As fashion’s preeminent pop culture shock-trooper, Jeremy Scott has been responsible for the most outrageously excessive sneakers ever designed. You might love them to death, others will hate them with a passion – but that’s probably the point. There is simply no way you can ignore the sheer bravado of Scott’s signature smash-up aesthetic. From Superman sequins, silky tassels and Flinstone’s bones to winged feet and fluoro snakeskin, Jeremy has always shot his load first and asked questions later. Anticipating an interview as OTT as his mad man-child image might suggest, we were as surprised as anyone to learn that Jeremy is a rather thoughtful, polite and modest character. Still, we did manage to get a few good ones in, as our man in Paris, Mr Jay Smith, talked plushies, furballs, fashion and fun.
Jeremy Scott, you’re truly an Original! What do you enjoy about being so outrageous?
Everything’s just really organic actually. I follow my inspiration. I follow my heart. It’s very genuine in that sense.
You’re more associated with high fashion than street culture and yet kids these days seem to swing from one to the other quite easily.
You know, I don’t think of it as two separate things. Like I was saying, it’s organic for me that there are things that I love, like tennis shoes and watches and pop culture. And then there’s elements of what I think I can bring that have never been there before, which maybe comes from fashion or a design side. And it’s the two elements coming together that inspires me.
Do you think that people take fashion too seriously?
Yes I do. It should be fun, it should be something that you play with. Fashion should be... frivolous. I guess the thing that’s hard for me to understand is why other people see fashion in that way, because I just don’t. I don’t think I see life in that way either. Even when really bad things happen, I can still kind of chuckle about it. It doesn’t mean it’s not serious. But I could still probably make a joke about it, you know? And have a little laugh, even though I’m upset. I just think of fashion as a church, where they kneel down and pray in front of a blouse. It’s not meant for that! I want my clothes to have a life. I want people to live in them and wear them and create memories in them, meet their boyfriend and then have pictures on Facebook, then going back and thinking ‘Oh, I was wearing that jacket,’ and that has so much more emotion instead of something that’s so precious you don’t even want to wear it!
Totally! So let’s get into sneakers. Are they part of the everyday life of Jeremy Scott? What is your link with the sneaker world like?
I love that I live in two different worlds. I have the sneakerhead boys that have this whole other culture and of course, I have my fashion people. And then there are the people that mix the two together. For me, it was just such an overwhelming joy when I was asked to do my first shoe with adidas. From that first shoe to go on to the Keith Haring adicolor one, and then when they proposed a continuing collaboration where I can develop footwear from scratch, it was really a dream come true.
I had a feeling you were a high top guy? How much of you is in your design?
I love and always wear high tops, as you can probably tell, because most of my designs are high tops. I’m constantly trying to think about things that I want to wear, what my friends would want to wear. And just trying to create something that’s new, that’s exciting. I’m overwhelmed with how passionate everyone’s response has been, which has made me feel really great, because it validates the belief I’ve had for a long time that people want exciting things. They want new things. They’re not afraid of it. They just need it to be accessible. High fashion is usually way too expensive or way too limited, or they’re like one-offs because you know, no one can really manufacture this stuff. I want people to have my clothes and wear them and I want to make memories that maybe in 10 years or 20 years, can be found again. And by that I mean a new cool kid like you in 20 years will say, ‘Oh my God, I want this!’ You know what I mean? I also feel like people need to have a little more fun with their footwear. I reckon that some of the things that people won’t do upstairs, they’ll do downstairs. Like the Teddy Bears. As crazy an idea as that was, and as crazy an image as it was, this is my best selling shoe today.
And it’s definitely not the easiest sneaker to wear!
It’s not, but it hit retail in February and it sold out almost everywhere, super fast.
I was wondering what adidas thought of it when you sent the design in...
Actually, the numbers come through first by the stores ordering it. Everyone took to it really well, surprisingly. And of course there was the great New Years Eve Lil’ Wayne debut, which made me very proud because I couldn’t think of a better person. He’s so supportive of my work and he’s always wearing my pieces, he’s so cool. To have him, of all people, wear the Teddy Bear was like... I couldn’t have imagined a better fit. It’s like ‘Okay, here he comes out of jail you know, the toughest, tattooed dude’ and then he’s got the Bears on. So that was a really big plus for me. I loved that. And I love this cover! (points to Sneaker Freaker Issue 20). I was so happy. It was the first time adidas was on the cover of Sneaker Freaker, all thanks to me! (laughs).
Enchanté! We had to put them on the cover! Would you consider yourself a sneaker freaker? When asking that, I can’t imagine you during the day, checking on sneaker blogs or...
No, to be honest I’m not. Sometimes I think, ‘Oh God, should I be doing this because now my stuff is so much part of that world.’ When things come up on any of the websites, I’ll see it because people will be Tweeting it to me. But I don’t really pay attention to... I don’t know, New Balance dropping some old shoe. It just doesn’t pertain to me and I think part of what’s great about my work is that it’s just in its own world.
That’s true. Just backtracking a little, we also wanted to ask about the adidas ‘Money’ Forum Mids you designed many years ago. The price is crazy for a pair of them nowadays.. did you know that?
I created that ‘Money’ jacquard, which was a silk fabric for my last show in Paris when I first lived there. There were two options I was working on, and the factory got confused and mixed it up, and as we were kind of running out of time, we decided to do the money print on a classic high top, and we picked the Forum because it could be handmade in Germany. I think there were 100 pairs and that’s why they’re so special. People have offered $7000 upward for them because I’m never making them again. I’d refuse to do it. I want to respect the people that have appreciated it so much and who have blessed that shoe with what it is. And frankly, a lot of people copied it in one way or another since then. So, I wouldn’t want to re-copy myself on that one. That was the first project, nearly 10 years ago. The next thing I did for production was the adicolor.
Your furry shoes, like the Teddy Bears and the Panda, makes me wonder... are you a plushie, or is it a plushophile?
I know what that is... plushie? Noooo I’m not! (laughs). That’s a very interesting point though, that you make. Do the plushies like it? That’s an interesting question.
I’ll check on the plushie forums.
Yes, you should see if plushies are writing about it. Well, they get dressed up as animals. They get in those costumes and go to ‘those’ plushie parties...
(AT THIS POINT, JEREMY’S PR LADY INTERVENES AND ASKS US TO STOP TALKING ABOUT PLUSHIES. AKA THOSE WHO LIKE TO HAVE SEX WITH STUFFED ANIMALS)
After doing the Mickey shoe and having such a cute little head on the tongue, I just kept thinking, ‘How do I do another shoe like that?’ I had been wanting to do faux fur, and it just kind of all collided and I thought... teddy bear! For my work in the past I’ve had teddy bears with machine guns and there’s been bears in my art. I mean everyone recognises a teddy bear. I tried to make it the most iconic teddy bear look that you could ever imagine. With the pick-me-up hands, it almost looks like a child’s toy.
Are you alone in the creative process or do you have a design team?
No, I design everything myself. I have no team for adidas and no team for my own – I mean, I have people that work with me – but no one that designs anything. So yes, it’s totally different than perhaps how other designers work.
So we get truly 100% of your personality?
Yes, and I think that’s what resonates with people and that’s why it is so unique. It’s not just simulated, it’s not watered down. It’s like... this is it! I touch everything and I go through every last detail. I mean, adidas can tell you, yesterday I realised there was a minute difference between a sample they had and the one I had. And I was thinking ‘What’s going on here?’ So I’m very, very active and in control of the whole process, from my ideas til the end product. To have it really end up the way I want it to be, I do need to have my hands on everything.
As seen in Sneaker Freaker Issue 21.