Where to begin? Nash Money has been quietly hustling away in London for years now, but it’s only recently that his work has reached a wider global audience. Hugely talented and equally modest, Nash is a well-known figure in London – whether it’s chilling on the Bond bench (RIP), managing the DPMHI store, eating kebabs or single-handedly redefining the custom shoe game with his bespoke creations. Nash is part of a new wave of London designers and brands who exhibit that famous British reserve by quietly doing their own thing and letting the work speak for itself. Following his phenomenal solo show with Trust Nobody in Barcelona, we sat down with the man himself to talk moccasin stitches, Edwardian bondage, Queen Latifah and the Samurai code…
So what led you to begin customising in the first place?
I started in 2003 and initially it was because I had a really cool pair of Snipe moccasins which I ruined through some funny story. I tried to buy another pair but there would always be one element of the shoe that I didn’t like, whether it was the leather or the sole or the shape. Then my good friend Allister AKA Alist was doing a lot of sneaker customising and I asked him once whether he could make me a pair. He made a few pairs for his mates and stuff, and I thought that I was his mate [laughs] and that he would give me a pair and he just said to me to make my own so I started experimenting. I tried to do the moccasin stitch on a pair of Air Force Ones that came out completely wrong…
Have you still got them? We need an exclusive on those.
I don’t actually, I have pictures of them though. It didn’t really work out and I was a bit disheartened so I left it alone for like 6 months, then I plucked up the courage to do it again in a different way and that was my first pair of proper customs which were the ‘Lucky Charms’, the black & turquoise green ones. And because it had elements of red in it as well I decided to go on a Chinese theme of jade, so you have the jade medallion and then it has like a red ribbon on it. I was intending to put some actual jade on it but I just didn’t get round to it after… you know… 3 and a half years… [laughs]. Still haven’t got round to doing it… I did the decals of the horse on the side which represents the year I was born, keeping it on the Chinese theme.
I remember you had them in a box round by Bond one night and you were like some kind of drug dealer, like “Pssst, come & check this out”….
Because you’d never really told anyone – I remember I’d known you for a while before you told me you did customisation, and I thought you meant just drawing on your shoes or something.
Well I just thought the whole theme of the moccasin stitch on an AF1 was a good idea for a mass-marketing scheme, so I thought I should keep it top secret. I believe that still, I believe that if Nike started producing these shoes with a moccasin stitch it would be like a new category of footwear.
Like with the woven shoes…
Exactly, I kind of feel like if they’d picked up on this years ago, you know, like everyone else is doing it now – One True Saxon started doing it, Lacoste started doing it, Adidas are doing it, Gravis, all these brands are doing it. Nike could smash it, they’ve got a good product and all they need to do is add a moccasin stitch and different colourways.
What came next?
Going on from the Lucky Charms, with every custom I’ve done I’ve tried to evolve my style, tried to learn a new technique, tried to push the boundaries. So after that I did a couple of Delta Forces, adding the hemp straps from the a Vandal and then doing a nice moccasin stitch, trying to go to like a more formal shoe theme, so it was all premium brown leather.
It’s funny ‘cos, especially looking at the shoe stands at Bread & Butter, a lot of companies are doing that now. But you were pre-dating that by several years.
Maybe subliminally people pick up on it, but to be honest my moccasin stitch is not used – I do a cross moccasin stitch, a lot of people do a straight kind of thatched one but I particularly like the cross-stitch, I like to add the crosses all over the shoe and stuff. Actually the premium Deltas I gave to Lenny, Futura, who I worked with for a couple of days at Maharishi. He was such a nice guy, I just thought he would be a perfect person to represent my shoe and wear my shoe, it was just a sincere gift to him, he’s just a really nice guy. Like we were just talking about normal things, not hype things…
Um, so when are you guys getting married?
