What does Fake Gucci, Cam’ron, & Sneakers Equal?

Gucci Sneaker Shirt GreyAs I was doing research for an upcoming project I discovered these kids Gucci sneaker shirts. First of all I think this is a pretty well executed design that could’ve actually been a part of the adult line. However, I didn’t just see the concept that it was created because it’s a fun graphic tee that resonates with kids. I saw how it’s really a testament to how much the sneaker/street culture influences mainstream fashion and pop culture.

Gucci ForcesBack in the early 2000′s custom kicks were huge. So many people were trying to get themselves a pair of Gucci Air Force One’s. While I don’t think Gucci has ever sold or authorized the selling of their custom monogram fabric, it didn’t stop the trend from spreading like crazy. Gucci probably spent a lot of time suing as many people as they could find using their logo, but I don’t remember them ever releasing a sneaker t-shirt or anything that would’ve capitalized on the hype during the height of the monogrammed fad. It’s interesting that they’ve jumped on the bandwagon and released a sneaker shirt now, when this new wave of sneaker obsession has surfaced as a major trend.

Nick Cannon - Love Don't Cost a Thing(that’s actually Fendi in this pic, but you get the point)

It’s interesting because when we think of the stars winning in the sneaker trend right now, Gucci doesn’t come to mind. They’re trying to get a slither of the sneaker pie today, but If they had stopped fighting the Gucci sneaker obsession of the early 2000s, (they weren’t the only ones as you can see with Fendi) they could have possibly been among the leaders of, not only the sneaker craze, but also the return of the 2000 era’s trends that have been flooding the street wear scene lately.

Camron SocksThese custom Cam’ron Nike Elite socks were easily selling for over $100 on Ebay after the RIF-LA drop back in May

How much smarter it would’ve been for Gucci to have seen the hype as a compliment back then and cashed in on it. Even better…. how dope would it have been if they had gotten Cam’ron as an official spokesperson for their first ever street wear inspired line. Could you imagine the kind of Cam’ron products that would’ve have been released back in 2003?

Godly Camron JerseyThis tribute to Killa-Cam sold out the first week it was released, but they’ve restocked on Godly’s site

Camron Gucci VisorIf Gucci had seen the possibilities in the streets obsession with them back then, perhaps the song wouldn’t have been called Versace. Maybe they would’ve been the go-to company for all throwback Cam’ron gear in 2013 when it became popular again. Maybe they would have us scouring Ebay for an overpriced Cam’ron X Gucci original that’s been sold out for months. Maybe all these smaller brands would be, once again, copying them and the fashion standard they set. If Gucci had been smart they’d be one of the leaders of the sneaker and 2000s throwback trend. However, they weren’t so smart and now they’re just making a lame (and late) attempt at jumping on the sneaker fueled bandwagon with a couple of tees in kids that will probably never catch on. It never be worn by adults let alone celebrities…. and most importantly it will never be worn by Killa Cam

So what does Fake Gucci, Cam’ron and Sneaker equal? It should’ve equaled a great marketing campaign and millions of dollars.

Get EL Sooner: The Facts

The Nike Design Community Logo

There seem to some questions and concerns amongst those within the sneaker community about my creation-of and approach to the Get EL Soon campaign, as well as what merits Emmanuelabor to be set aside from the rest of the many talented customizers. There are definitely other customizers whom are all deserving of recognition by the big wigs of this industry we love. There are many customizers who deserve a shot at what is presumably every customizers ultimate dream, working with, working for, and or collaborating with a major sneaker company. In this particular situation the company being referred to is the number one athletic shoe company in the world and the brand of choice for many sneaker connoisseurs and customizers, Nike. I did not and do not intend on taking away from any customizers chance at earning in place among the many Nike artist collaborators. It has been made very clear that I favor Emmanuelabor a customizer. Since I haven’t seem to have made it very clear as to why I would favor him to be hired by Nike, I will explain in much more detail:

When I discovered and began to research and study the art of customizing shoes it was back in 1999 or 2000 when Methamphibian had introduced the concept on the Nike Talk forums (I still have that print out). Back then the chosen method of getting paint to stick to leather involved formulas for mixtures and solutions made up of acrylic paint and acetone. When I say I researched the art, I searched out every single possible resource (from kinds of leather used to the ingredients in water based paint) I could find that I thought would contribute to this new art form that involved two things I loved, sneakers and shoes.

