Tuesday, June 25, 2013

RECAP of "Mache - Designing Customized Sneakers"

By Sarah Van Hove, communications intern
Not everyone has to like what I do, if everyone liked what I did, I’d be doing it wrong. It’s art, it’s expressing myself.
Mache at the Bata Shoe Museum

On May 30, Mache, sneaker head and sneaker customizer, came to the Bata Shoe Museum to talk about customizing sneakers for his clientele, including celebrities and athletes, like Kanye West and Kobe Bryant. His designs are some of the most sought-after in the business, which has led to his meteoric rise to the top of the custom design world.

Our lecture room was packed on Thursday May 30th. Mache spoke with a lot of passion and his audience listened attentively.

Mache has been always surrounded by art, even as a kid. His grandmother was an art teacher and she definitely passed on her passion and talent to her grandson.  All through high school, Mache played baseball and he ended up going to college on baseball scholarship. He majored in fine arts at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, New York.

I was always into art, I always loved my sneakers and I wanted to join the two things that I loved.

In the summer of 2004, Mache took matters into his own hands and decided to ‘correct’ some sneakers. He was fed up with the colors and designs of the current sneakers and decided to ‘paint’ his sneakers. And with a stroke of a brush his customizing business was born.
When Mache started, customizing sneakers wasn’t what it is today. It started with people taking Sharpies and writing names on their kicks. Back then, it was about people trying to stand out and be different, and that is still the case today. Customizing sneakers is art and a way of expressing yourself.
Today, you see NBA players rocking custom sneakers on the court, blogs are posting about customs and Instagram is full of sneaker pictures.

One of the first sneakers Mache customized were a pair of beat-up Air Max 90s. He took 8 shades of purple and threw that all over the shoes. Now, Mache cannot believe he showed those off, but back then you couldn’t tell him they weren’t the “dopest” shoes ever. And that’s really how it started, Mache started painting shoes for the fun of it.

In 2007, Sole Collector Magazine organized a contest for customizers, for the 25th anniversary of the Nike Air Force One. Mache entered the competition, really wanting to reflect his fine arts background in his design. The magazine loved it, put the shoes in the magazine and Mache, the brand, was born. This was the first time Mache got attention and recognition from a more respected crowd.

After that, Mache spent a lot of time building his craft, learning, figuring out what worked and what didn’t, doing a lot of trial and error. But he also discovered that you can only paint so many shoes and do the same thing.

You have to stay with the times, stay relevant and you have to push boundaries.
A selection of Mache's customs.

Mache always tries to build upon what he has done before and what other people have done. In the beginning of his customizing career, Mache was inspired by the work of other customizing artists, like Sabotage and Methamphibian.
And Mache will keep pushing the envelope, he’ll keep doing things that people haven’t done yet and he’ll keep taking risks. High risk, high reward. The risks are the things that keep the people going, that keep it interesting.

Around the time Mache started customizing sneakers, it was a subculture. Now, everyone is or can be a sneaker head, your grandmother, sister, neighbor, father, anyone! It is accepted now, and a lot of people are jumping on board with this fashion trend.

Having my shoe in a museum is awesome. It validates what I do, what the custom culture has done and what we’re doing.

Would you like to know more about Mache and his custom kicks? Follow him on Twitter and Instagram or go to www.machecustoms.com.

We have a lot more interesting talks and lectures coming up in our Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture series. Check out the Bata Shoe Museum website for more information or click here for our programming brochure!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Snapshot of Tuscany - Unconventional Portraits

By Sarah Van Hove, communications intern.

Between dressing and covering oneself up there is an abyss. Covering oneself up satisfies a need. Dressing means telling ones own story.
Matteo Brogi

Shoes have always been an important part of a person’s outfit, even though they are not always noticed by everyone.

Matteo Brogi, Italian photographer, decided to turn his camera on footwear and show what Italians are putting on their feet. He believes that shoes always represent the personality and the world we live in.

Through his photography, Brogi works on a type of unconventional portraiture that involves eliminating faces and concentrating on what may be seen as secondary details. These details are often important in understanding the psychology of the person in the picture.
The subjects of this series of portraits have been photographed in such a way that nothing but legs and shoes are visible in the foreground. The photos are taken in a home or work environment, conveying an impression of the contemporary Italian reality as seen from a different perspective.

Shoes have many meanings, they speak a profound language which is still partly unknown to us. Shoes represent an intimate component of your inner being, they reveal your secret personality, playing with the minds of the observer and the wearer.
Elio Fiorucci - Fashion designer

Shoes are a piece of my life story. My grandfather was a shoemaker. He had a small made-to-measure laboratory in Florence and in the 1960s started a factory for artisanal heels. When I was little I used to play with the leftover heels and dreamed of the divas who would wear them.
Lucia Cappelli - Librarian

Notwithstanding the aesthetic touch, I believe that shoes supply a code which allows people to decipher the wearer’s personality. Shoes can give a strong personal message.
Salvatore Madonna - Hotelier
Shoes follow every step I make. I need the right shoe for every stair I climb.
Alessia Bastiani - Businesswoman

Matteo describes his project as follows: “Unconventional Portraits is a serial project which, in the months I have worked on it, has acquired its own identity, one that I never imagined when I started. The work proceeded by extempore inspiration, by chance, by association of ideas; it has a point of departure (the world of footwear and Italy) but perhaps no point of arrival. I hope that everyone will find their own.”
We are very excited to host Matteo Brogi’s photo exhibit, from June 5 through September 2, 2013. Through his portraits you will be able to “meet” the students, dancers, architects, fashion designers, wine producers, celebrity butchers, perfume makers and carabinieri that represent Italian society from the knee down. 