Er, I don’t know… Um… Lenny, when are you going to marry me? [Laughs.] Then I did the Mowabb, which was a bit of a pun on the Nike Considered range because Considered did the Mowabb with the cross-stitch on it so I thought it would be quite funny to do the original colourway with the moccasin stitch. Like the Considered Mowabb was alright, there were a few elements I didn’t like about it but all in all I thought it was a really nice shoe.
How about the infamous Zoltar Jordans?
I collabed with Dan Macmillan from Zoltar to do a shoe with them, which was fun because they’ve got loads of nice graphics on canvas. I used this Edwardian bondage scene print that they’ve got, it encouraged me to go for a wacky colourway so I went for green on pink and used glittery thread to do the moccasin stitch and just went a bit wild. I don’t usually go that wild but it was a good excuse to do it. It was good to have that input from Zoltar, it was good fun. Again, that was another evolution for me, adding more paintwork and sewing in fabrics.
It took a long time right?
That shoe specifically took ages to do, it was a heart-wrenching shoe, the glittery thread would snap at every point. But it was a good project to do and I learned a lot of lessons from it. We used a Jordan IV because it’s Dan’s favourite shoe but before that I’d done another pair that I call the Jordan IV Mochas, because they’ve got a brown speckled sole and brown stitching. For those ones I took the labels of a Jordan t-shirt, you can see the logo on the top that says “For His Royal Airness”.
And then came the Air Max?
Yeah, after that I did a project with Nike for the ‘Festival of Air’ and they asked me to do two customs. Basically the project layout was to choose an Air Max and to base the theme on the year that the shoe came out, whether it be an ’87, ’91, ‘93 or a ’97 etc. I chose the ‘87s purely because it’s one of my favourite shoes out of the series and the BW wasn’t an option. Both shoes had an Afrocentric theme, because back in ’87 and the early ‘90s in the States there was a huge Afrocentric theme, the Malcolm X movie came out and people were bringing themselves up to speed on black history. The Native Tongues collective was huge at the time, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Jungle Brothers, Monie Love, Queen Latifah and so on. Then at the same time there was the Fresh Price of Bel-Air and other TV series, X jackets, NWA, there was Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg, it all just got so big at that point. So I decided to base both shoes on an African theme. There’s the Bel-Air Max which obviously is named after the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, with a bright African-American colourway.
It’s funny because again those patterns became really trendy again recently with the Nu Rave kids etc.
Yeah, those African patterns with the bright American colours.
You were working on customs in Niketown during the show itself, and I remember you told me you had kids coming up asking for you to make them shoes on the spot, like “Can I have a green one?”
[Laughs] Yeah, I was getting requests, it was quite funny. I didn’t tell anyone about the show, I was a bit shy to tell my mates about it, but then I saw so many mates that I never see, like people I went to school with. Goin back to the Bel-Air Max, I used my Nike IDs that I’d made in New York, I cut them up, cut out my name which I put on the tongue, I used the Max 90 rubber label from the back for the tongue, then I did like a chick-check stitching. I was really happy with these because I didn’t use the moccasin stitch and I felt really happy with the outcome – it didn’t have the stitch and it was still a good custom, therefore saying…
That you weren’t just a one trick pony?
Yeah, that my customs aren’t just based on the moccasin idea, even thought I still feel strongly about the moccasin stitch. Then the other pair was called the Native Tongues, and I wanted to go more roots-oriented on those, so giving two versions of the Afrocentric theme with one being bright and loud and African-American and the other more roots-oriented, which is what the Native Tongues were about. Like Queen Latifah wearing her roots garms, same with De La Soul and Monie Love. The Native Tongues pair had an original Ghanaian print as the fabric base with chick-check stitiching. I did a speckled sole on both the Bel-Air Max and Native Tongues, which my daughter helped with, she likes to splatter paint…
The family sweatshop…
The sweatshop, there we go. Then I added an ebony wooden elephant on the back – Nike always add an embroidered badge on the back when they do cllabs or some kind of special shoe, but I don’t have the machinery to do that so I added the ebony elephant instead. Then for the tongue I took the label off a pair of waterproof Air Force Max, the Charles Barkley ones which I had in a girl’s size brand new. Most of these labels I get off other shoes.
