Mikie Interview (Seattle Sneaker Customiser)
The age old saying, ‘it’s not what you know but who you know’ has certainly helped customiser Mikie from grunge city Seattle. Growing up with Supersonic’s b-baller Luke Ridnour and getting his designs worn by the entire NBA team would seem like the coup of coups. But leave it to hard working Mikie to create a name for himself on his own, rather than riding on any coat-tails along the way. Just don’t tell him that art on sneakers is a dying trend – Mikie is here to stay and pave the way for an airbrushed future!
Yo Mikie, how are things in Seattle?
Things are going great, besides a little rain.
We rarely hear about the scene down there, as it is more known for grunge music than street wear/sneaker culture. Is it a scene with a streetwear community?
Most people don't think of Seattle for street culture or sneakers. We are known for the Birkenstock, haha. But it is actually pretty strong here, nothing like NY or LA, but that’s cool, you can still stand-out here.
Tell us about Mikie and how it all started?
Oddly enough the idea for my first shoe design came while I was at church. It seemed like a natural fit to call them Mikie's seeing that is what everyone calls me and I did them on a pair of Nikes, so it kind of rhymes. But it all started with one design that I did for myself and then Luke Ridnour wore them to a game and since then I have had a business doing them. Now I am getting great opportunities to work with some of creative field’s finest and collaborating on projects.
Do you have a background in art? Was there already a passion for being creative running through your veins from day one?
I have always had the creative stuff in me. I used to go shop for clothes and be mad because there was nothing unique where I was, so I started altering the clothing and shoes to reflect what was in my mind of what I wanted to buy. But most of my life I was an athlete, I grew up wrestling since age 5 and hung up those shoes when I was 23 after achieving 5-time All-American. I really miss competing so I have to find new things to compete at.
Where did the concept with the air brushing and paint splattering come in to effect?
Well I draw a lot of my inspiration from the streets and graffiti is a huge part of the street culture. But I didn’t want to be another customiser doing graffiti on shoes. I wanted to create something you could wear everyday or on a special occasion. So I took elements that I liked and went to work.
What is it about this style that is so popular in the States?
I think it bookmarks a big part of the street culture movement. Street art was and still is one of the driving forces behind it all. It provided a big source of inspiration for many designers back in the day and that eventually filters down to the shelves, seeing most of those guys are now running the companies and influencing fashion today.
Has the website and rocking your own designs garnered you a lot of publicity and also work? Is this a fulltime gig for you?
I got my designs into the first store by rocking my kicks around town. The store manager at Sureel liked them and asked where I got the sneakers from. Once he found out I was the artist he offered to feature them at their new store launch party. As of right now I am dedicating all my time to the sneakers. It doesn't always pay the bills but I am blessed to have my friends and family's support.
Tell us about customizing sneakers for the Seattle Supersonics. It seems to be your claim to fame. How did that all come about?
It definitely jump-started everything for me. I actually grew up with one of them. Luke Ridnour and I are good friends and he saw the shoes I made for myself and asked if I would make him a pair. After wearing them to a game he had a bunch of his teammates asking where they could get some and he called me the next day with like 25 orders for them.
That must have taken a lot of work and patience. How long is the process for finalizing design, spraying the shoes and customizing the box?
Yea it takes some time, but I like to provide a complete package not just a pair of customs. The entire process takes me anywhere from 6-8 hours a pair, but I am getting faster.
I’ve noticed you only use the Nike Air Force One, which is a massively popular sneaker in the States. Do you see yourself branching out to other styles? And what is it about the AF1 that tickles your fancy?
The Air Force One is a staple in the sneaker culture history. Plus it’s a great canvas because they make it in all white year round now. But I have done other shoes and would like to branch out a little more.
Have you had any response from Nike with your designs yet?
Nope no love yet, but I hope to be lucky enough to work with them at some point in the future.
Where would you ultimately like Mikie to be in the next couple of years? Do you think customizing sneakers will still be so popular?
I would like to be an established artist and collaborating on big projects within sneakers or other urban influenced design. Customising is now a part of the history of the sneaker community, so I don’t think we will see it go too far before someone reinvents it or puts a new twist on it.