Twin brothers Adam and Ryan Goldston launched their footwear company, Athletic Propulsion Labs (or APL), in 2009, from their dorm room at the University of Southern California. Both were competing on the school’s basketball and football teams at the time, and decided to run with the idea they had for performance-boosting athletic sneakers that were actually fashionable.
A year in, APL’s popularity skyrocketed: Its Concept 1 sneaker — featuring the brand’s signature Load ‘N Launch technology, which allows the wearer to jump higher — was banned by the NBA for “providing undue competitive advantage.” It was a first for a shoe.
Hundreds of headlines followed, causing the APL site to crash. The brothers enjoyed every minute of the hoopla.
“It was 100 percent positive,” said Ryan. “We own the company. We don’t have any outside investors. We didn’t have a big marketing budget. When one of the biggest sports agencies bans your shoes because they’re too good, you embrace it. It sent our business through the roof.”
By 2014, the fashion world was paying attention. Saks Fifth Avenue picked up APL’s men’s and women’s sneakers, then retailers around the world followed — Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Net-a-Porter and Le Bon Marché included. In 2015, Creatures of the Wind’s Shane Gabier and Christopher Peters featured its sneakers on their spring runway, and the next year, APL was inducted into the CFDA — another first for an athletic shoe brand. Today, style influencers including Olivia Palermo and the Kardashian-Jenner clan are regularly photographed in the brand’s color-fused styles, which sell for around $150.
Kendall Jenner in APL (image via allwomenstalk.com)
“Before we started, nobody was selling athletic product in luxury retailers,” said Adam. “The people shopping there were being underserved, and they were given a reason to shop elsewhere. That became our pitch to retailers. We were the first to do it, and it opened a lot of doors on the fashion side.”
Currently, the brand is in growth mode: In February, it launched a small collection of activewear (think: tees and hoodies for him, leggings and sports bras for her). In August, its shoes were picked up by Lululemon, reportedly driven by the retailer’s effort to compete with competitors like Bandier. It’s now sold in 23 locations.
Often found bouncing to and from meetings with retail executives around the globe, Adam and Ryan took the time to track a typical day, which included a day trip to Paris, a sneaker change and a “full-body workout” at 2:00 a.m. Here is how their day went, from Adam’s point-of-view.
6:51 a.m.: We’re staying on different floors of the Metropolitan by Como London. I wake up — by phone alarm — within minutes of Ryan, and both of us immediately check our phones to see what we missed in the four hours we were sleeping.
7:02 a.m.: Shower, brush, floss.
7:23 a.m.: We get dressed. We’ve developed a uniform that makes traveling and packing seamless, since we are always on the road. Today, it’s an APL Perfect Bomber, a grey T-shirt, a few signature gold chains and our Fatigue Cashmere TechLoom Pro sneakers for me, and a navy T-shirt, jeans, a gold APL ring and TechLoom Phantoms in White/Navy Melange for Ryan.
7:26 a.m.: We meet in my room to do a call with Cody, APL’s design director. Cody is the first line of communication to our factory, so we spend some time talking about the development of two new silhouettes we’re working on. We drop 30 or 40 new styles every quarter, mostly existing silhouettes in new colors and materials.
7:38 a.m.: We get into an Uber to go to Psycle on Mortimer Street, where we go every morning we’re in London to get a protein shake.We both order custom shakes with cold-brew coffee, almond butter, cacao nibs, double protein and ice.
8:01 a.m.: In another Uber to St. Pancras Station, where we get on the London-to-Paris Eurostar for a day of meetings.
9:58 a.m.: Sitting on the train in comfortable seats, which gives us time to do two things: respond to emails — we sell in most major countries around the world, so there is always an email coming in from somebody, somewhere — and sleep.
11:20 a.m.: We also go through APL’s social media accounts, which we run personally. You have to interact and listen. We are the first major global athletic brand that was started on the internet, and we have an incredible bond and understanding of our customer because we connect with them naturally and organically through social media and open-ended conversations.
APL’s women’s TechLoom Pro sneaker, in Blush
11:47 a.m.: We arrive at Gare Du Nord Station in Paris.
12:09 p.m.: Lunch at L’Avenue, our favorite spot in Paris. The spicy tuna tartar is unreal. We both get that (without avocado, for Ryan) and also the organic butterfly chicken with rice.
12:58 p.m.: We head to Le Bon Marché for a meeting with the women’s buying team to show them the collection for the upcoming season. We’ve been working with them for a little over a year. We do all of our sales meetings ourselves; we don’t have any sales reps, we don’t have any showrooms. We’ve always done it this way.
2:21 p.m.:We are off to our next meeting, with the Lane Crawford team. Their one of our longer retail relationships; they were our first account in Asia. This time, we’re showing both our men’s and women’s collections.
3:33 p.m.: The meeting is over, and we jump into an Uber headed for Gare Du Nord Station, to get back to London.
4:13 p.m.: We always catch the 4:13 train, as it gives us the chance to have one more meeting in London before the end of the day. We also catch up on emails from New York, as it is now mid-morning there.
5:39 p.m.: We arrive in London and make a quick stop back at our hotel to drop off our bags and jackets. We always stay within walking distance to Harrods.
7:14 p.m.: We stop by Harrods to check on the APL shop-in-shop and get feedback from the sales team. We have a great partnership with Harrods, and APL continues to be a top performer. We’ll have a new set-up in the store starting early next year.
7:39 p.m.: We sit down at Ca’puccino on the lower level of Harrods to get a shakerato without alcohol. This is a go-to for us; we try and make it happen every day.
8:21 p.m.: It’s now mid-day in Los Angeles, where APL’s headquarters are located. We have a ton of emails to catch up on, plus we need to plan out our schedule for the rest of the day (working in L.A. time) and respond to social media messages.
10:12 p.m.: Dinner at Nobu, which is on the second floor in our hotel. At dinner, we usually discuss the meetings we’ve had that day, focusing on which colorways and silhouettes stood out to the buyers.
10:33 p.m.: Food arrives. We both ordered new-style sashimi beef, spicy tuna crispy rice, yellowtail crispy rice, king crab, lobster and tuna tacos, plus a few personal favorites (a spicy tuna roll for Adam, new style sashimi salmon and spicy miso chips for Ryan).
11:47 p.m.: This is around the time that we start receiving emails from our development and manufacturing teams in China. (We like to say we work airport hours from Sunday to Sunday.) We head back upstairs to get to work.
1:54 a.m.: During a brief text exchange, we decide to meet in the gym. It doesn’t matter what day or time it is, we always find a way to work out. Usually, it’s late at night. Ryan puts on his Spearmint Techloom Phantom shoes, and I show up in the White/Cosmic Grey Techloom Phantom.
2:03 a.m.: Since the gym is not big, we do a full-body workout consisting of pull-ups, push-ups and isolated exercises, with one-minute sprints on the treadmill in between sets.
3:41 a.m.: We’re back in our rooms to shower, clean up, pack and check in for flight back to LA tomorrow.
4:04 a.m.: Enough time for an hour-long nap before we head to the airport.
5:07 a.m.: We head to Heathrow for our flight back to LA. We turn off our phones in-flight, as it is the only time we aren’t on email. We always sleep on the plane, as it makes transitioning time zones much smoother. This way, we can hit the ground running when we get back to Los Angeles.