Last Thursday night, Packer Shoes held a special launch party event at Wallplay in New York City for the release of the Just Blaze x Packer Shoes Saucony Grid SD “Casino” collaboration. The sneaker, which marks the second collaboration between Just and Packer Shoes, pays homage to the vintage Polo “Casino” button down shirt and follows up the pair's successful Snow Beach collab from 2014.

Taking cues from the rare Polo "Casino" shirt, Just Blaze and the New Jersey retailer give the Saucony Grid SD a refreshing and vibrant touch. Educating the younger generation on the timeless shirt, the sneaker mimics the roulette print on the vintage Polo piece and adds roulette wheel logos and green synthetic suede to replicate the felt of a casino table. Along with the shoes, a matching tee, tote bag, bucket hat, playing cards and dice were released to complement the set.

While the shoes were released via a special pop-up shop in New York City on Friday, Oct. 16, Packer Shoes still has the sneaker up for grabs on their web store. During the special launch event of the shoe, XXL caught up with Just Blaze and Michael Packer to get the scoop on the collaboration. —Roger Krastz

Packer Shoes

XXL: What inspired the idea behind your second collaboration with Saucony and Packer Shoes?
Just Blaze: I mean, Packer, Saucony and I had a lot of success with the Snow Beach piece and we saw how it was flying off the shelves, so the Snow Beach piece did so well that we ended up wanting to do another collaboration and this time I wanted to dig a little deeper into the archives and do something different. The Snow Beach piece is iconic. Everybody knows it. Even if you’re not a Polo aficionado, you know that piece. The "Casino" is a little bit more underground. The true Polo heads know about it.

When did you start working on the sneaker?
We started this right after the Snow Beach collab, so it’s been about a year that we spent working on this sneaker.

What special features can sneakerheads expect on this collaboration?
All the materials from the roulette art. The "Casino" shirt is modeled after a roulette table. We did our best, like we did with the Snow Beach, to use authentic material. The same felt that you would feel on a roulette table is the same thing you feel on the green on the sneaker, you know what I mean? We wanted to replicate the experience and tell a story. With the Snow Beach release, we gave you the shoe, a t-shirt, key chain and some stickers; with this one it was further. We gave you the dice, the playing cards, we gave you the tote bag, the tee and the sneakers. We just telling more of a bit of a story with this one.

How was it for you to work with Michael Packer once again on this shoe release?
Working with Mike Packer was awesome. I’ve been shopping at Packer Shoes even before I met Mike, so to actually end up becoming business partners with him and then turn friends, it’s awesome. That’s my second family.

Tell me about the influence the Polo brand has had on your career.
Polo is an aspirational guy and I make aspirational music.

What can we expect from you music-wise coming out?
Just stay tuned and you’ll find out.

Last year's Snow Beach release show at Webster Hall. (Photo: Stephen Lau)

XXL: How did you end up linking up with Just Blaze for this collab? And why did you guys decide to theme this shoe after the Polo "Casino" piece?
Michael Packer: This has been the next one since Snow Beach. When we had the final sample of the Snow Beach, all I wanted to do was show it to Just Blaze and show it to Raekwon, because you look at those two people. that’s who everybody knows. And we were thinking about maybe having a release party with those guys involved—we have people in common with Just, a guy by the name of Mike—and Just was spinning one night and Just had been to the store eight years before but we never talked. So it was mogul Mondays and I went over there and when he was finished, it had to be around 1:30 a.m., I showed him the final sample of the Snow Beach and he bugged out. And it was like that thing when you know you validate yourself. And with all that, it was never something that we discussed. He’s like, “Listen, I just want to be down with what you guys are doing.” So I asked him if he was cool with DJing the Snow Beach event at Webster Hall, and all we wanted was that. But it grew into him posting it on Instagram and it all went and went and the blogs that picked it up were like, “Just Blaze x Packer Shoes collaboration.” Nobody was turning away from it at that point.

But Just is such a gentleman and after the success of that one—and when Rae came out and brought everybody out—we looked at each and realized there was something there. So we decided to do something together, where both our names are on the shoes, so when it comes to the Snow Beach that’s like everybody. For this shoe, we wanted to switch it up a little bit and do it with a model that really nobody is messing with now that Saucony is just bringing back, which is this silhouette, and we’re the second ones to do something on this sneaker globally. And then it's like, doing the "Casino" shirt, nobody thinks of Polo and thinks of the "Casino" shirt until they’re like, “Holy shit, I had that a long time ago.” And at the same time, thankfully everything all came together and if you take the "Casino" shirt and you just put that on a shoe, it’s going to look like a cartoon. So you have to try to get something together where it’s like reasonable and nice, where it’s giving still the flavor and the outlandishness of the shirt of that time. So we put it all together and we knew that when we’d put it out that not everyone was going to get it right away. A lot of young kids didn’t get it and thought the shoe was Las Vegas-themed, but then when you start to show everything behind it, it all makes sense. And thankfully that’s why it’s built the way it is now.

How long have you been working on this collaboration?
I mean, it took about nine months to a year. The idea took about 10 seconds because it just all clicked, but you gotta have good people behind you and Just Blaze has great people behind him. And Just has a mindset and thankfully over time I’ve had great people working for me and it all comes together, because you can’t pull anything together without a great team behind you.

Tell about the influence you think the Polo brand has had in hip-hop culture. 
I think it’s a two-sided question, because I think it’s the opposite a little. And look, when they put out the Snow Beach piece, when they put out the "Casino" piece, did they think that was going to be embraced by hip-hop? To be honest, no. But the one thing that people who know, they know and they’ll look at that shirt and whatever the style was back then, wether it was Polo or Tommy, it’s like a “Holy Shit” thing, right? It’s like you want to be different, so when you see guys like Just and you see guys like around Just and the real people around it, that’s what’s real. The streetwear industry is the same way. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for ALIFE and what they did, the streetwear industry wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for Tommy and Polo and everybody else around it, and they take inspiration from it which is cool, but you can’t take away from authenticity. So it’s cool as hell. But doing shit with the real, if it’s done right, is the best way to do things.

This marks the second collaboration with you and Just. Should we expect another one down the line?
I don’t know. That’s the beauty of the internet. Just follow us on Instagram to find out.

How is Packer Shoes wrapping up 2015?
Well, for the rest of 2015 we’re re-opening our store in Jersey City with the Yeezy release with adidas and then a lot more projects in the works that you should expect.