Mix & Air Max: Welcome to Chad Manzo’s Chop Shop!
What if Jordan signed with adidas? What if Kanye stayed at Nike? What if the Air Max2 Light fused with the Air Max 180? Chad Manzo mightn’t have the answers for the first two, but his series of Air Max mashups serves up a satisfying vision of the third. Entitled ‘This is Madness’, the series celebrated Air Max Day with 15 hectic hybrids that united big-bubble beauties old and new. Chad stepped away from the drawing board to take us through the fickle world of fusions.
Hybrids conjure a mixed response in the sneaker community, but you’re obviously a fan.
I love hybrids. Some of them work and some of them don’t. But the fact remains, there’s a whole new frontier of possibilities in terms of form and function, and that’s where breakthroughs happen. Hybrids open up doors for new models and give way to new solutions for age-old design problems.
What makes a good hybrid?
To me, a good hybrid feels exciting. It’s something entirely new, but at the same time familiar. Not to mention being visually stimulating and unique.
Can a hybrid ever be better than an OG?
This is a tough question. I think the answer would lie in personal preference. For example, Recouture Kokubunji has an amazing set of sole-swapped shoes. They look great to me, but others might not feel the same. On the other hand, Nike has been doing a bang-up job with the new VaporMax Plus. They’ve never been shy about putting out hybrids, from the Free Hybrid Mocs to the Air Huarache Raid. These were both far superior to their OG counterparts.
Why do you think these shoes make some heads so angry?
I think because the models that have been mashed together hold a special place as individual designs in a person’s heart; they feel the model or brand’s integrity is disrespected because the shoe was already perfect. I get so many private messages saying ‘why ruin an already perfect shoe?’
Nike have been going hard on hybrids lately; why do you think they failed to find mainstream success in the past?
I think it was an audience gap. The audience now (with buying power) is more open to new things, whereas the OG heads were purists and dedicated to collecting a certain model. Also, I believe the hybrids on offer today bring new energy to the table — especially when the shoes you like now are harder to get than before. With that being said, I as a consumer would naturally gravitate to a new silhouette, which feels exciting and is easier to acquire than, let’s say, the Fragment x Air Jordan 1. I don’t think they failed in the past though; it’s just that their ideas were way ahead of their time.
Take us through your design process. Do you start with the upper or the sole unit?
It actually starts with a list. On that list, I have a few models in mind that I personally like because of the shape or colour. From there on out, the pairing happens in my head, as well as a few discussions with friends. Most of the time, I have no idea how the final hybrid will look. In your head, everything should work, but when you apply the idea, problems crop up. I love being in the moment of creation wherein you have no idea where the journey will take you. I live for that kind of high. As they say, trust the process.
Which of your Air Max designs was the most difficult to create?
The most difficult was probably the Humara and Air Max 120, due to the fact that there weren’t any proper resources to start with. It involved some heavy editing to get the textures and uppers the right colour to match the 120 midsole.
You chose some truly underappreciated gems for your series. Which would you most want to see return in their OG state?
I absolutely love retro models. I think Nike should bring back both the Kukini and the Air Max2 Light. They were such groundbreaking designs.
What’s the best Nike Air unit and why?
Probably the Tuned Air unit on the Air Max Plus. The whole idea of a self-inflating bubble was just too smart. It looked damn great as well!
If you could choose one of your designs to be made a reality, which would you choose and why?
This is tough! I think my favourite, and probably the most doable out of all of them, would be the Air Max2 Light and the Air Max 180 hybrid. I just love how the AM2 Light looks shape-wise with that chunky 180 midsole. I think it’s a match made in heaven. Hopefully someone will make this into a reality!,
Speaking of which, we’ve recently seen bootleggers replicate your designs. What was your initial reaction?
When I first saw the Parra x Nike React Element 87s, I was unsure whether it was legit or not. I’m flattered it’s happened, but it just feels off somehow. I figured the Parra Reacts were just the product of hype, but when I saw the bootleg AM180 x AM2 Light, I really felt like ‘wow, I’ve been ripped off’. I still have mixed feelings on the whole thing but, as they say, any publicity is good publicity.