A History in Footwear: Kaws
After he recently exhibited his work in London (as part of the Frieze Art Fair), we thought we should take a look at the extensive list of footwear collaborations by prolific New York-based artist Brian Donnelly - otherwise know as Kaws...
We featured two of Kaws' footwear projects in the Art & Sole book, the first being part of the DC Shoes Artist Projects series, alongside other art heavyweights including Dave Kinsey and Andy Howell. The Kaws shoe (a DC Gauge model) came in both black and white and featured Kaws' Bibendum-inspired Chum character emblazoned across the shoe upper.
Also featured in the book was a Vans Chukka Boot designed to celebrate the launch of The Simpsons Movie. Again a project featuring various artists, contributors to the collaboration included the likes of Neckface, Stash, Futura, Gary Panter and David Flores. Kaws' shoe featured a white notepad-themed upper, with various Simpsons characters sketched with Kaws' stylistic traits (he later went on to produce a number of artworks featuring 'Kimpsons' characters).
Kaws has always had a big following in Japan and that's mostly thanks to his collaborative work with iconic Japanese streetwear label A Bathing Ape. Over the years, Kaws has worked on various incarnations of the Bapesta sneaker, with his XX and Chompers iconography being applied to the silhouette using a huge variety of materials and colourways.
Between 2007 and 2008, Kaws also designed three shoes for high-end Japanese label Visvim, using the Zhara and Logan Low silhouettes as a canvas. The slip-on style Zhara came in both black and white, with the Kaws XX motif spanning both shoes and his Companion character sat on the heel counter. The artwork on the Logan Low uses a similar style to his aforementioned Vans shoe, with a notepad background and sketch-style illustrations.
The shoes which seem to have reached 'grail' status for many collectors are the three pairs Kaws produced for Nike in 2008 - an Air Max 90, Air Max 90 Current and an Air Force 1. The colour theme across the series was a minimal black, white and Volt (Nike's high visibility yellow/green colour) and the shoes also featured a variety of materials including suede, rubber, nubuck and mesh. In addition to the custom tongue labels and lace jewels, Kaws' signature XX was incorporated into the design by way of cross-stitch detailing around the toebox area.
To see more from Kaws, visit his Instagram page here