Haven’t you got a million shoes lying around with no labels then?
Yes, I do [laughs]. I actually just did a huge drop at Niketown in their recycling bin, at least 50 pairs of shoes.
You threw away 50 shoes in my size!
Yeah but they’re all fucked up, either skated in or battered or found in rubbish bins, I try and find materials from wherever. I used to work at Size so when the reject shit would come in I’d pinch them. Wait, they might sue me… okay buy stuff from Size! That reminds me, the reason why I do customs is because when I first started doing it I was a sales assistant or a shop manager, I don’t have design qualifications, I never studied at college, I don’t have the experience or the money to manufacture stuff. So all the shit that I make is made from spending like a couple of pounds on thread, things that are accessible and things I can do at home. Hence the reason why I do it hand-stitched, not machine-stitched, it’s kind of homely, it’s like your gran made it.
You need to do a granny-themed custom…
With granny knitwear, definitely! The customs look like a product, like a finished product that Nike made, but it’s got that home touch to it, which I think is what people like about my customs.
It’s ‘cos you can see the work that’s gone into it. Some people might be dubious, thinking customisation is just drawing on shoes or whatever, but when they see your work they’re blown away because you can see how carefully it’s been taken apart and completely recrafted. I think that’s why the Visvim hybrid caught so many people’s attention.
I wanted to do something new all the time, and when I first saw the 360 sole with the straight border from the midsole to the upper I realised I could take it apart and hand-stitch it together. So I was desperately trying to work out a shoe to work with, another Nike shoe – I didn’t want to do something ironic with like an Adidas, that would be just too crass [laughs]. I love Adidas, I love specific shoes from Adidas but it would be a negative thing for me because both companies would hate it. I was thinking of combining the 360 sole with an Air Max ’97. I don’t really look at the blogs and I don’t really see what’s coming out next season, which is a bit dumb for what I do…
So you hate blogs eh?
No no… sorry… I love Hype X Slam!!! Is that right? [Laughs.] So basically I walked into Size one day and there was that whole range of hybrids with the 360 sole, the Max ’97 with the 360 sole, and I was like “F*ck, they got there before me”. So I had to think of something else, and my favourite other shoe other than Nike has to be the Visvim FBT, it’s dope, it’s all about what I’m about, it’s got the moccasin stitch, it looks like a shoe but has a sneaker feel, it’s a mature shoe…
The dapper cad shoe…
It’s the cad shoe, I’m getting a bit tired of rocking sneakers, and I want to appeal to more…
Yeah! [Laughs.] More upper-class honeys! You see all these dope honeys with all these guys wearing pointy shoes, like I’m not going to wear pointy shoes but at least try and make an effort to go in a smarter direction. The Visvim is dapperness and it’s not owned by everyone, they think about what they do and they use high quality leathers and it’s just pure dapperness. That has to be my favourite shoe, my favourite brand has to be Nike. I have lot of favourites for different reasons, like I love Nike because generally as a brand they’re wicked, their logo’s wicked, their marketing’s wicked, most of their shoes are wicked. Then at the same time Adidas have something to offer, like the ZX8000 is in my top 5 shoes, and other companies have something to offer in different ways.
So basically you’re saying you’ll work for any of them?
Yes!!! [Laughs while pretending to suck microphone.] Just kidding. So with the Visvim hybrid, I’d already been given a pair of 360s by Nike to wear at the ‘Festival of Air’ show and I’d hooked up a pair of Visvim elkskin FBTs which are £275. They fit me, so I was thinking I could just keep these shoes, you know? [Laughs.] So I put them together and added the electric blue stitching, which is one of my favourite colours and goes really well with black. I got Reino to make a lace loop with my logo on it which I then incorporated in the back of the shoe – that was very kind of him, big shout out to Reino, he’s a cool dude and you should check out his work. I guess that was one of the things that put me on the map.
