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.