Along with Unconventional Portraits, June will showcase a month long series of tastings, lectures and events celebrating Italian Heritage Month, a collaboration between the Bata Shoe Museum and the Italian Cultural Institute. For more information, please visit our website.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Traveling with The Roaring Twenties

by Ada Hopkins, Conservator

On May 20 Sarah Beam-Borg (BSM Asst. Curator/Exhibit Project Manager) and I flew to St. John’s, Newfoundland to install the exhibition The Roaring 20s: Heels, Hemlines and High Spirits at the provincial museum called The Rooms which sits on top of the hill overlooking the harbour. The Rooms, which opened in 2005, is a cultural facility featuring an archives, art gallery, and theatre as well as the museum.

Three crates of artifacts had been sent several weeks in advance and all the original wall panels were delivered by truck in April. When we arrived at The Rooms on Tuesday morning we were greeted by staff and given a quick tour of the museum, the storage areas and the conservation lab. It’s always exciting to go behind-the-scenes in other institutions and see what projects they are working on. The graphic panels and display cases were already installed in the gallery so we set to work immediately unpacking and checking condition reports for all the shoes and the Vuitton shoe trunk. Once we’d ascertained that everything had arrived in good condition it was time to place the shoes with their attendant labels.

Unpacking the Vuitton shoe trunk
Shoes for the Vuitton trunk display

There were several items of clothing from The Rooms’ collection that provided a nice addition to the BSM artifacts including 4 cloche and 2 beaded dresses. These were either made in Newfoundland or worn by a resident of the province. On the last day of set up, the lighting designer came in to adjust the light levels which protects the artifacts and helps establish the overall mood.

Vuitton trunk ready to be slid into the showcase
Sarah installing the shoes

It’s always interesting to see an exhibition travel to another institution. In this instance the gallery is slightly larger which gives the display cases an opportunity to ‘breathe’ creating an airier feel to the exhibition.
We concluded our trip to St. John’s with a boat tour that took us out of the harbour, through the ‘Narrows’ into the Atlantic Ocean and down the coast. Before returning to the dock we cruised into a little bay called Quidi Vidi. The following day we rented a car for a trip to Cape Spear, Petty Harbour, Signal Hill and a view of Quidi Vidi from the land!!

View of St. John's harbour and The Narrows from inside The Rooms
Cape Spear: the eastern most location in North America - Next stop Greenland!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Fun Facts About Sneakers!

By Sarah Van Hove, communications intern.

After a short hiatus, we are happy to be back with new and exciting posts that are “all about shoes”. Over the following weeks and months, you can expect interesting and fun facts about shoes, a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the museum, news about upcoming events and so much more!

This time, it’s all about the sneaker, the focus of our newest exhibition. Elizabeth Semmelhack is the Bata Shoe Museum’s Senior Curator and she is the perfect person to tell you everything you need to know about sneakers. 

So let's start things off with some curious and cool facts about sneakers!

Did you know …

… that the word “sneaker” comes from “sneaking around”? Because of the rubber soles you are able to walk around a lot quieter!

… that natural rubber or “caoutchouc” comes from the rubber tree?

… that high-heeled sneakers are nothing new? The first high-heeled sneaker was designed in 1925; there were deep concerns that women’s participation in athletics would detract from their femininity, so heels were added to reinforce their femininity.

… that the Nike Air Force I is one of the best-selling sneakers of all time and it was never advertised?

Collection of Nike Archives. Image © 2013 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada

… that Run-DMC was the first music group ever to get a contract with a sneaker brand? Their deal with adidas became a long-term success story.

… the rising nationalism in the 1930s democratized the sneaker?

… that Adi Dassler, the founder of adidas, took a huge risk when he offered his athletic shoes to Jesse Owens in 1936? At the height of Nazism, a German shoemaker making shoes for an African American athlete from a rival country was a very risky gesture.

… that the Nike Waffle Trainer was invented when Nike founder Bill Bowerman poured rubber into his wife’s waffle-maker?
Collection of Northampton Museums and Art Gallery. Image © 2013 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada

Intriguing, right? You can find out a lot more about sneakers and sneaker culture at the Bata Shoe Museum.

Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture is on display now till March 30, 2014 and a lot of interesting activities and lectures are still coming up. You can find all the information on our website www.batashoemuseum.ca.