Former educator turned entrepreneur opens sneaker and art boutique on Black Wall Street to unite sneakerheads and creatives | Latest titles
By Kendrick Marshall World of Tulsa
The first pair of sneakers that Venita Cooper fell in love with were the original Nike Air Swoopes.
Released in 1997, they were the signature shoe of Basketball Hall of Famer Sheryl Swoopes. She was often considered the Michael Jordan of women’s hoops during her college and WNBA career.
“I was so proud of myself in those sneakers,” Cooper said.
Cooper, who grew up in Lawton, always found sneakers and fashion a way of self-expression. A pair of Air Jordan 1s or Adidas Yeezy Boost 350s, shaped by rapper Kanye West, can be used to connect with others and break down barriers, she said.
“I’ve been in sneakers since middle school,” Cooper said. “Middle school kids often struggle with their identity or who they are and where their community is. Sneakers were a way for me to connect with people.
The sneakerhead is set to share her love of footwear and apparel with a soft opening of Silhouette & Art Sneakers, 10 N. Greenwood Ave., during the Tulsa Art District’s First Friday Art Crawl. Doors will open to the public at 6 p.m.
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Silhouette Sneakers & Art is meant to be a highly curated retail experience that features limited, authentic sneakers and streetwear from brands like Nike, Adidas, and Supreme, as well as apparel from Tulsa designers like Greenwood Avenue.
As well as showcasing footwear and apparel, the venture will house an art gallery that houses a selection of street-inspired works from local designers.
The Black Moon Collectivea local group of black artists, will open the gallery on Friday with sneaker-themed artwork.
One might get the impression that Tulsa, especially the Greenwood district, is not a hotbed for sneakerheads or fashion culture. Cooper, however, thinks such a space can thrive in the city.
And since the sneaker aftermarket is a $6 billion global industry, Silhouette in Tulsa seems like a place — based on the “pockets of sneakerheads” Cooper observed throughout the region — that has great upside potential. and continued growth.
“Part of my reason for wanting to start Silhouette is to have a place where people can have that community in a way that I never could,” she said. “Tulsa is a great place for entrepreneurs. I don’t know if I could go to LA and start this business and have the same level of momentum and the same level of resources and support.
Also not lost on Cooper, a woman of color, is the significance of her current boutique location. It’s in the heart of iconic Black Wall Street. Right outside the store door is a historic Grier shoe store landmark, one of 300 businesses that once lined Black Wall Street in its heyday.
Cooper, a former educator who recently decided to venture into a sneaker shop, said she’s been given a crash course in Greenwood’s history since arriving, including the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and its impact long term on the inhabitants of the district.
“It means a lot to me to be able to open this business in Greenwood,” she said. “I think it means a lot to people who care about Greenwood and who stand up for Greenwood to see more businesses run by people of color in the area. This is a special honor for me and I feel like there was a fortune at stake for this to happen.
Cooper says she ultimately wants the company to provide a platform for creators and artists to showcase their talents while bringing people together to engage in a comfortable and welcoming space.
“I think what a partnership between retail (businesses) and the community can look like,” she said. “I’m a big believer in Tulsa. Maybe people seeing me here in a place like Greenwood hopefully helps give people the confidence to know what they are capable of.