Q+A: Mache Talks Collaborating with Kanye

Mache has put in work in the last decade to become the world’s best known custom sneaker designer. He’s worked with the biggest names in sports and entertainment. From Jordans to adidas to New Balance, too, the Poughkeepsie, NY native has become a staple in sneaker culture.

Mache just finished two very special pairs for two very special clients. He put his skills to use on adidas’ Superstar and Ultra Boost silhouettes.

For Kanye and North West.

For North, Mache kept it old school and painted the Superstar’s premium leather with a compass and pink detailing. For ‘Ye, he got a little more technical. The Primeknit on the Ultra Boost called for stamping the lettering on and chopping off two the three adidas stripes, so that the Pablo-esque lettering could have room to breathe. Hot damn.

We caught up with Mache to talk about the collab and working with the West family.

SLAM: Congrats on this recent project, working with Kanye and Chronicled at the same time.

Mache: It’s pretty cool. I’ve been talking to Chronicled for a little bit and they just handed me [the product], maybe, three weeks ago.

I had done something for Kanye 10 years ago. He has, obviously, a little more influence in sneaker culture now. It’s cool to see 10 years later, not just me chasing down Kanye but someone coming to me to [customize their sneakers.]

SLAM: What’d you work on for him 10 years ago?

Mache: I did a pair of Air Forces. The Graduation artwork. That was still when it was “Backpack Kanye.” It’s cool to see 10 years later not only how I’ve progressed, but his progression too.

SLAM: Now it’s 10 years later and you’re collaborating with Kanye again. What was the process like this time around?

Mache: This was all me. Pretty much they were like, ‘Hey, they wanna do something, do something dope for him.’ I picked an Ultra Boost mostly because if you don’t see him in his own stuff, he’s usually wearing Ultra Boost. I wanted to pick something that you’d likely see him wearing.

And with the colorway I went with the green and the orange because I want it to be something that’s wearable on the streets.

SLAM: These sneakers are about North’s birthday and Father’s Day. How’d you all pick that narrative?

Mache: They had come to me about doing something for Father’s Day and North’s birthday. They sent me the shoes and I did my thing. I thought it was cool to do the whole “North” and “West” play on her name. It’s subtle and I think it’s a little witty. I think they’ll appreciate it.

SLAM: Why do we as consumers need a narrative behind all of our sneakers? Every good pair of sneakers has a strong story behind it.

Mache: The market is so flooded that it’s the company’s job to figure out they can separate themselves from all the other ones. We’re a very impressionable society, no matter how much you wanna deny that. We’re influenced by what other people say, what other people are wearing. People are gonna buy what people they look up to have. In terms of the storytelling, every time Jordan comes out with a shoe, there’s a whole story going on there. Or adidas. That’s their way of saying this is why this is better than everyone else’s, this is why you should buy this shoe.

SLAM: Do you ever feel any pressure in telling those stories through sneakers when you’re working with Kanye or LeBron James or Dwyane Wade or all the other superstars you’ve worked with?

Mache: Yes and no. When I first started dealing with the more known clients, I think the pressure got a little more to me. You can get caught up in the aura or the exposure. At the end of the day, the best part of designing any of these shoes is just getting a genuine reaction from them, no matter who it is. From Joe Schmoe or Kanye or LeBron, whoever. That’s what I always go for. I’m always putting my best foot forward no matter what, no matter who it is.

SLAM: You mentioned Chronicled very briefly earlier. What’s your partnership with them?

Mache: They reached out to me. A friend of mine from adidas hooked me up with Ryan Orr (CEO). When you get a reference from someone you know, I’ll take it a little more seriously. Over the last couple of years, you get a lot of people that pitch products and wanna, you know, not ride the coattails, but… you’re a little more skeptical as to when you’re first starting out.

I went out to San Francisco and met all of them and saw what their technology’s all about. It was cool. It was something that made sense. It’s a legitimate field. It’s not a forced issue. It is very real, in terms of the sneakers. They also wanna go in to doing other items. Handbags, things like.

SLAM: The last time you spoke to SLAM, you mentioned that you and adidas were talking about doing a signature. Any movement on that?

Mache: We’re still talking, it’s in the pipeline. There’s been other things with other brands, which is cool. It’s crazy what happens since the last time we spoke. So I’m still talking about partnerships with adidas and New Balance and doing events with Jordan and Nike. Working on potentially doing something with ASICS next year.

It’s cool to see something that I did as a hobby has turned into something that’s so much more relevant and important to more mainstream. I still say to myself that I can’t believe this is what I do for a living.