Tornschuhjette On the Future of Customising

tornschuhjette sneaker customiser
image via @melvynivy

We love our customs at Sneaker Freaker and like the sneaker space itself, it’s slowly becoming more inclusive and accessible than ever before. Customisers like Henriette Wagener aka
@tornschuhjette have never let the barriers to entry stop her from flexing her creative muscle, but rather, let her hunger to express herself through painting sneakers set her on the path she is on today. Based out of Hamburg, Germany, Wagener, shares with us her journey, how women are coming to the forefront of customising and much more.

tornschuhjette sneaker customiser
tornschuhjette sneaker customiser
tornschuhjette sneaker customiser

How did you get into sneaker customising?
Since childhood I was always altering, painting and sewing my own clothes. As a student I used to work in an outlet store for sneakers and took home some white leather Air Max 1s, and since I already was restoring my worn Jordans I had loads of leather paint, so I started painting the Air Max with flowers and plants.

Posted them on the internet, they went viral, and I got into painting shoes for other people. After some time, painting was not enough, so I slowly started exchanging parts and sewing my own colourways. Today I generate my income with bespoke sneakers and events/workshops.

What has been your most special project or collaboration and why?
While I‘ve done many noteworthy and memorable projects within the last eight years, one that stands out is definitely an oversized Vans Original for the release of the ComfyCush series. I built a huge wooden sculpture and covered it with carpet, fabric and foam, so people could sit inside and take pictures. Another one was a huge tapestry for the Vans ‘Wear On’ campaign, which featured 3x4 metres of worn jeans. Definitely stuff that’s out of the ordinary.

tornschuhjette sneaker customiser

Where do you find inspiration when you’re looking to create designs?
I can find inspiration almost everywhere – the fabric store, a nice walk in the park, museums as well as people I see in the streets.

A lot of it comes from nature, but contemporary art and pop culture also definitely have a huge influence on my work.

Do you feel sneaker customisation is a male-dominated space? Is it changing?
Back in the days sneaker culture in general used to be such a male dominated space, and any sneaker-crazed women my age can definitely tell a lot of stories about it.

It feels like with the globalisation and normalisation of sneakers as well as the disintegration of gender norms, women and girls took their place in sneakers and streetwear.

We‘ve come from glittery, pink and cheap derivations of mens colorways to female creators taking agency and doing colabs with even the biggest players, for example Aleali May or Yoon Ahn, creating sought-after colabs that totally derive from traditionally female-coded (pink, glittery, cheap) styles.

Regarding customisation I always felt like the few women that were there were at the forefront when it came to intricate painted artworks, but men would do the handiwork of sewing bespoke sneakers. There is still space for female creators of bespoke sewn shoes in my opinion.

tornschuhjette sneaker customiser

How are you taking control of your narrative in the sneaker industry? And how are you looking to keep evolving this space?
I’m not one to put my face in the foreground, I like to let my work speak for me – I always felt like as a woman I have to be particularly careful of how I present myself, and some few derogatory comments regarding my body or appearance confirmed that for me.

That is why I very seldomly post my face and never ever have watched any video interview I gave.

I try to concentrate on creating, improving my skills and learning new techniques. Ironically, many people think I‘m a man and are very surprised to learn I am not. That alone should tell a lot about the niche I am working in.

I always try to broaden my horizon, do more than just sneakers, do something different, and I try to avoid rehashing things like colourway flips or generic redos. While these are hugely popular, it feels like lost energy to me to do something that has been done before.

I also try and reduce my trash as much as possible by upcycling cutoffs and old uppers into new, useful things like bags and accessories.

What’s the most positive change you’ve noticed in terms of representation and inclusivity in the sneaker space recently?

As mentioned before, social changes served as a catalyst for our subculture and I very much welcome that.

The stiff borders between genders soften, the younger generations approach these issues more playfully and freely than ever before – we are slowly getting rid of binary conventions and thus can explore fashion and sneakers and tell our stories in a more experimental way. In the end, what we wear and how we wear it tells a lot about ourselves.

In the industry the perception of what a woman wants is changing, it feels like we are taken way more seriously than before – we‘ve come a long way since the 2000s where a girl or woman wearing Jordans would be the absolute exception and high heels were the norm.

To find out more about Tornschuhjette‘s work, head here.

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