2017 is a significant year for Supra. With a decade of game-changing history under their belt, the California-based skate company is undergoing a creative transformation under new stewardship. Lauded for his pioneering spirit and creative charisma, Chad Muska’s signature Skytop line has defined Supra’s existence since the first model launched back in 2007. Bootie-calling from his art studio in Los Angeles, Chad talked us through his new vision for the Skytop V.
What are you doing today Mr Muska?
I’ve been running around town all day, I had to get a lens adapter for my camera because we did some test shots last night. Then it’s back to the studio to film, it’s going to be pretty crazy. I built a little light installation with fluorescent lights and concrete to do a simulation video for the upcoming Skytop II ‘Transitions’ drop. Going to finish that up with my boy Rick Kosick and we’ll probably end up working until late, pass out, wake up and edit, then continue the process.
I can’t believe it’s been ten years for Supra.
It’s gone by in a flash, but in a weird way, it almost feels like Supra has always been there too. For a brand to stay in business for that amount of time, it’s always an achievement. So far, so good – we’ll see. I don’t want to jinx it!
Last time we talked, the Skytop IV had just come out. Now we’ve got the V. On first inspection, the new direction definitely deviates from what we’d normally associate with the Skytop family.
At first glance, it is a totally different direction. But when you really start to look at it, the heritage of all the Skytop models is within the new shoe in some aspect or another. The Skytop V was a real partnership with Supra’s lead designer, Adam Contreras. We really wanted to bring something new to skate footwear together.
Going back in time, the first Skytop was kinda high for its time, but now it’s a pretty standard shoe when you look at it. The Skytop II went ultra-high, and then when we originally released the III, I think everybody was like, ‘What the hell? This shoe is going to go to your knee if you guys keep going up, up, and up!’ The new Skytop has the futuristic little rubber cage from the Skytop III and the height is similar too. The IV was a rad shoe in my eyes, but I’m ultimately excited about the V, because that’s personally where my style has gone. My goal was always to make skateboarding shoes that stood out and were different to everything else that was happening.
I’m wondering if they’re tough enough to skate?
This material is a lot tougher than it looks! I wanted to experiment with new materials instead of using just leather and canvas. I always liked how neoprene felt as a supportive, comfortable, flexible material and Adam came across an abrasion-resistant TUF coated Lycra that worked perfectly. The whole toe-piece is padded and flexible and then strengthened by a bonded layer of rubber to add protection in the ollie and ‘flick’ areas. So yeah, they are totally skateable. The whole idea of the Skytop V was to completely shift the idea of what a skateboard shoe is. I wanted to make something that you really wanted to wear when you weren’t skateboarding.
We love a neoprene bootie.
I’ve always been really interested in ankle support and that feeling of being invincible on a skateboard. The whole idea for the Skytop V, right from the start, was always going to be a neoprene and Lycra-based bootie. All of the shoes I was doing with Circa at the end of my time there had a bootie interior built into the base and I was really thinking back to those ideas the whole time I was working on the V.
When I put the Prestos on back in the day, I was bummed because I couldn’t really wear them because I had a sponsor. I was like, ‘This is the most comfortable, best slipper-sneaker shoe ever!’ To see the resurgence of the Presto, and Yohji Yamamoto (adidas Y-3) really playing off the bootie idea and taking it to a high fashion aesthetic, has been really interesting. I tried to capture all these elements and put them into a skateable version. There’s some changes finally happening in the skate world, Koston had a really cool and exciting shoe that came out.
'You have to understand the way sneakers are made in order to master the design process. If you don’t understand how these things are produced, then you’re going to go in there with unrealistic expectations. You could be arguing about something that might not even be possible to make. The more you know about the technology employed in manufacturing, the more you’ll be able to apply it to achieving your vision.'
The Koston 3 with the Flyknit upper?
It’s not for everybody, but for me, it confirmed that the time was right to put the Skytop V out now. At the last trade show I attended, I saw a few brands were starting to integrate booties, although most weren’t willing to totally sacrifice the idea of a traditional skate toe.
