Interview: In the Studio with Mad Sneaker Scientist Joshua Vides
Safety goggles on! Joshua Vides and Converse are teaming up once again for an explosive third collaboration, this time appropriately dubbed 'Made in Studio'. Radically overhauling the Chuck 70, Weapon CX and Pro Leather, the Los Angeles artist is paying homage to the DIY craftsmanship and creativity powering the sneaker industry today, the apparel and footwear collections to arrive this week. To celebrate the launch, we linked up with the multi-hyphenate designer to break down his chaotic creative process.
First things first, talk us through the inspiration behind the collaboration.
First and foremost, this is my third time working with Converse for a project. We’ve kept this DIY artistry, studio vibe that runs throughout the three collections we’ve released. It’s just changed every time. For the first collaboration in 2019, we basically created a fully-velcro sneaker, so you could take off the uppers and rock the Velcro, or you could draw on the panels and switch-out the colours. The project was an ode to not only doing it yourself, but also my idea of Converse more broadly.
Growing up in Rialto, there were 10 different types of kids. You had the break-dancers that wore fat laces. The cholo who put an extra tongue or sock under the tongue of their shoes. And there were the punks that had the studs and writing on their shoes. Seeing everybody customising their sneakers at an early age is tied to every project we’ve done.
There’s also just this madness of being a creative. That’s the story behind the video we made where I’m a mad scientist with crazy hair and thunder bolts. At the end of the day, it was important for me not only to have fun, but to design something completely unexpected. I think everybody was expecting this white and black Chuck Taylor painted and very graphically-driven. Instead we went this route, which is a lot more fun.
There's three models in the collection, can you delve into each and the design process behind them?
Let’s start with the Chuck 70. The collection is titled ‘Made in Studio’, so I wanted it to seem like a regular Chuck had landed in my studio and I used all the materials I had lying around to create this mad-looking sneaker. Then I put it in a box and ship it to your house. With that concept, we were trying only to use materials that are surrounding me on a daily basis. If you look at the sole, you’ll see that I used a clear design, but we input graphics like screws and screwdrivers to make it look like some of my tools were potentially lost during the process.
Then we added a cone logo to the outer soles. It’s hugged with this Tyvek zip shroud, which is supposed to act as a paint suit – something that protects you. You can also customise it, cut through it or paint on it. If you don’t like what you did, you can cut it off and you’re left with an OG Chuck. If you just want a polka dot Chuck 70, you can just cut off the shroud and do it.
In terms of the Weapon, it’s obviously this OG silhouette that I wanted to keep the look of. I tinted the sole to form a yellow, vintage vibe as if it was pulled from the 1980s. We cut out some panels as I thought it would be fun to pay homage to some of the past sneakers that we’ve enjoyed. Now, instead of customising the physical shoe, it’s actually the sock, so we’re pushing people to wear their favourite coloured socks, like blue or pink. Again, we’re finding ways of bringing that self-expression to each shoe.The footbed is actually a court board. At first, we printed a plywood graphic but it didn’t look great. So I basically swapped it out for a court board, which kind of plays with the idea that your foot is sitting on a piece of wood – more elements that are just sitting around me in the studio.
The Pro Leather Ox became this Frankenstein of everything. We took the tongue from the Weapon and put it on the Ox, just because I thought it would be fun. The toe box acted like a piece of tape that you use when you’re going to paint or spray. We found this really cool material that’s on the toe cap of the low that actually resembles black tape. If you look at it, you can see this groove and it kind of stacks on that. And then I just had fun with the sides. For the first time, I was able to put my name on a shoe, which I was really excited about. It was fun to see my name in gold on the side next to the Chevron logo in the same way I’ve seen athletes that I’ve supported growing up.
The Weapon was obviously a huge sneaker in the 1980s with players like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird wearing the model. Did its heritage characteristics inform your process?
For sure. I remember seeing the Weapon in the Eastbay catalogues growing up. Obviously, the heritage basketball characteristics live in the design itself, but we also wanted to extend that element to the apparel and the bag. We literally adjusted the whole bag. The first sample wouldn't fit a basketball, so I said we had to make it larger. And now two regulation-size basketballs fit into the bag.
Do you think that it's cool to see sneaker customisation hitting a fever-pitch culturally?
You probably drew on your shoes in elementary school, right? Maybe middle school. Maybe you drew on your jeans in class because you were bored. I think customisation stems from curiosity – whether we wanted our names or stars on our shoes. Footwear in general has grown up so fast in the last 10 years and projects are getting better. Shoes are better quality, there are more eyes on your work than ever before, so there’s more opportunity for anybody to make money off shoes. Whether that’s customising a pair or reselling it. There’s kids all over the world driving Ferraris and making hundreds of thousands of dollars off reselling.
It’s just becoming a much larger business, globally. It’s a huge platform. Kids are seeing people spray paint shoes and sell them for $1000 dollars. The shoe is only $100. They’re thinking, ‘Maybe I can do that too?’ How many kids out there are doing that right now? It all started because the sneakers were on our feet, we can draw on them and in the worst case scenario we wash it off or wear another pair of shoes. It’s only going to get bigger and better.
What have you got planned for the launch?
I have a coffee shop in downtown LA that’s called Matte Black. Converse is going to take over the whole space. You’ll be able to come down and experience the project in-person. The outside is going to be completely redecorated and we’ll be giving some cool things away!
The Joshua Vides 'Made in Studio' collection is available starting March 10 at Converse.