I remember putting a teaser shot on Slam X Hype and no one really paid attention, but as soon as the finished shoe went up it just blew up.
I’d had a few things on Crooked Tongues and I’ve had loads of features in Sneaker Freaker, so big up to Grace, Charlie and Gary from Crooked Tongues and big up to Woody at Sneaker Freaker, they’ve all been repping me since the beginning, thank you. After the Visvim I was invited by We The People bike company to do a bike seat. Quite funny because I’d already planned to do a bike seat with the Atmos Free Trail and then customise my SE Floval Flyer with everything on the bike colour co-ordinated to match the shoe. The theory is that the shoe’s so comfortable you can even sit on it, ride on it, whatever. So they asked me to do a seat and I did a snakeskin one (it’s on my bike now), and they wanted something more than just re-upholstering the seat. So I was like, “Okay, give me 30 minutes” [laughs], cut up my Atmos shoe and upholstered it onto the seat, sent it back and they loved it. I think I got as much acclaim for doing that as I did for the Visvim 360s, but the seat took me 30 minutes and the Visvims took me ages! With the Visvim you have to work out each stage in advance, you can spend like 12 hours on it and then fuck it up and that’s it, over, time to find another shoe and start again.
When we posted the Atmos seat up here on Slam X Hype it got a lot of buzz going – I think again that’s because people didn’t expect it. They’ve seen a lot of shoe customs but they haven’t seen anything like that before, it’s unique.
I really want to expand, I want to do furniture, I want to do interior design one day, but for now the shoes are my main focus. Until I’ve got more of a name and more influence and the power to do different stuff I’m going to keep on doing this, it’s what I’m good at and it’s what I trust I know and what people know me for. It’s a hobby, a thing that I love doing, and it is beginning to be a career. After the Atmos seat it was getting harder and harder to better myself in the custom world. Once you start getting into the manufacturing thing, which I did with Maharishi, then it’s a lot easier because you’ve got a lot more power to decide how it’s going to be from zero to 100%, as opposed to picking it up from 80% and taking it the rest of the way.
Taking it back to 60% and then on to 100%…
Destroy and rebuild! [Laughs] Um, so then I guess after that it was how to do a better Visvim / Nike hybrid. My favourite shoes I was wearing at the time were the True ‘97s, which is like a very rare ’97, very expensive (I did buy them by the way!), and my Native American brown FBTs, which were also very expensive and which I also paid for.
So basically you cr*pped yourself taking them apart?
Yeah, they cost me a lot and I still miss wearing them individually as they were.
Are you wearing the hybrids?
Yes [laughs]. I sported them the other day around the house, I made sure they were fully tight stitched and glued. With these ones I like the way that there’s more of the Nike emphasis in the back heel part than there was on the first pair – you can take the Visvim skirt off and still rock it. So I was really happy with the way they turned out. Now that I’ve made them, I could make them again very quickly, but it was the most painstaking mental battle making those shoes, stitching every hole that was threaded before – there must be like a thousand holes and you have to do it by hand. I don’t use thimbles because they’re too awkward.
You’ve just got the Iron Finger Style…
The Iron Finger Style! The next thing I did was the Jordan III which actually goes right back to the beginning because that custom is the inverse colour of the AF1 Lucky Charms, so if you look at the Lucky Charms on the computer and invert the colours you get white, brown and maroon which I thought was an amazing colourway so that’s what I based the Jordans on. I really like Michael Lau’s wooden theme, but I didn’t want to copy it so I came up with the ‘Acme wood sole’ which is a very basic cartoon-style wood sole. Then I added the maroon stitching – the reason I chose the Jordan III is because it has that border line which hugely accentuates the moccasin stitching, the stitch goes right from the back all the way around the front and then back on the other side. I added gold leaf on the back, I added goat suede and a half moccasin stitch on the tongue, and then the red leather. That was a project for the Trust Nobody show – the Visvim ‘97s, the Jordan III and the Second Son Dunks were all done for the show. I wouldn’t like anybody to commission me for a show and then not have 2 or 3 new pieces. Most of the other customs hadn’t ever been exhibited before either, but those three I kept secret until the show.
