What shoes are you wearing?
Are you a big collector? Any favorite models?
I collect certain models, just for collecting, I don't sell any on eBay. I'm into a lot of the early classic models, like the early/mid 80's PRO-Keds and Pumas.
How was JB Classics started?
By chance I met someone who was doing sneaker production. I traded color theories of sneakers with him for the opportunity to develop some samples. Then from that, the samples led to little orders, and the little orders led to where I am at right now.
What goes into producing a pair of JB's?
I design everything in vector/illustrator. From the line drawings I fill in the color, and play with color theory and graphics just like a graphic designer would. At that point it's a 2D graphic that becomes 3D when the sample is produced.
Have you had any formal training in shoe design and production?
I've never had any formal training in footwear design or production. I have a master's degree in fine art. Basically I am driven from a fine art/urban upbringing. I've been around the urban scene as a young kid. I have never worked for a footwear company.
Where are your shoes manufactured?
After I develop the graphic, whether in SF or London, I will send an email, and the sample will start to be made overseas. Once the first sample starts going along, I'll go over it and start doing quality control, pick and change the materials a little bit. That's all happening in mainland China.
How did you decide that you want to apply graphics to your shoes?
It was 2 years ago when I first did my first shoe with graphics; it was the shoe with the asteroid graphic. I was in China and wanted to use silkscreen on a shoe. At that time no one was putting graphics on sneakers yet. Dr. Marten boots had some graphics on them, so I was kind of inspired by that. My partner Gary was like "let's just do some asteroid video game". I drew the asteroid graphic in illustrator/vector and set it up on a shoe template. We got hides of leather and silk-screened the whole thing, then cut up the leather and made the shoe, so every shoe had a different pattern of the asteroid print. The rest (is) history.
Tell us about your lastest challenge in shoes making.
For me I don't know anyone to call that's doing what I'm doing. If I were to open a really fresh sneaker boutique, there will be somewhere to look. But when I try to look around for someone who is remixing classic shoes and developing new shapes of his own, there's no one to sit around and talk about theory with. My biggest challenge right now is working totally independent. I have a lot of good friends to talk to that either do graphics, run magazines, or have boutiques, people who have a part in the movement somewhere. I've talk to the custom guys like Jor One and SBTG, but they are doing hand painted shoes, which is different from what I do. My collection is graphic driven, color driven, and primarily design driven. There are also people like A Bathing Ape, who are remixing a lot of classics shoe shapes, but it is still different in the way that they have a clothing line and boutiques, and there is a different level of money involved.
How did the collaboration with (NYC Photographer) Ricky Powell come about?
I've worked with Fifty24SF. Fifty24SF deals with Ricky Powell's collection, his clothing and imagery. Matt from Fifty24SF suggested that we make a cool shoe, and I said let's make a photo transfer of his old photos. The technique involved in transferring the photos onto leather was tricky. It will be on the market soon, limited to 120 pairs. The shoe is currently sold out on the Sneaker Pimps tour.
What future collaborations are in the pipeline?
I have a shoe in collaboration with Glorias to be released this summer. Glorias is a toy/sneaker boutique in East End, London, and within the boutique there will be a JB showroom. The shoe will be exclusive to the store. There is also a Triplewide shoe in the works.
You are part of a team called "Triplewide Collective". Can you tell us about the company and the work involved?
Triplewide is a media collective. It's me, Shawn (Roberts), and Alex (Tarrant). The three of us work together on projects collectively and also independently. The last big project we worked on is Dithers1, a documentary film featuring street artists. Currently we are working on Dithers2.
Who will be featured on "Dithers2"?
So far we have filmed Futura, Ron English, Jago, and London Police.
How was it working on the dithers project?
Working with Triplewide on the Dithers documentary film, doing interviews with urban/graffiti/street artists/graphic designers, watching and editing the clips, hearing them talk about their movements and perspectives, it inspires me as a sneaker/graphic designer that all these guys are human too. It was crazy to watch the clips of in Dithers of Jest with the Alife stuff and be like "Wow, this is crazy", all the way to Ricky Powell and Jago from Scrawl Collective, and currently Ron English and his movement, it was interesting to hear them talk. Futura gave an awesome interview on Dithers2 about the war, his movement and how he feels about it... it's unbelievable just to hear the stories being told.
We hear you have a DVD project coming up for JB Classics?
It is scheduled for release this summer. I have documented everything that I did so far, from the part in mainland China, developing the shoes; in Las Vegas trying to sell the shoes; living in the apartment, designing the shoes, everything about the shoes. The DVD is going to be called "How Ya Livin'". It will cover everything, from the production development to sneaker lifestyle to how we are working. Shawn and I from Triplewide have made a lot of video trailers that we put on the web. A lot of that content is taken from big pieces that we have finished already for the DVD. The video itself is some crazy shit. There are parts where I went around the city, screwing shoes to the walls and leaving, parts where we talked about sneakers drunk, everywhere, and all the time. There's just a lot of different lifestyle things like how we evolved.
Will we be seeing toys from you?
The toys will be called Country Club Bully's. I wanted to do the same thing with the toys that I'm doing with the sneakers. I want to do it by myself. The first one will be released this summer. The sneakers of the figure gonna be interchangable.
What can we expect to see in '04?
Look out for JB classics '04 Summer/Spring collection, JB/Glorias sneakers, Dithers2, and Country Club Bully's.
Big up to JB for taking the time to do this interview! For more information on JB Classics, Triplewide, and Glorias, please visit: www.suite2206.com, www.triplewide.net, and and Gloria’s Shop 6 Dray Walk The Old Truman Brewery 91-95 Brick Lane London E1 6QL