More Than Just A Custom Shoe
is an artist based out of London that's making some of the most exclusive and highly requested Air Force 1's on the market. We spoke with Cass about his experience experimenting with different artistic mediums growing up and eventually starting to paint on shoes in March of 2018 to now working with Virgil and having his shoes requested by the likes of ASAP Rocky, Playboi Carti, and many others. In addition, we also spoke with Cass about some of his most famous concepts, the influence his father Damien Hirst has had on his work, and his plans to continue refining his craft while always making cool creative concepts that he can share with the world.
Where are you from?
When did you start painting shoes?
Cass: I started painting shoes in March of 2018. Since then I’ve spent a lot of time on it and it’s been a lot of fun.
What made you want to start with shoes specifically?
Cass: I never had an art medium that worked so well for me. In school I messed around with art, graphic design, 3D design and photography and each subject had limiting aspects to it. But with the shoes I’ve been able to combine all of those skills into one and I love the possibilities that come with it.
Were you always artistic growing up?
Cass: I guess I had a pretty artistic youth but it never felt like that. I used to draw all the time and I remember getting super frustrated as a kid when I couldn’t draw as well as my older brother, but I quickly learned that drawing isn’t everything. There’s so much more to do beyond that, everything is art.
Did your father have a big influence on your artistic style?
Cass: No, not really. I feel like my artistic style came from something else, maybe the world around me, it’s hard to say. But I am pretty fascinated by death and nature so maybe that’s a link.
Do you think your creative style has changed over time?
Cass: It’s definitely changing and evolving 24/7 but I try to hold onto it. Too many people push their past away and hate their younger self but I wanna hold on to all of the things I’ve loved throughout my life. Power Rangers, sharks, dinosaurs and superheroes were all sick when I was younger and always will be. There’s so much stuff like that in my world and I think it sits in a special place in your mind and should always be celebrated and appreciated rather than left behind.
How did you come up with the idea for your “fractals” AF1’s?
Cass: I sat on that idea for a while. I spent a long time wanting to create a super technical black and white pair with mega crisp lines and ended up using an image of grass as a pattern for it. It’s weird to be able to use such a natural subject to make something that looks so modern and inorganic.
What does your creative process look like when making a new custom shoe?
Cass: It really depends on the purpose. It feels like I have a bank of ideas in my mind and at my studio so if I do a pair for fun or do something new I’ll pick a combination of colors and patterns that I haven’t done before. The possibilities are endless. I spend a lot of time looking around for patterns and designs that I can drag into the shoes, they’re everywhere.
Most of your shoes retail for $1000, how do you justify that price?
Cass: I avoid justifying the price. The price is the price, all prices are good and bad, and nothing will make everyone happy. No one talks about the price of the raw materials in a painting.
What made you want to make the “flooded blue” Off-White AF1’s?
Cass: It was Virgil’s idea, he wanted me to edit a pair of his and I was into it. The visual ideas came after I actually got to view the shoe properly since there’s so much there to work with that isn’t possible on a regular Air Force. When it came to actually painting the shoe, I wanted to take inspiration from and accentuate this aquatic theme that was a big part of the shoe. I especially wanted to highlight the complex stitching of the tick and use white paint to turn it into the white wash peak of the wave and make the shoe the wave itself. It’s the same technique that shines through on ‘Bones’ but it becomes a completely different thing when the materials and structure change.
How did you originally get connected with Virgil?
Cass: I was originally put in contact with Virgil by ASAP Bari after he showed Virgil my shoes and he was into them.
Did he want a pair of shoes?
Cass: I first made him a pair of black on whites and then I did a pair of Bones that I gave him in Chicago.
How did you end up in Chicago for his “Church & State” popup?
Cass: He invited me to host a workshop there so I did.
What was that experience like?
Cass: It was very educational, I learned a lot and met some great people. The city is an awesome place.
Are there any other designers or brands you want to work with in the future?
Cass: Of course, there are too many cool brands around today to list but it’d be a blessing to work with any of them.
I saw you also designed shoes for Playboi Carti and ASAP Rocky as well. Did they order something you’d already made or did they want something new?
Cass: I did similar designs for Rocky and Carti, they both said they wanted black and yellow and I came up with it from there. I also made a pair of the "Gasworks" as a gift for Rocky recently.
Are your shoes all 1/1 or do you make more than one of each?
Cass: I enjoy how each pair is unique, and because they’re all hand painted there will never be two pairs that are exactly the same. But some pairs are specifically 1/1 that I won’t sell in that same style again.
Are there any other music artists you want wearing your shoes in the future?
Why do you avoid referring to your shoes as “customs?”
Cass: When I think of “customs” I picture hand painted Gucci patterns and drawings of cartoon characters. What I’m doing is definitely not that, so I choose not to put it under the same banner. To me it’s painting shoes and taking advantage of the fact that an Air Force 1 is much more than a flat canvas.
What was the inspiration behind your black “bones original” AF1’s?
Cass: The idea came about while I was doing one of my first pairs, but the title came after I first tried the technique on a black pair. The white on black was obviously chromatically similar to an X-ray, but I found that the forms on the shoe act like the bones of the shoe itself. After using this painting technique on the shoes I realized that it can be used on anything and it becomes a great way of highlighting the most exterior parts of an object.
Why did you choose to display them muddy?
Cass: I wanted to show that the shoes are still shoes, not just art pieces — they’re meant to be worn. The muddy pair is actually the first pair of bones I ever made and I’m still wearing them all the time.
Is there a specific inspiration behind every shoe you make?
Cass: There’s rarely a specific inspiration since I have strong ideas of what will look good. I use a lot of visuals from nature in my work, I find the patterns from plants and animals super inspiring. Samuel Ross has a super minimalistic aesthetic so with the pairs I did for him I wanted to have them look simple from a distance but also packed with details. I also used visuals of architecture around London within the design and they came out very well.
Do you plan on experimenting with other shoe models besides AF1’s in the future?
Cass: For sure, I love to mess around with other models. I feel like every shoe model can have so many different outcomes. The Air Force is a great base for me, but in some ways it’s limiting. There’s a lot going on in my creative world that doesn’t make it on Instagram so just wait and see.
Are there any other creative mediums or fashion garments you want to experiment with?
Cass: I’d love to mess around with a pair of bottoms or a raincoat or something, but I’m no tailor. I’m sure I’ll get the chance at some point, I’m in no rush. I’d rather not dive too deep straight away.
If you could go back and give advice to yourself when you were first starting out, what would you say now?
Cass: Trust yourself.
What should we expect to see from you next?
Cass: Big stuff, just wait and see.
What do you want to be known for?
Cass: I just want to make cool things that I can share with the world.
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