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 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.
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.
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.