Sneaker customisation is alive and kicking hard right now in all its forms. Helped along by the big brands and their product personaliation apps, it's never been easier to drizzle your creative juices over the top of the street icons of footwear. Don't be fooled though, there's more to truly innovative and creative sneaker customisation than a couple of mouse clicks, and two heavyweights of the sneaker art game have got together to present a very special collaboration to prove it. Not many know the ins-and-outs of one-off custom masterpieces more than Sekure D and SBTG – they are so good that even their custom sneaks have been faked numerous times. SNKR FRKR sat down with the lords of the craft while they were in Singapore recently, and they chatted about their customising careers and walked us through their new Air Jordan 3. Put down those brushes, drop the tape and check out the exclusive interview below.
So what have you guys been up to in Singapore?
SEKURE D: I was a guest at the Singapore Toy, Game and Comic Convention which was run over the weekend and was a super cool event to be a part of. After that I chose to stay on a few days and hang out with SBTG in his studio, paint shoes and quote Arnie and Randy Marsh all day long.
SBTG: Catching up, painting, impersonating Arnie - just hanging out mostly!
Sounds like a match made in heaven. So how did you guys actually meet?
SEKURE D: My dad lived in Singapore for a few years because of work and I used to visit quite a bit. I hit up SBTG on one of these trips roughly six years ago and we hung out. I actually added myself to his MSN Messenger so I could continue to bug him with questions when I got back home!
SBTG: Sekure hit me up as he was passing through Singapore about six to seven years ago, I invited him to my studio and we hung out. We became friends and kept in touch ever since.
So the secret's out – Sekure D, stalker turned sneakerstar! But on the real, when and why did you both start painting shoes?
SEKURE D: 2005 for me. I just wanted to make myself sneakers I never thought Nike or another brand would make – this is why my first ever custom was Sin City based. I never ever thought it would become my job.
SBTG: I started painting a little here and there in the late 90s and professionally in 2003.
Customising looks like a lot of work. Are you guys sick of painting shoes yet?
SEKURE D: Only when it’s a large run of customs, and that’s because it becomes more laborious than creative. Otherwise I don’t get sick of it at all.
SBTG: I was at one point. I took a two year break to reformulate and it seems that I'm back now with a new approach, so I'm excited. Thanks to Sekure, he pointed me to where the tide is heading towards.
That's some real Confucius type-shit, Sekure – word! Watching customisers going to town on a sneak reminds us of the work of a bomb technician – slow and meticulous. How do you keep it together when creating a masterpiece?
SEKURE D: I actually have to pace my breathing and slow my heart rate down before I can do any of my intricate and clean line-work. It takes me around thirty minutes to get to a point where I am comfortable and can minimise the shake in my hands.
SBTG: I always seek to let my feelings and instincts guide me through a piece and figure out how to get there with the skills I have attained over the years. It reminds me of cooking actually – it's different every time.
Spoken like true artists! But a lot has changed in the sneaker game since you both jumped off. How has sneaker customisation changed in the last 10 years for you?
SEKURE D: All you need now to be a customiser is Google! Kids don't realise that ten years ago there wasn’t a bunch of guides or sites dedicated to honing your skills, nor was there a hell of a lot of products available to use. These things are around now because of guys that have been doing this a long time. Back when we started there was probably only thirty guys doing their thing and posting their work online – now there are thousands.
SBTG: For me it started with the need to fill what I felt was missing out there in sneakers. From creating collectable art pieces, to providing a service to others, right down to teaching people and sharing how to do all I have done.
Some of Sekure D's work...
The landscapes and markets have definitely changed, but to what extent has the internet changed the way you go about your designs?
SEKURE D: It has had no effect on me at all. I don't make Hypebeast customs or rehash popular designs. I continue to do work I like using my creativity and patterns regardless of how popular a Tiffany Jordan VI is or something similar to that effect.
There has been a recent trend towards cutting shoes up and replacing the original materials with those of the exotic variety. Are you contemplating moving with the trend?
SEKURE D: No. That's not for me. I respect the craftsmanship but I am sticking to my brushes.
SBTG: As a kid, I grew up skateboarding and listening to punk music, so rebelling from trends has become second nature. Sometimes I would miss out entirely on what's popular at that moment, but I have learned to focus and find my own niche. I sit and watch sometimes, there is lots of impressive work out there!
You’ve also both been faked many, many times – imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? But who has the record right now?
SEKURE D: Definitely SBTG! I think he would have to be at 50+ pairs faked, while I think I am around twenty or so styles faked. I actually take a pair of my fakes to talks I give. It's funny as I only actually made one pair of that particular shoe that was faked and I still own it – kids usually get a kick out of seeing the comparison. For the record, it's not great!
SBTG: LOL! I don't keep track. I remember buying a fake pair of my SBs in China. It was a better grade version so I paid around US$50, just for kicks! I also got a terrible version of my Bearbrick at a night market in Taiwan once. I was with friends and they bought it for me.
Some of SBTG's work...
OK, so tell us about the colab shoes. Why did it take so long for you both to join forces on a project?
SEKURE D: Collaborations that are forced or rushed often look that way, we knew it would come about in due time. Mark has been having a bit of a break from custom sneakers so there was no point pushing it. Once my trip to come to Singapore was booked, we were both really excited to figure out a design and it was smooth sailing from there.
SBTG: To be honest, it's very hard for me to work on something with another artist. I mean the basis of customising work is essentially to take control and achieve very specific things and to portray specific impressions. I don't believe in doing anything just for the sake of it. I admit it took a little longer than it should, but I’m assuring you that this has got to be the smoothest colab I have done in my history. I would say that we are both in a state of mind that allows this to happen right now. I'm happy.
Why the AJ3? Did you get them in a sale bin or something? [Laughs] How did you settle on the concept for the project?
SEKURE D: It was important for us both to represent our own styles equally. We use very different themes and colour palettes, so that was a large hurdle we had to overcome. We created a colour palette that actually matched us both and from there we used two of our most recognisable prints to bring it all together. It was surprisingly natural to do, I feel like we actually created a number of great colourways but settled on this one.
SBTG: It all happened in a few back-and-forths on Facebook and from there we were all set. Sekure started on the shoes and brought them to Singapore for me to add my part and finish them together. When I first saw them, I was so impressed with his work and it got me super excited to finish this out strong.
In the sneaker game it's all about exclusivity. Why did you decide on six pairs of the same design, rather than 6 separate designs?
SEKURE D: Size runs are something that both SBTG and I are pretty experienced with. It makes the most sense. We give people more of an opportunity to be involved in what we have created this way.
SBTG: Many factors. For me, six is a good amount to do my best work and not get too sick of it. Plus it’s only our first one, so we decided to take it easy and plan more for the next instalment.
Are we destined to see more joint ventures?
SEKURE D: Hell yeah!
SBTG: For Sure!
For those looking to try their luck at coppin' a pair, all six pairs will go live September 19 via the SBTG web-store. For all those playing at home, that's 10am Friday in Singapore, 12pm Friday in Melbourne and 10pm Thursday in NYC. Happy hunting ya'll.