Last year, when MSCHF, the Brooklyn-based creative collective that bills itself as the Banksy of consumer culture, unveiled its “Satan Shoes,” a Lil Nas X collaboration featuring Nike Air Max 97s modified with a bit of gore and devilish symbolism. sparked a storm of controversy and a Nike lawsuit.
Eventually, sales were halted and the product, if not its shadow, disappeared from the internet. Now, however, the inventors are back, and not with just another crazy, eye-catching stunt.
With a whole sneaker line. Think Nike and Supreme and Warhol meet, and you get the idea.
The collection, called MSCHF Sneakers, will be sold through the app and its own website, and will take the form of mostly monthly drops of various styles, priced around $220 per pair. Unlike previous MSCHF shoes — the Satan shoe; its predecessor, the Jesus Shoe (a Nike that contained holy water); or the Birkinstock (a Birkenstock made from a Hermès Birkin bag) – none of the styles will be adaptations to existing shoes; they will be completely original. Which doesn’t mean they’ll be without reference or a minor subversion of today’s golden calves.
The first style, for example the TAP3, which goes on sale on March 21, is a direct nod to recent history: a leather shape and sole very reminiscent of the Nike Air Force 1, wrapped in slashes of “overmolded thermoplastic”. polyurethane MSCHF packing tape” permanently fused to the body of the shoe (oddly reminiscent of the recent Balenciaga show, in which Kim Kardashian arrived wrapped in Balenciaga brand packing tape). The shoes come in an apparently familiar looking orange cardboard box with signature pieces that appear to be covered with packing tape, a matching roll of packing tape is included.
Even if there isn’t a swoosh in sight, that seems like some sort of tempting fate. What were they thinking?
Here’s what MSCHF, which is made up of co-founder Daniel Greenberg, chief creative officer Kevin Wiesner and chief creative officer Lukas Bentel but, as Vetements and Maison Martin Margiela once did, likes to speak collectively, said when I asked. This extensive email exchange has been edited and compressed.
Seriously, why start with a Nike reference?
The approximate shape of the AF1 has become the platonic ideal of a low sneaker. The first thing any brand trying to change into sneakers does is create a pseudo AF1. That cultural ubiquity makes it an attractive target. And let’s face it, it’s a bit cathartic for us to launch this particular shoe almost exactly a year after the release of Satan shoes.
In some ways, the entire MSCHF Sneakers program allows us to make what we want. When we think of shoes, there are dozens of ideas that we had for years that we knew were just not possible with mods. We had to ask ourselves: did we really want to do all this work for the reward? The obvious answer was yes. We’ve been quietly working on this for almost a year now.
Was it a steep learning curve since you started from scratch?
It was clear that there was a significant learning curve. That said, while we may not necessarily know how to make shoes, shoe factories and designers also didn’t necessarily know how to make our designs. As the program progresses, our output gets more and more bizarre. In some ways, the fact that we have no idea about the industry’s standards has freed us from limitations. We’re reopening sole tools for every shoe because we didn’t know that’s considered crazy.
It was not easy to find people who were not put off by the concepts we presented. There’s a huge global infrastructure to make sneakers, but they’re optimized for things that are much more normal than what we want to make, so it was really hard to talk them through at the beginning.
Why sneakers at all?
Sneakers are a rich cultural format. They’re at an odd intersection of fashion, collecting, hypebeasts, and investing — or rather, whatever financial crap sneaker flipping is. There’s a sense that the sneaker space has kind of peaked where everything is a collaboration and companies build hype around launches almost daily. But from our perspective, everything can go so much further. Who cares about endless “new” releases that are just colorway iterations? For an object that is supposed to encapsulate endgame capitalism, sneakers can still get a lot funkier.
We knew there was more flesh we wanted to play with in the future, and after Satan Shoes, it was clear that we had to eliminate all external dependencies in order to have creative freedom.
What have you learned from the Satan Shoes experience?
A lot about copyright, the first amendment and the first sale doctrine, but in the end it reinforced what we already knew: get off other people’s platforms. To anyone who has never been on the receiving end of a huge corporation’s attorneys, let’s just say it stinks. Ultimately, Nike says we didn’t do anything wrong, and we say Nike didn’t do anything wrong by suing us. Doesn’t mean it was a joke.
What makes your shoes different?
The thing is, a lot of our sneakers are not what you might think about sneakers or shoes, so you could argue that we have an advantage over any other sneaker designer because we take what comes to mind and do it. We can literally go into Photoshop, take an iconic sneaker, liquefy it and then make it. Some of our upcoming shoes really started out as just a few members playing on Photoshop and now they are becoming real mass produced sneakers. You may see something similar next month.
Any tips on what’s to come?
In many ways, TAP3 is a bit of a fake because it’s such a recognizable sneaker shape. We’ve lined up some shoes that are collaborations with well-known music artists, and we’ll be adopting some iconic sneaker shapes. And as for the shoes, we’re not just going to make sneakers. We will make whatever we want.
If it’s a boot, or a high heel, or a slide, or whatever, if we feel like it’s MSCHF, we’ll do it. In addition, we have set up at least one shoe that is significantly larger than our head.