Meet the Designer Giving Pre-Loved Nike Air Max Pluses New Life
Giving sneakers a new life is definitely no new phenomenon, but creatives in the space today are keeping it as fresh as ever. Among them is Kurdish, Berlin-based designer All Amin, the founder of HARAM. On a mission to create futuristic designs, Amin is driving the notion that fashion or design doesn’t have to ‘look eco’ to be sustainable. Taking her firsthand experience of over-consuming, Amin decided to use her creativity and vision to repurpose her personal belongings – like sneakers – including Swoosh silhouettes, models from the Big Cat and more. By creating one-off pieces that are unique and appealing to customers, she’s also raising awareness for a more sustainable and purposeful future.
When did you first start sneaker upcycling, and what made you get into this art form?
I started in early 2019 with my first sneaker upcycling pieces. In the beginning, I created hybrid sneaker heels just for fun and then focused on creating wearable sneaker clothing like corsages, tops, vests, bodysuits, headpieces, pants and skirts. Back then, I just wanted to rework leftovers from my own wardrobe and give them a new purpose because there were just too many unused clothes and shoes lying around in my closet, and I wanted to draw new inspiration from them without having to buy new things again. Especially the upcycling of sneakers was a real challenge for me, and that was exactly the attraction why I specialised in processing shoes because I had a lot of room for improvisation and innovation with this challenge. Since then, I’ve really enjoyed teaching myself how to use the material.
How would you describe HARAM to those who are just getting acquainted?
HARAM is an avant-garde fashion label from Berlin that specialises in sneaker upcycling with the goal of breaking the stereotype of sustainable fashion and bringing more visibility to the upcycling agenda. It doesn’t have to look eco to be sustainable, and HARAM constantly shows this through its range of futuristic designs. Our mission is to make sustainable fashion more appealing and aesthetic to the consumer. Let’s raise awareness for a more sustainable future and look fresh while doing it!
When you’re reworking items, where do you derive your inspiration from? Is there anything specific?
I’m only inspired by the structure and shape of the kicks I work with. The material guides me from the beginning to the end result. I never sketch anything or plan my designs. It’s about draping the materials together and trusting your intuition. It’s about trying something unusual that I hadn’t thought of before. I can’t start with a concept. It just breaks my creativity. I just trust that the process will always give me new ideas. Working without having to live up to constant expectations relieves you. And I think the pressure is mostly the little devil that gives us creative blocks.
What’s your personal relationship with sneakers?
My relationship with sneakers started with my first pair of sneakers, the Nike Air Max 90, when I was a teenager. Over the years at Foot Locker, I’ve spent almost all of my income on sneakers because I only had to pay 50 per cent of the price. I definitely used to be a consumer monster, and you can imagine how many sneakers I’ve collected over the years. But then, a change in my life happened as I researched more about fast fashion and how the fashion industry works. So I really wanted to change my consumption behaviour and take more responsibility for my choices in life. I was sitting on all these sneaker materials without wearing anything or couldn’t resell some, and some were just broken – I had to give them a new meaning in life before they ended up in the Global South as another piece of junk. Giving them the second life they deserve, moving on and raising awareness of the throwaway society in the West was important to me to contribute to the sustainability discussion. So my relationship has gone from an addiction to a more respectful one over the years.
What do you love the most about reimagining sneakers like the TN into quite feminine pieces like corsets and handbags?
I love the display of opportunities to find more space for feminine features, especially in the male-dominated sneaker landscape. I think it’s particularly great that there are finally styling pieces that you can easily give the otherwise sporty look a feminine and sexy look at the same time. Personally, I’ve always missed sneaker accessories to complete my look because I didn’t just want to wear the sneaker element on my feet. Almost like wearing a suit jacket with no suit pants, but you’re really into a tracksuit. Sometimes you just want to pull off a whole look! And now I think, with HARAM, that gap can be bridged.
What’s your favourite sneaker to rework, and why?
I prefer to work with Nike sneakers because their designs inspire me to work the most. I find the shape, structure and colour combinations of Nike the most exciting. I have my personal love for the TN models because the material is easy to work with, and the positioning of the Swoosh is also optimal for the transformation. Personally, I’m not a big fan of bold branding, and with the TN, the Swoosh is simply kept nice and subtle. However, I also really like the Shox, Vapormax, P-6000, Air Max 95, Cortez and Tailwind.
But what I find most interesting is finding commonalities in the structure and colour of different brands and mixing the brands together and making a brand symbiosis out of it. Such a design is a true HARAM piece for sneakerheads, which also lives up to its name.
To see more from HARAM, head here.