Lemar & Dauley is a streetwear brand that sure are hard to pin down. With a past history of crazy colour and kinetic graphics, the guys are also heavily influenced by art, using Warhol’s Soup cans (ode to Pop Art), Haring’s Radiant Baby symbol and their own compact, often semantic slogans to good effect. With a past footwear colab with adidas already in the can, this time the boys have buttered up with a new project for DC, incorporating the lure of the beach and regatta sailing, mixed with their knowledge of fashion and revamped the Admiral collection for DC, making it one of the most visually daring releases for 2009. This is not one for the faint hearted…
This shoe is completely different from the Volcano DC release. You went from low-cut to super high-tops and completely toned down the colour palette. Do you think your core fans will understand what you did for this new concept?
Truthfully, we weren’t sure a year ago when we initially designed it. What we did know was that the climate would change. This was based on our intuition. We were beginning to become attracted to high quality goods. My partner Manhattan had just purchased this crazy leather/wool Ralph Lauren jacket and I purchased a Dior sweater. We were wearing Russian hats and I think it just influenced our direction. It’s often forgotten, but in the early stages of hip hop, this is what young black men were wearing in the inner city. All you have to do is look at Run DMC, Kool Mo Dee and even Heavy D and you’ll see it. This is the energy we were attempting to capture, but directly from our perspective and where we wanted to see the streetwear direction tap into. We knew if done correctly our audience would understand it and be appealing all at the same time.
When we look at this sneaker we think Jeremy Scott, Alexander McQueen and other high-end designer collaborations with sports brands. Was this what you were trying to convey with Admiral?
We love Jeremy Scott’s designs. What he has done with adidas is amazing! I’m not as familiar with Alexander McQueen, but I know women love his designs, and that is exactly what we aimed to achieve. Truthfully, streetwear can get very one-sided as far as the male to female ratio, and we were getting tired of this. We knew long before we flew to DC’s headquarters in San Diego that we were going to choose a shoe that allowed us the freedom to grow outside of streetwear and establish L&D as a youth leader in fashion. The goal was to set ourselves up for potential collabs with the Jeremy Scotts of the world.
You have footwear designers who are known for a signature element that are embedded in the shoe design. This is only the second time you’ve used the houndstooth. Will it be a trademark for all your sneakers going forward?
Actually, we used it on all three models, the DC Volcano, Admiral and the adidas Street Ball, but we had some last minute manufacturing problems with adidas on the Street Ball shoe, so it wasn’t seen. Regardless, the houndstooth is Lemar and Dauley and Lemar and Dauley is the houndstooth pattern. The pattern has been an L&D signifier of quality and maturity. We knew five years ago we would evolve in a manner similar to the Supremes and the Stussys. We’ve noticed a few brands were drawn to the pattern after we made it ok. Sad sad sad! As far as the future, I’m sure we will find brilliant ways to include it, but not always so blatant. We had to be more direct initially, because we had to defend it.
Did you have to present your ideas in round table meetings or were you given complete creative freedom?
We spoke with the big hommie, Hommy Diaz (no pun intended), before we designed it. He gave us full reign over the shoe, even down to remodeling the shoe to allow the houndstooth pattern to show through the clear gel sole.
Why did you decide to use Braille on the shoe?
Truthfully, that was just some last minute dope shit! But ultimately it did serve a purpose in concluding the design brief. I love Braille and I was like, ‘we gotta include it’. This particular Braille is called New York Braille, so it was perfect!
The Regatta and the houndstooth are two great British emblems, quite the contrast from Miami art deco and Venice beach, which are themes included in your shoe. Was there research done or were the elements used strictly based on aesthetics?
Purely aesthetics. I never even knew that! This is what we do. We are producers. We take what producers call ‘the sweet spot’ and we merge it with 808s, kicks and snares to create a ‘visual instrumental’. I love what I just said! That’s going on a shirt!
You stated that you went through a few changes during the development process. What was the initial plan?
The initial idea was similar, but less examined. It was gonna be a one color shoe based solely on the color of sand, but then we questioned ourselves. We wanted to examine the difference between a tan shoe and one presumably inspired by sand. The answer was ‘nothing really’, so we knew we needed to build on the story.
You emphasize that you want L&D to be an impact brand hence your use of pungent colors and slogans. But this design is more about sleek sophistication. Now that you’ve gone there, do you see yourself reverting again in the future?
It’s not reverting, when you build it as an addition. L&D is L&D. We have an audience that loves us and would hate to see us attempt to become another wannabe high-end brand with minimal, cheap looking clothes that are really expensive. We are purveyors of culture, so we act accordingly. We are designers in the greatest sense and in the following years we will expand on this mission.
Do you believe one would have to be a cultural connoisseur to understand the concept of this design?
Not at all! This shoe is built off of a universal understanding of ‘playing at the beach’. This is the ‘vacation’ shoe! We showed so many girls this design before we submitted it to DC. They loved it!
Maybe you guys are just wannabe beach bums?
Definitely! We are always talking about going to Australia and learning how to surf. Truthfully, we work hard just so we can be mad lazy! It’s the only way to be lazy guilt-free and without the poverty. We gotta get out there soon and hang with you guys. Ya’ll gotta show us around. Dem L&D Boys and the SF Crew. That’s the ‘Problems Down Under’ Squad. We might need to cook up a collab on this real soon!
Thanks to Kareem at L&D for sending us exclusive shots of his trip to DC Shoes.
Interview by Safra Ducreay
For more information and stockists of the DC x Lemar And Dauley collaboration, hit up DC Shoes now.