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.