Some people manage to weave their magic behind the scenes without any fanfare and it’s these kind of peeps that need to be recognised for their quiet determination. JB CLASSICS, generally thought of as being run solely by one man alone, is actually a collaborative effort with female artist, designer and shoemaker, Mdot. Not known for her willingness to hog the limelight, she instead lets her artistic vision speak for itself – the end result is a massive achievement in a culture that finds precious little elbow room for the ladies. Peep what goes down when two of the scene’s hardest working ladies get their hustle on and stick it to the man – just don’t call her the personal assistant.
ARTICLE REPRINTED FROM SNEAKER FREAKER ISSUE 11
Hey Mdot, what’s been cracking?
Everything is cracking, it’s been crazy. ‘Speed wobbles’ is the best way to describe my day-to-day. We’ve held steady pace for years and just really started the big push and we are feeling the ripple effect already. Things are growing, parts are moving and our decision to keep it independent for years is starting to feel more and more rewarding.
What do you think ladies want to see as far as footwear is concerned?
Simple, same great taste available in smaller sizes. As for females penetrating the footwear industry, we’ll see! I am awaiting the day for more ladies amongst my counterparts. Women have to take a lot of additional shit from the guys and are often labeled as over-opinionated or pushy on certain issues when they stand up for what they believe in. For the guys, that’s considered ambitious and part of the job.
Not many would recognise you as co-designer of JB Classics. Was it your intention to stay more behind the scenes?
As my day-to-day involvement grew, I was noticed in the shadows, I really don’t know how to describe it. It was just natural that people learned more about my involvement. The best part is when people don’t know what I do and treat me like someone’s personal assistant. I get to put them in check, when they have to deal with me to get something done. Basically, I am focused on creating an empire and not the fame, yet the recognition is nice from time to time.
How did you fall into designing sneakers?
Well, my early involvement with the brand was through marketing and sales. At the time I was attending university, studying interior architecture and furniture design. Since I was focused on product design/development, I engaged in some of the creative process and conceptual direction at first. Three collections ago, I had the opportunity to design a few styles from start to finish. Not having any formal training in footwear development only made it more interesting and allowed me to push the boundaries.
Will you be branching out into your own line anytime soon?
My contribution is now pretty heavy. I started with a few responsibilities; I invested more and more and eventually became partner. Since then, I have so much passion and belief built in it, it’s really the fuel that keeps me pushing. Basically, throwing the ball and catching it is what I do, I make sure things happen. With that said, the JB umbrella is something I have been a part of through all the twists and turns, and it’s my umbrella too! So branching out will definitely remain under the umbrella, yet stand alone on its own platform. A technical yet couture footwear line is where I plan on venturing next.
Talk us through the owl shoe, the SUB-40 Wimbley Nite Watch?
This design has a long story, it actually started off on the other end of the spectrum in terms of material choices. I sent out the design specs right after we confirmed the silhouette. Also, the graphic composition spawned off the fact that I run super-late nights, and one of our JB Classics Lab tag lines is ‘We’re watching you, watching them, watching us!’ So during my last visit to the factory, I had the chance to see them assemble this style during my stay. I noticed the shoe being stitched and I was like, ‘Yuck!’ It bummed me out, I had a vision that was not materializing the way I imagined it... We had scheduled to go to the material markets later that day, so still fresh in mind was this ugly shoe. I came across pony hair with laser etching, and it was the answer, plus it was purple. I returned to my hotel after dinner and started making notes and revisions with colorways and material choices. It was super cool to turn my original vision into something far beyond it!
You’ve said that ‘women have attitudes above and beyond and always have expressed it through their dress’. How does this apply to your thinking when developing lines for female shoes?
Simple, I create like I am dressing a complete look, all the details down to the accessories. Details and comfort are so important for me. I don’t follow fashion trends, yet I am drawn to high-fashion heritage brands. So bringing in different elements I have been exposed to, throughout the years, gives me that edge. Creating sneakers with premium raw materials found in many other industries, really trying to push the limits. Naturally I want to create what’s missing out there. Maybe, because women are drawn to change and to enhancing their looks.
Being a co-designer and combining the male and female points of view must mean that ideas clash. How do you compromise to create something you both believe in?
Ideas will clash in any creative platform. There’s really not much compromising here though, since we’re both super passionate people. If one strongly believes in something, we will let the other know! We definitely battle out our differences and always work well together in the end. Although, sometimes I say blue, and Jason says red, and we end up with purplish.
What’s your opinion on Nike finally collaborating with females like Claw Money? Does it spark any competition or envy for you?
It’s great that Nike is seeing the potential of involving the female artist and designers out there. Only more money for them, right, since females will drop serious dollars on them, just like their male counterparts. Maybe the more female designers they bring in, the better chance there’ll be one less bad ‘Made for Girls’ design put out. Companies should save their money and pay close attention to what the female audience wants! As for envy, not my style! Much props to Claw Money for expanding into other product lines like footwear. Plus, I don’t just design for JB Classics, so I don’t see how it would be competition.
Running a footwear brand and co-directing a vision is definitely a different league. Besides, I’m not looking to collaborate with Nike, I’d rather work with Porsche or a private label with Target, I’m always looking to crossover deep into other worlds!
It must be like a broken record to be asked ‘how do you cope in a male dominated environment’ right? Do you just roll your eyes?
I do roll my eyes, when I am reminded that dudes are still threatened when a female is among their counterparts. Recently, I was involved in a project, and one of the dudes, just hated that I could call out the shots and his counterparts respected my involvement. It’s just so pre-historic in my eyes.
Having said that, you are probably one of the few females out there designing footwear for both men and women, which is a massive coup for
you and the brand.
Thanks for the props! I do have an advantage. Like any female in my field, I have to keep it fresh and always think way outside-the-box to keep the edge. Male or female, I am a hustler, and give it all I got! The thing is, everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to learn, improve, and build up his or her skills. Yes, women tend to follow fashion a bit more, so they are exposed to more. Yet times are changing, I hear men are the new women!
Any advice for the ladies reading this that are wanting to pursue a career in footwear design?
Go for it! Women know shoes! Get some hands-on experience in the production process. Working closely with the factories advances you by light years. Oh yeah, stay hungry and treat everything like your first!
This article appeared in Issue 11 of Sneaker Freaker. Buy it here