Fast forward a few years to about 2003 or so (I’m uncertain of the exact year) and the very first sign I got from EL that he was going to stand out from the rest was a pair of Detroit Tigers Air Force Ones. At a time when most customizers were all focusing on painting and unique color combinations he had somehow discovered a way to make his own patterns and put them on the shoe. Was his hand that steady? Had he actually painted little Detroit logos all over this shoe? That’s what we were all thinking at the time. We learned soon after that he had actually discovered how to create and apply customized fabric to sneakers.  Not knock off Gucci or LV fabric (which was the trend at the time), not fabric bought at a store, but his own designs on fabric. This new technique completely changed the way he and other customizers approached designs. While others used the technique, EL was continuing to create new ways to make, what was becoming ordinary in the custom world, extraordinary by continually evolving the possibilities of how this technique could be used and practically applied. He began to use actual photos to sneakers, paying homage to sports stars. He was even applying photos to the insoles to match the outer shoe.

One of the first pairs that I remember of this style was a pair dedicated to Kobe Bryant in metallic purple and yellow.

One of the things that stood out was how detailed EL’s designs became as you watched his skills evolve with each pair. He was one of the first customizers who paid close attention to the stitching on designs where stitching had been previously overlooked, which was mainly photo fabric shoes. It was astounding to me that this guy was actually taking the time to hand stitch onto each panel of fabric in order to replicate the original construction of the shoe. At the time I couldn’t imagine how much time and patience it took to do this, but it eventually became a necessity and a standard in customs.

I’m not saying that he invented each and every newly discovered technique that has helped to evolve the sneaker customizing game, because that would be a false statement. It wasn’t the actual techniques that took his designs to another level it’s the way he applied the techniques in new, creative, and often never-before-seen ways.  I mean, I wouldn’t have ever thought of using felt to represent a tennis ball for the Agassi Forces. One of the instances that stands out, for me, is a design that has been counterfeited numerous times. He had done a pair of Air Force Ones in the “UNDFTD” Jordan 4 & 5 color-way. That was nice enough, but he took what was becoming a custom normalcy, engraving designs onto sneakers, and created a Jordan Jumpman logo pattern. Each Jumpman was hand engraved onto the sneaker and I couldn’t believe the accuracy of each logo. At this time the majority of customizers were using the engraving technique to create animal prints like crocodile and alligator (yes there’s a difference).

Besides all of the above mentioned developments of Emmanuelabor’s custom skills, he has also shown great patience, skill, and creativity in designing his own hybrids. This began before Nike started the overkill of hybrid sneakers and the idea was actually cool and somewhat unique. The ones I remember the most vividly were the Air Junks, a combination of Dunks and the design of the Jordan 4’s, which hadn’t been done before him by a customizer, as far as I know.

Check out the purple tinted see through tongue

There’s too much to mention, but I can’t forget what I believe was the initial implementation of see through vinyl material on sneakers.  This had been only seen on the Espo Air Force 2’s and the Invisible Woman Air Force Ones at this time; both of which were official Nike releases. This, of course, soon became somewhat of a trend for official Nike released sneakers after the women’s purple/white/light blue Air Force Ones in 2006. I still have to list a few more on the Emmanuelabor list of custom/reconstructive breakthroughs, improvements and innovations:

The real magnetic swooshes on the Magneto Forces.

One of the first to take 3M reflective material and fabric to new heights by not being confined by the length and width of narrow material.

Using actual cassette tape film on the Cuban Linx – Purple Tape Forces.

Using real basketball leather material on the Undercrown Blazers and Hardwood Classic Forces. This material was also used in three different shades on what is probably one of EL’s most creative shoes to date, the Hardwood Classics Supreme Forces (featured in Sole Collector). These featured a real basketball net, hardwood print, and real basketball needles in place of shoelace aglets.

The Air Force One versions of the Gary Payton Air Zoom’s with perforated leather.

It was stated by someone within the sneaker community that Nike prefers to collaborate with artists that have a distinct style that runs consistently throughout their work. Actually, let me quote this correctly:

“EL does not have a singular style that defines his work and it would be extremely hard for Nike to collaborate with an artist that does not have a defined style that everyone would…. Because of the lack of this defining style Nike would find this collabo unprofitable.”

The reason lies within the constructive criticism above as to precisely why I believe Nike needs a designer like Emmanuelabor. I never stated that I believe Nike should hire or work with EL in the exact same way I’ve seen them collaborate with other artists. This almost implies that in order to work with Nike you must have a style that can be easily stuck onto a previously existing shoe while still being represented as an artist. That does not represent the abilities of EL at all. Confining oneself to a particular style can stifle the creativity and innovation that makes EL’s work what it is; which is flexible, completely original and continuously pushing the bar of craftsmanship, quality and improvement.

