Student business gains celebrity attention

Ryan Mason’s Luxe Brand laces change the “look” of this pair of Air Jordan shoes. The laces are “the most effectively simple ways to take common to extraordinary,” said alumna and customer Jennifer Towne.

by Sports Editor Mike Ezekiel

Not many people can say celebrities like rap star Kevin Gates, NFL quarterback Jameis Winston and actor Cedric Pendleton use their product.

UNA senior and entrepreneur Ryan Mason can.

Mason, a business administration and entrepreneurship student, launched Luxe Brand about seven months ago, a company that makes luxury shoelaces using leather and other animal skins. Mason said the idea came from two things: A need for money and a passion for shoes.

“I had an old (Nike brand) Air Force 1, and I cut it apart with an X-Acto knife,” Mason said. “My brother was looking at me like I was crazy. I got bored and cut a few strips of leather and started thinking, ‘What could I do to make this shoe different?’

“I put one of the strips in front of the shoe and said, ‘What if the shoelaces were leather or had a nice skin?’ I did a month’s or two worth of research and found out no one had even done that before.”

Mason said making the laces took a lot of learning and experimenting, including taking trips to Tandy Leather in Hoover to learn how to produce the laces and use different manufacturing companies.

“I went to three different companies, and it wasn’t the quality I was looking for,” he said. “The fourth one was the right one. That was when I found out no one had ever done this before. They got the quality right and ‘ba-da-boom-ba-da-bang.’”

While working to launch Luxe Brand, Mason was a full-time student and a member of the football team. Mason gave up football to focus on growing his business project.

“If I’m going to do this and I’m going to start wrapping up sales, it’s going to be a lot for me to be a college student and also to be playing college football,” Mason said. “It would be a lot to do with the time I’m giving.”

Mason is approaching around 200 sales, with his laces starting at $30 per pair. Mason said he is in talks to get his product on another NFL star: Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.

“I am excited about it,” he said. “I’ve been getting a great attraction. The community has really helped out, and my family has really helped out.”

Mason does not limit his clientele to celebrities as students on campus are becoming interested in his products, he said.

“I set up (in the Guillot University Center) one day and sold 21 pairs,” he said.

One of his clients is a former teammate and friend from high school, senior Eli Williams. Mason always had a passion for entrepreneurship, Williams said.

“I remember back in high school, Ryan always said he was going to have his own business,” he said. “Midway through fall semester of our junior year (of college), he mentioned the idea of the laces.”

Williams said he was unsure how the laces would turn out, but bought a pair as soon as he saw the final product.

“I was expecting the first pair to be flawed, but I was wrong,” Williams said. “The quality on them was top-notch.”

As Mason continues to grow the product, specifically for athletes, former UNA teammates are taking notice, including senior Markeldon Washington.

“I think it’s the best idea he could have ever thought of,” said Washington. “I don’t think anyone could’ve topped that idea. I encourage everyone to go get their Luxe.”

Luxe Brand laces are unique because they revolutionize the entire look of the shoe, said alumna Jennifer Towne.

“It’s one of the most effectively simple ways to take common to extraordinary,” Towne said. “That’s why he’s been so successful.”

She said she remembers how fascinated people were with his product when it hit the market.

“He knows the market, and his vision is open and honest about what Luxe Brand is and where it’s going,” she said.

For more information, visit official_luxe on Instagram or luxe-brand.com.