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The Art Form Consisting of Reconstructed Shoes And Cut & Sew Garments

Xalamander is NOT a clothing brand, but rather an art form created out of Birmingham, Alabama that consists of some of the craziest cut and sew garments and reconstructed shoes we've seen. We spoke with the founder Byron about what it's like being an artist in Birmingham, and how he's been able to escape his mental borders to make some of the most creative pieces we've seen that incorporate anything from Yu-Gi-Oh cards to bike tires. In addition, we also spoke with Byron about the inspiration behind some of his craziest pieces, what his creative process looks like, and his vision to continue serving insane 1 of 1 pieces at scale while always staying environmentally sustainable and true to his roots.

Where are you from?

Byron: I’m from Birmingham, Alabama. A lot of people think I'm from LA or New York but I'm from Birmingham.

How’s the art scene in Alabama?

Byron: I mean it’s here. I came from sculpture. I did metal art using reclaimed metal parts to make animals and people and things like that. The scene is definitely there, it’s just very conservative and most of the art buyers buy generationally. It’s hard to get a foot in the door.

When did you start working on Xalamander?

Byron: I wanna say four or five months ago. I just bought a sewing machine and started doing it.

Where does the name come from?

Byron: My middle name is Alexander so that’s where the play with the X comes from. But I had been in a dark place with my art and just feeling like this wasn't the place to grow my sculpture stuff. If you think of a salamander they lay low and are hard to find in the mud or hidden in a creek. That’s kinda where I was and I felt like I was hiding my creative potential.

If Xalamander isn’t a clothing brand, what is it?

Byron: I don't mean to sound pretentious but I truly believe it’s an art form. As I drop more stuff people will realize it’s just as much a sculpture and mixed media thing as it is clothing. Whatever medium I can express best at the moment I will.

Were you always artistic growing up?

Byron: Yeah I would always have crayons with me and I’d draw on the walls with them. I always had to be making something. I’ve always had some medium I've stuck to and it’s changed a couple times.

What was the inspiration behind the “Doom” shorts you designed?

Byron: The biggest thing that's tied into my art is that it’s all recycled stuff. I don’t buy anything brand new. I found a Doom shirt at a thrift store that I really liked. I think it’s very important for me to connect to people that are feeling down but also in the same way lift them up. There was that juxtaposition between that darkness of doom, not really the video game just the idea of doom, and putting it on these green and blue candy colored shorts. Nobody feeling down would wear those shorts, but tying in and understanding how they feel makes them more free to express the light side of them.

What appeals to you about designing pants?

Byron: I really like connecting with people on Instagram. There’s these pants pages called @lildenimmjean and @denim.archives which are this ongoing race between clothing creators that are trying to make the craziest pants. It’s a fun way to engage with other creators. I’ve never dressed that eccentrically even though my brand is pretty eccentric. I like to make stuff people will wear confidently. There’s a power in having something someone else made. I still wear my clothes but I love wearing clothes created by other people.

What’s your favorite thing about cut & sew?

Byron: It began because I was really inspired by a couple creators. But right now I'm into 3-dimensional cut & sew, like creating horns with stuff. Adding a 3D element allows me to bring sculpture into my clothes.

What made you want to design the “Cards of Happiness” shirt?

Byron: That wasn't a totally original idea since there’s a guy I follow that made pants that were all card sleeves for Pokemon cards. I liked that idea and when I was looking around I found this box of Yu-Gi-Oh cards I had since I was a kid. I flipped through them and found a little section where I had categorized them all. I found the dinosaur Yu-Gi-Oh cards and remembered how happy and nostalgic they made me feel. I think there were six of them which I laid out and realized they made a smiley face. I wanted to incorporate these into my clothes and got the idea of making card holders in the face of smile since that's how they made me feel 5 - 6 years later.

Were you into Yu-Gi-Oh as a kid?

Byron: I never learned how to play the game but I had a neighbor that was into it and he gave me cards that he didn’t use anymore. He tried to teach me but I never learned how to play. I just really liked the monsters and the faces on the cards.

Talk about the Shox shoes you made from a pair of Vans and a pair of early 2000’s Nike Shox. What was the inspiration behind it?

Byron: That was kind of premeditated. It was miraculous in a way. I’d had those Vans and didn't know what I was gonna use them for but I had this idea of doing something with Nike Shox since they’re coming back into style. Nike did a collab recently with Comme des Garçons on some Nike Shox so I was kinda re-obsessed with them again. I was thinking of before going to bed one night and the next day I was at a thrift store and saw a pair that I bought for like $5. I wanted to make a chunky sneaker and wanted to pair it with something of that style. I was messing with them and the whole upper part came off so I decided that was what I was gonna use. It was divine in a way.

How did you go about making that?