Yes, EL is a customizer, but I’m not representing EL as the preconceived, boxed-in, definition of what being a customizer has come to mean to the average person. I’m attempting to get Nike to take notice of a talent that is reminiscent of the kinds of artists that have made Nike what is today. I know some may still have further criticism in saying that EL isn’t an industrial designer, but there have been many sneakers created with and by artists who have never gone to a day of industrial design school. D’Wayne  Edwards, Jordan Brand designer, is one of those artists, not to mention the slew of musical artists, sports stars, charity projects and contests that have allowed the less experienced to participate in  the design of highly profitable sneakers.

This was written to one of the most famous Nike collaborators without a degree in industrial design, Kanye West, who created one of Nike most profitable designs of 2009 :

“…I was energized by your performance and inspired by your hard work, but the biggest compliment I can give out to anybody is that you have created something I have NEVER seen before. I gave it a name ‘PERFORMANCE DESIGNER’. Art is a worthy pursuit but I think ‘design’ is an even higher form of creativity. Design ‘fuses’ art and science, or art and problem solving, or art and usefulness, sometimes all the above in the same project. I’ve seen lots of really good musical artists and been around really crazy good design work, but I can’t think of anybody who has combined it to such a high degree as you.”

– Tinker Hatfield.

Tinker sporting the Air Yeezy’s, explaining their design

I don’t start, participate, or condone anything that I do not believe in. This isn’t a “fan letter” about EL to Nike. I wholeheartedly believe in the skills and abilities of Emmanuelabor as a “customizer”, a designer, and an artist and believe that the time and creativity he has dedicated to his craft qualifies him for such an honor as working with Nike.



My Favorite Customizer: EmmanueLabor

I did this interview a while back in 2009 and got caught up with school keeping me from having the time to do this post justice. I know I could have just thrown some pics up and let the interview speak for itself, but there are some thing that are worth more time, energy and detail. I feel that the respect I have for this individual and his work should show through in my attempt to show the significance of his hard work and efforts.

So I customize sneakers in my spare time. I dabbled in the business aspects of the art, but eventually came back to just doing customs when I felt inspired or someone had a special request. While I personally feel my abilities are up to par with any standards that deem a sneaker fit for display or wear, I have nothing on the customizer you’re about to hear from. I marvel at the work of this young man time and time again. He never ceases to amaze me, not just with the creativity, thought and detail that go into his work, but the actual execution of the concepts are something to write a book on (seriously). For those of us in the sneaker game who keep up with the latest happenings within the industry and the underground culture, it is a well-known fact that Methamphibian and SBTG pretty much created the custom game.  They, of course, went on to become world-renowned sneaker artists that are recognized and praised by the athletic shoe industries big names. Well, Emmauelabor is the Meth and SBGT of the next generation of sneaker customizers. To say that he changed the game would be an understatement. When DIY shoe reconstruction was just an experimental concept, he created a new game; causing customizers everywhere (including myself) to step up their game.

Tennis Ball Air Force Ones

How did you get started and how long have you been customizing sneakers?

I always personalized my shoes back when I was in high school, but I really didn’t take that next step, to actual customizing, till I saw Methamphibian make some Raygun AF1′s. I knew I had to do that! My fist couple pairs were terrible, but I still got a good reaction from people, and I was hooked. I think I got into it real heavy back in like 2001 or so.

What’s your favorite shoe that you’ve done to date?
Ah man…..that’s a tough one. That changes from month to month. I think I generally feel like my last pair is my favorite, but right now, I kinda feel like my Hardwood Classics with the pump needles on the laces is my favorite.

What made you decide to start reconstructing sneakers?
Well, I wanted to design shoes since I was like 12, so that’s part of it. There are things that you can do in reconstruction that you just can’t do with paint or gluing on fabrics. You can add different materials that you don’t normally see, that might not be glue-able. You might wanna do something different to the liner…you might want a different color or styled stitching. You can completely customize the shoe when you reconstruct it (aside from the midsole/sole). I’d also like to get back into creating my own upper silhouettes. Using a dunk or AF1 sole, but making the upper completely different.

About how much does a reconstructed shoe run?
It can get pricey…depending on how much work is needed, the cost of the base shoe, cost of materials…it could be anywhere from $350 on up. It sounds like a lot, but it’s worth it in the fact that you’re truly getting a hand crafted, unique shoe.

Since you’ve gotten to know the materials of shoes pretty well, what would you say the best quality shoe is out there; for customizing and wearing?
The vast majority of my work is done on AF1′s and Dunks, but it seems like some of the older(pre-2007) models are the best, or the “supreme” versions.