Do you think we’ll ever see the resurgence of experimentation in skate sneakers like we saw at the start of your career?
I feel like we’re always within some sort of cycle. I saw the technological boom in footwear in the late-90s and early-2000s, when everybody was going crazy with sonic welding and air bags. Everything we could think of was just thrown at a shoe just to totally tech it out. It was over-designing for sure, but it was fun. Then all of the sudden, we saw that shift. Everything went retro, vulcanised and simple.
The Skytop I to me was innovative at the time, but it was still a vulcanised shoe that just had a little bit more height and an interesting design on the panelling. It wasn’t really pushing the limits of footwear by any means. For the last ten years it’s been the same exact thing, over and over. It was getting boring. And that’s what’s really exciting about right now – we’re seeing a surge with things like this new breed of runner-based designs. It’s always kind of been the way for the basketball sneaker industry, but in skate, the willingness to do something bold has been lacking. This is a great time for footwear design.
What type of schemes can we expect initially?
The initial Skytop Vs will be tonal. I’ve always been a fan of all-black and all-white. There’s a lot of stuff we can do with this shoe, just on the sole alone there’s all these different colour blocking options. We even have the ability to use woven materials within the elastic centering strap too – you can run words like the band of Tommy Hilfiger boxers! There’s a hot melt around the stitching in the circular tongue hole so you can use it with the heel strap to slide the bootie on. Then there’s a rubber cage that brings structural support to stop your ankle from rolling. On some booties, they’re so slipper-based that your ankle will roll over the top of the foot bed.
It sounds like you’re getting involved in all aspects of the design process.
Fully. You have to understand the way sneakers are made in order to master the design process. If you don’t understand how these things are produced, then you’re going to go in there with unrealistic expectations. You could be arguing about something that might not even be possible to make. I love seeing the factories and I love seeing the production process. The more you know about the technology employed in manufacturing, the more you’ll be able to apply it to achieving your vision.
The Decade X releases celebrate ten years of Supra with special editions of the four current Skytops. The ‘Layers’ colourway references your studio space. What else is coming?
I’ve been getting a lot more hands-on within the company, developing marketing projects and initiatives. Each Skytop will release with a video that brings a theme to life. To me, the shoes are an extension of my artwork and artistic expression, they’re more like little sculptures. The Layers colourway speaks to the roots of my artwork, stuff I did with pop art and street art. The second drop, ‘Transitions’, focuses on light and space and the different transitions of life. The Skytop III is based on ‘Reflection’, which uses reflective materials and resin. The fourth will be based around texture and will reference wood and concrete.
You obviously love concrete.
That’s my medium, 100 percent. Obviously we have a unique relationship. I spent a lot of my life kissing the concrete. You have tree huggers, well I’m a concrete hugger! I always thought of skateboarding as being an extension of art, like a form of performance art. Everybody can do the same tricks, but we all do them in our own individual way. My idea is to take the polyurethane resin of the wheels, the steel of the trucks, the wood of the board and the concrete that we ride on. Subconsciously, my artwork naturally just happened to combine all those things.
How often are you in the art studio these days?
As much as I can be. I had a back injury recently and they want me to get surgery, and that scares the shit out of me. It’s really taken skateboarding away unfortunately. That’s a major thing for me that I’m still trying to figure out and come to terms with. I’m not sure if it’s ever going to be there like it once was. The studio has become the ultimate expression of my energy and a place to create not only art, but to provide the platform for my creative process. When I’m there I see visions of other things – products, shoes, t-shirt graphics, photography and advertising layouts.
It seems like both you and Supra have been through a similar cathartic process?
It’s an interesting time for Supra to regroup and figure out what the future holds, and what the game-plan is moving forward. I think that every company needs a period of reflection to find a new way to continue evolving. Supra is moving into a new office soon and it’s exciting to have a creative space within the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Apart from that, for me personally, I’m really just focused on day-to-day creativity and allowing all these processes to lead me in the direction I need to go. And just enjoying this life. I can’t wait to see the Skytop V finally hit the street!
The Supra Skytop V will be available from February 16.