Reebok & Swifty: Interview
Following on from our previous story about the Stash-curated Reebok City Classics collection, we wanted look at one of our favourite shoes from the project in more detail. As we've worked with Swifty before, we thought we'd get in touch and ask him a few questions about his concept for the shoe, as well as the production process behind its creation...
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I'm a graphic designer, typographer, artist and father of three! I set up my own studio, Swifty Typografix, in 1990 after spending a few years working for Neville Brody.
What is your relationship with the sneaker industry?
I don’t really have any connection to the sneaker industry as such, but I am an avid sneaker wearer! My first sneakers or 'trainers' were Dunlop Green Flash! Back in the heady mid-70s we used them to skate in! Only rich people, or people who'd been to the States, wore Vans in those days! But I do have connections to the apparel industry in general, having designed tees for Levi's and Fred Perry, plus I've also had a long relationship with UK streetwear brand Addict.
How did you come to be involved with the Stash-curated Reebok City Classic project?
Stash contacted me out of the blue through another old-time friend Mode 2. I hadn’t spoken to Stash in some years - it was back in 1995 that I first met him, when he came over to London with Futura 2000 to work on the Fosters Ice project I curated. A year later I flew Stash over to paint the Fosters Ice Van. It was a real surprise and honour to be picked by him to represent London for his City Classics project.
Was there a particular brief for your artwork, or was the concept down to you?
Stash just said 'do your thing', but he wanted it to be my interpretation of the London vibe - what London means to me. The only other stipulation was that it had to be a 'real' piece of art, rather than a digital file.
Can you explain the concept behind your piece, and tell us how it was created?
The concept behind my piece is 'Bombing London' - 'bombing' in the physical sense of war and terrorism, and in the creative sense of street art and graffiti. For hundreds of years London has been a hotbed of creative talent, as well as a target for people to trying destroy it!. I quite liked the juxtaposition between the two concepts. My visual inspiration were the streets and alleyways of the East End, my old stomping ground and now a haven for all types of expression. I took a few trips to the Shoreditch and Brick Lane areas, ripped and tore wheat-pasted artworks and posters from the walls and brought them back to my studio. I wanted the piece to be multi-media, so it’s a combination of spray paint, collage and stencil.
I also designed stickers to reflect the mishmash of styles I've seen all over London. The stickers have a very historical context, with reference to the V-1 and V-2 bombs dropped on London by the Nazis, and going back even further to the Angry Brigade bombings not long after the turn of the 20th century. London is a rich and diverse place and I wanted to have that history and iconography present.
In addition to creating the artwork, did you colour the actual shoe itself? Was the choice of model and the all-over print your decision?
No, Stash and his team did all that! Having admired Stash's artworks and apparel, such as Subware and Recon, I knew I was in safe hands!
What was the production process like - did you see many samples of the shoe?
Initially I sent a load of pre-existing artworks over to Stash from which they made a mock-up shoe. But that was for internal use only and for Stash to get the project rolling. Then, after the final artwork was created, a high-res scan was sent over and that was it! I didn’t see any samples until one shoe turned up for me to take photos of in my studio etc.
In terms of the other artists involved, did you know any of them personally - and were you able to see their artworks as they were created?
No, I wasn't really aware of any of the other artists on the project - Wane was the only other one I knew of, as I follow him on Instagram. And I only saw the other artworks when everyone else did. It was a great project to be involved with!
Lastly, apart from your own (of course!), which is your favourite collaboration from the rest of the City Classics collection?
That’s a hard choice - I'd go for either Wane or Eklips!
Thanks again to Swifty for taking the time to talk about his collaboration. The Reebok City Classics collection is available now at selected stores worldwide