What are your holy grails and what is your favorite newer sneaker (released within the past 5 years)?

Holy Grails…I’d LOVE a pair of Rose Garden AF1′s or Stash Hi AF1′s I’ve been searching for the Gabriel Urist All Star Adidas that came out a few years ago too. As for my favorite shoe in the past 5 years…..do the Half Cents count lol? I know they’re hybrids, but I wore mine for a week and a half straight when I first got them.

Marty McFly Dunk Hi’s

What’s being overdone in the custom and traditional sneaker industries?

In traditional sneakers, I think there’s too much rehashing…whether it be a retro shoe, a certain element like safari or cement/elephant, or popular color ways used again and again. They find something that works and beat it into the ground. When I was coming up companies weren’t afraid to use wild colors, prints or patterns. Now they play it too safe for me. I understand it from a customizing standpoint, but if you have the means to make any shoe you want from scratch, I feel like the possibilities are endless and that the envelope should be pushed to the limits.
In custom sneakers, I feel like pandering to the masses is overdone. I mean I get it from a financial standpoint, you give people what they want, but how many Supreme-Tiffany-Paris-Unkle dunks can we see? Granted, it’s not as rampant as it has been in the past, but it’s still a lil too heavy for my liking.

Within the traditional sneaker industry, who is being the most creative and innovative and who needs to step up their game? The follow up to that question is do you think you could change a brand around with your designs and which brand would you choose?

hmm…I think I’d say Adidas. I really liked the A-Z campaign they had with letting all those stores make special make ups all at once, or the Superstar campaign they had a couple years back. I feel like they gave a lot of creative freedom and it worked out well in that a lot of interesting shoes came out of that.
I don’t know if I’d say I could change a brand around, but I feel like if I was given a chance to carry out some of the things I envision, that it would give a brand a boost. My brand of choice would be Nike only because that’s what I came up loving. They were the brand that made me love shoes in the late 80′s/early 90′s and inspired me to try to push boundaries. Adidas would be a VERY close second though.

What would you think if I started a campaign to get you hired by the sneaker company of choice? Would you allow me to?

They don’t even have to hire me…just lemme get a meeting lol! lemme bring in a portfolio or show some of the million ideas I have rattling around in my head at any given moment. I’d be all for any kind of help I could get. I just want a shot. The same way that SBTG, or Remix da Kickz, or Clark Kent got a shot…let me have a shot!

Do you plan on doing more than sneakers or perhaps more with sneakers, maybe fashion or mashed potato sculpting?

I used to sculpt mashed potatoes, but then I always ate my work and it got to be expensive and unhealthy.
I have ideas for clothing and accessories that I’d love to put into action, but shoe take up too much of my creative time. If I was able to have an actual company with employees etc. I’m sure I’d move forward on some of my other ideas.

Which celebrity whose been inspired to do a line of shoes, clothing, cologne ect. do you think is actually doing it right?

As far as shoes, I gotta say Kanye. I like that he didn’t take a pre-existing shoe and make some goofy colorway…he made a shoe to his specs. I gotta respect that. As for the rest of it (clothing, cologne, etc.), I gotta go with Diddy/Sean John. I don’t think HE’s the one designing the stuff, but I really like a lot of what comes out of that company. it’s all well made, and its hot. It’s nice looking stuff, without being tacky.

Would you be willing to take a picture of yourself in a pair of knock off Cazal’s for the Gazell Photo Album?

I don’t see why not (coming soon….).

Name one all white product you think everyone should have (doesn’t have to be a sneaker).

Toilet paper…. I think the rest is self-explanatory

And…. because all newer customizer’s feel like the veteran’s are keeping secrets; give one lesser known tip about customizing sneakers.
Don’t be afraid to take risks and fail. The best idea may come from experimenting and failing because you learn so much and it opens up other possibilities. Don’t follow the crowd. Why try to fit in when you can stand out?
And lastly, when hand painting, leave that tape alone! Learn to “stay in the lines”.It’ll improve your hand skill and prove useful later on down the line.

I was totally serious about starting the campaign to get EL hired by Nike. I’m working on it as we speak. Our goal for 2010 (one of them at least) is to get Emmanuelabor his first job with Nike….Expect the update on this shortly. If you feel He is a talented as I do drop a line here or email me and you can help to get this guy what he deserves.

Site: http://www.emmanuelabor.com

Myspace: http://www.myspace.com/emmanuelabor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/emmanuelabor