isn’t going anywhere. But because sneakers are often released in highly competitive scheduled drops, it can be hard for the average consumer to get their hands on a limited-edition pair of kicks that’s likely to appreciate in the years to come.


Steven wanted a pair of Nike Air Jordan 1 as a child.
KICKSTW features walls upon walls of exclusive and limited edition sneakers.
Hype sneakers are a booming industry.
The average consumer can find it hard to get their hands on exclusive sneakers without stores like KICKSTW.

From humble collector beginnings to sneaker empire

Enter sneaker enthusiasts like Steven. “I played basketball since I was young,” Steven said from the centre of his impressive store. “I always wanted a pair of [Air] Jordans but couldn’t afford it.”

When Steven moved to Melbourne from China at 19 years old, he put every single dollar he earned into shoes. Building a collection takes both time and funds, so Steven came up with a smart plan to find his way into the game. “Back then the idea was to buy two pairs or three pairs, sell those three pairs, and make the money to be able to fund a pair in my personal collection,” Steven explains.

Eventually Steven started earning enough to buy up entire sneaker collections from closeted collectors who wanted to cash out. In 2013, he started KICKSTW as an online-only business with his business partner Chris; and when Steven graduated from university, KICKSTW went brick-and-mortar.


Steven Wei in front of a wall of sneakers in his store KICKSTW

KICKSTW founder Steven Wei in front of a wall of sneakers in his store.

You’ll find a lot of ‘sneakerheads’ visiting KICKSTW Monday to Sunday, now located in Melbourne’s iconic Royal Arcade after two relocations. Sneaker collecting has a community feel to it: it’s a hobby full of passionate enthusiasts that know everything about their favourite sneaker lines.

Most of Steven’s personal collection isn’t displayed in store, however, like his most prized shoes: a model of Nike Air Jordan 1 x OHSU Doernbecher "What The" made for charity. “It’s limited to 17 pairs in the world, and I hold two pairs of those, with a market value of around $100,000 per pair,” Steven says. “In the beginning, the collection was really just about getting my hands on anything that I liked,” Stephen said. “Now...I rate quality over quality.” He’s not afraid of wearing some of his favourite sneakers, either: you can even spot Steven wearing a coveted pair of Nike Air Jordan 1 x Dior sneakers now worth $10,000 to $15,000 a pop.

Whether his customers view sneakers as luxury collectibles, fashion statements, status symbols or an alternative art form, Steven is happy to spend his working day enabling sneakerheads to get the shoes they want. He’s come a long way from longing after those Air Jordans as a young kid.

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