Was the Dunk bike seat done to tie in with Nike’s Dunk anniversary year?
The bike seat and the Dunk Second Son were integral parts of the Nike sponsorship because they’ve got their anniversary year going. They asked for the Atmos bike seat to go in the show but it wasn’t shipped over in time, so I said, “Give me a shoe, give me a bike seat and I’ll make you one right now.” It took me like an hour to make, but it was a lot harder than the Atmos one because it was a high-top and a lot thicker leather so to wrap it around was virtually impossible. But everyone seemed really happy with the outcome, it’s not something I would have usually done but I was quite happy because everyone seemed to like it.
How did the collaboration with Second Son come about?
The Dunk Second Son speaks for itself. Like I said, I’ve got the theme of the moccasin stitch and I always have to think of something else to put on it like a pattern or a paint job or another fabric and that can be quite hard work. Me and Will from Second Son connect so it was quite natural working with him and I trusted him implicitly. He and I have the same train of thought & style, the dapper cad steez, the regal f*cking tip, it’s all English. He even used Victorian-style dipping pens to draw on the regal flourishes. So Second Son being an English brand, me being English, representing the London steez, it just seemed natural. He gave me the Dunks initially, I did the moccasin stitch with the chick-check midsole stitching and I added the Second Son label on the tongue. I gave him the shoe in full confidence that he would do a good job, although I was a bit nervous ‘cos it was the first proper collab I’ve done that wasn’t commissioned and I wasn’t going to see it till the day of the show! But to be honest, it’s one of my favourite shoes out of the whole collection – props, Second Son’s a dope label. Street Team! It’s a good label and it should be seen and it should be known, and if I can help with that then yeah, cool. It’s an honour to work with them, that was a full-on pleasure. Just not to have to do all the work on that pair was so good! [Laughs.]
So that’s the next step in the evolution of your work, take it further by not actually doing the work? Like all the old masters had their little chumps to do the heavy work while they just sketched it out…
[Laughs.] Yeah, okay then that means it’s not a Second Son shoe, it’s my shoe, I did it all, Will’s my chump… just kidding. Actually we might do a t-shirt that matches the shoes too, with moccasin stitching or something.
You’ll do them all by hand then?
Oh what, I would do the stitching? [Laughs.]
I’m thinking a run of like 1000 tees…
Um, maybe… [Laughs.]
Anyway then there’s the hats, the hats are real simple things – they’re my favourite customs, least amount of work for the maximum outcome! It’s like my Lacoste one is just the smallest crocodile on a dope New Era hat which is a generic, nice hat. You’re never gonna get a Lacoste x New Era collab.
It looks like it should go together. It’s not like, “How did he do that?” but more like “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Or like, “Where did you buy that from, the Lacoste store?” It’s just meant to be. The same with the Nike stuff, it’s just like I collect labels, I have a huge collection of labels that I’ve ripped from shoes and t-shirts and clothes and pants and whatever. I hoard and hoard loads of shit. I could make those hats all day but I guess it would be a bit boring as a theme, trying to make a name on just doing that. It is what it is, you can do it at home, anybody can do it. It all comes from having a dope t-shirt that I love and would wear all the time and then it wears out and I just cut out the label and re-use it. There’s prints that I want to duplicate because you can’t buy them anymore. Like Rookie NYC is a dope skate brand and I’ve got a dope t-shirt with a little chess piece on the chest and I love it. And you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to get a nice sweater and I’m going to take the chess piece and copy it huge on the sweater – it’s flat-out copying but it’s what I loved to wear so why can I not have it again? They don’t make it anymore so I’ll just do it myself, I’m not selling it, it’s for me. That’s what all of this shit’s about, it’s just about making shit for myself the way I want it.