Byron: I’m not super professional about it right now but I used shoe glue. The Nike Shox was the first time I’d experimented with this. For the Vans the sole is part of the shoe and you can't really separate the two so I left them as is. I basically just shaved down the Shox and they fit perfectly inside of there. I used shoe glue and put two really tiny screws into the actual rubber of the Vans and then straight into plastic of the Nike Shox. Those held it together and the shoe glue kept it one concise piece.

What would you call that process of taking apart two different pairs of shoes and combining them to make something unique?

Byron: I’ve heard it's called deconstructivism or reconstructivism so I’d say one of those two.

Talk about your creative process in general. What does it look like?

Byron: It’s all over the place. Sometimes I’ll have a shirt or a pair of jeans. When it’s a pair of jeans I treat it as a blank canvas so I look around and decide what I can do with what I have. Novelty is super important to me and I always think of what would appeal to someone's childlike sense of novelty. It could be something like adding safety vest material to pants because that's something you just don't see. Yesterday I found an old bike tire and I’m gonna use the tread from that on pants. It’s using something mundane like a bike tire and seeing it in a new light. The ongoing theme when I’m figuring out a piece is how I can make it novel and connect to someone that’s a little jaded or just doesn't see the world as bright as they should. It’s trying to pull them out of that feeling and giving them something more joyful or hopeful without pushing an agenda.

How are you able to take almost any item and turn it into a clothing garment?

Byron: It’s really just cutting and sewing without borders in your mind. It’s utilizing everything I have. I have a huge pile of cloth I've cut up and I don’t wanna buy more stuff so I’m gonna utilize that since I don’t know where it’ll go if I throw it in the trash. It’s really utilizing everything without putting a label on it and understanding how the material you have can go with something else to make a concise idea.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve made to date?

Byron: I feel like the most recent thing I make is always the craziest. I’m still pretty stoked on the Yu-Gi-Oh card shirt. I have a pair of pants I haven't dropped yet that I really like. It’s a pair of khakis on one half and denim on the other half. I made like 10 giant spikes out of a military sleeping bag that come through the pants. They aren’t just sewn on either. I’ve cut holes in the jeans and distressed them to make it look like the spikes are bursting through. That’s probably the craziest thing I’ve done right now.

Are there any other mediums or garments you want to experiment with?

Byron: As far as garments go, I have a ton of idea books and sketches I’ve done. Right now it’s really important for me to get a toy out there, a vinyl toy that represents Xalamander in a way. As clothing mediums go, I really want to get into backpacks. I’m really into branding and getting my name out there right now so I’m thinking of getting custom webbing and stuff that can really go overboard on the branding side. I’m also thinking of buying a pallet of recycled clothing. I think that would be a good challenge for me since you're getting this stuff and forced to utilize all of it.

Who inspires you?

Byron: I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. There’s Virgil Abloh, he’s the easiest person to get inspirated by because of everything he's done with Louis Vuitton and Off-white. Asspizza has been really inspirational to me as well. Now I’m kind of looking outside of clothing to get inspiration since I think it's easy to get inspired by someone and do something that's taking away from them. I really like industrial equipment. If I’m driving around the city and see a new wrecker truck that has lots of safety stickers or hazardous signs I think it's really cool. They're the most unknowing signs of novelty. It's meant to get your attention as safety equipment but at the same time it’s so utilitarian because there’s no design to make it aesthetic but it still draws so much attention.

Are there any other brands you want to work with in the future?

Byron: Oh for sure. I’m working on a couple collaborations with other artists that are about my size so you'll see that soon. I don’t wanna say their names yet since we’re still in the works, but as far as big brands go I'd love to work with Heron Preston. I love his work and I think we’d click really well. I have sketches from two years ago that are really in stride with what he’s doing right now. I think there's a general place that creatives really draw from whether it's the ether or the imagination. It’s really cool to see creatives doing something you’ve thought about since you’re working in the same wavelength. Blondey McCoy is someone I’d also like to work with. I think working with models in general would be really cool. There’s lots of people I look up to and would want to work with.

Do you plan on releasing a full Xalamander collection eventually?

Byron: I do. I have a Fall / Winter collection that will be dropping in the beginning of the fall. It’s gonna be lots of overpieces, coats, and winter wear. There will be pants as well and lots of stuff made from scratch.

What do you want Xalamander to be in the long run?

Byron: I never want to go to a place where Xalamander is no longer sustainable. I want it sustainable whether it’s printing on old clothes or doing cut and sew. When I get bigger I think it’s mandatory to use that platform to make it sustainable. I have a vision for having a brick and mortar store where it’s all 1 of 1 sustainable pieces. Basically the business model of a high end thrift store. Imagine a Round Two type store where we buy stuff from the customers and then have a team of people making stuff 1 of 1 and re-dropping it for decent prices. I just want it to be a scaled version of what I’m doing right now while staying as true to my roots as possible.

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