How about the official New Era designs you did?
Okay you’ve got the paisley one, and that’s going on the whole regal style, the whole thing like with me and Will from Second Son is that we like the old English styles, the old English fabrics, looks, images…
Because in England there’s such a long history of dapper dandy fashion, for instance even from before modern America began.
Yeah exactly, that’s another thing that defines us as who we are and us being English. I think the mistake that a lot of English brands make is they try to copy the American lifestyle they’ve grown up with, they’re influenced by America and that’s fair enough, we all are. But to get our own identity we have to look into our history and be strongly influenced by that, and to make it streetwear you just have to juxtapose it, flip it. So with the paisley New Era I’ve used a nice paisley wool and that’s also going on from the paisley that The Hundreds used, but again what I did, like with the Michael Lau wood, is take it to another step which is to use the old English paisley which is completely different.
Gangster dapper, but then I flipped it with another aquamarine stitch, just trying to keep it as simple as possible and juxtapose things. That was done in a limited run of six dedicated to my daughter, they even made one for her in her size which was really nice of them. With my regal ‘N A S H’ badge one as well, I used embroidered SAS badges too since the SAS are a very English thing.
Then they asked me to do two other designs. One I based on ‘Shogun Assassin’, also known as ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’, which is a Japanese Samurai series. I can relate to the idea of ‘Lone Wolf and Cub’ ‘cos I have a daughter but I’m not with the mother (even though we have a good relationship), and I get a lot of strength and inspiration from how I am with my kid. I like the philosophy there, although I’m not running down the street chopping people’s heads off like “I’m the Samurai!” [laughs]. In the original comic there’s a lot more detail and they use this crest with three hollyhocks. I didn’t use the full crest ‘cos I know that it’s also used in some mafia thing so it’s detrimental to what I mean by it, so I just used the one hollyhock. The other official New Era is based on an eraser company called Staedtler, which is a German stationary company. From a child I’ve always loved the logo and the colourway of the packaging is amazing, it’s electric blue with a Roman centurion on it.
I remember it from back in the day from cutting it up and flicking it at people in school…
[Laughs.] Yes! I’ve always been intrigued by it so I flipped the centurion to being a guy wearing headphones and a cap and then on the back instead of Staedtler I put Nashtler. That’s pretty much it, it was really basic, just a simple idea.
So what’s next for Nash?
Well, I’ve got a couple of secret projects going on which i can’t really talk about just yet. I should be going back to Barcelona in April to help with a Sneaker Freaker x Trust Nobody event and I have been working with the ninja брат’s at Mishka NYC on a New Era hat so I guess you will be seeing a lot more of me unfortunately. I’ve also been thinking about taking my show on a tour around the world. I want to hit up the States, Canada, Asia and a few more places in Europe. We will see what comes of it…
Lastly, any shout outs?
First a big thanks to Toni Garcia and Carlitos at Trust nobody for having the faith in what I do and giving me my first solo show, to Woody at Sneaker Freaker and Ivan at Nike for sponsoring the event. Also a special thanks to Tonete, Aitor and Elisa for looking after me in Barcelona and making sure I got what i needed as in equipment, fabrics and helping with the set up of the gallery space. I can’t forget the people that make the family that is Trust Nobody, the people that work there: Alex, Julio, Estevan, Ruth the bloody woman LOL and Vanessa. A big holla going out to the Street Team, Will, Rufus, Ry and Jonathan, my boy Piaf from Porto Portugal and my new-found buddies from Foreign Family Chad, Yoshi and their manager Elia. And one big thanks for all the people that came to the show. Thank you.
You can see more of Nash’s work at www.nashmoney.com…