Last night, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the iconic Classic Leather, Reebok threw a banger of a party at New York’s S.O.B’s nightclub. Hosted by legendary (although that title freaks him out) graffiti artist and shoe designer Stash, the night featured performances by notable hip hop entertainers Doug E. Fresh, Freeway, Ace Hood, Travi$ Scott and more. As a collaborative project with Reebok’s City Classics program, Stash hand selected 12 of the world’s most distinguished graffiti writers to design a sneaker, all of which were unveiled at the event before hitting store shelves July 1. Bullett sat down with Stash amidst the throngs of photographers, hip-hop kids and near-deafening music to talk the collection and why the graffiti movement is more important than ever.
What made you become an artist and designer?
I’ve always been into art as a child, and having a photographer as a father sort of enlightened me visually, but really the graffiti movement and growing up in New York City. I’m really just a product of my environment, of watching the graffiti movement as it grew on the subway and taking the train to school. It was being a fan, [thinking] ‘wow, how do they do that? are they allowed to do that?’ — the fascination really took over me.
How has being a graffiti artist changed the way you view the world around you?
That’s a very good question. There’s so much that people don’t realize came from this movement — the way we look at things, the way we interpret things. We all draw from the same pool of inspiration, but it’s what we do with it and how we give back that defines us and our individuality. I think the graffiti movement has allowed so many people to have a voice where people were afraid to have a voice. I really think this movement has been so impactful on so many forms of industry because it’s a youth-driven art form.
Almost like an underground language, a voice for the oppressed.
Without a doubt, and on many levels. From just a simple tag to a mural or whatever, it’s allowed people to really express themselves and be heard for each other. We didn’t care about the audience, the audience was each other, other graffiti artists. As a New Yorker, other boroughs know my style as a downtown New Yorker; there’s a distinction to how we all do what we do. I think the impact of graffiti is really the only American-born art form that we can really claim.
You handpicked 12 artists from around the globe to tell the tale of each of their city. What was it like teaming up with Reebok as curator of this whole project?
Getting to curate something is an honor. Not only do I have a brand that believes in my sensibility, but I have all these artists who are willing to put themselves out there. It’s so empowering to be where I am right now and I’m so thankful for all the artists and their art.
My contribution wasn’t necessarily putting my graffiti art on footwear, it was more what I’m known for in the industry — fabrication, colorways. I wanted the artists to stand alone and not be conflicted. I’m amazed at how the range filled out and I’m really happy it worked out the way it did. It’s about them.
Tati from Miami is the only female Reebok City Classics artist. Do you think this speaks to women’s representation in streetwear on a grander scale?
There are so many amazing, talented women that have yet to find their voice. When I heard I had the opportunity to pick 12 cities I was like, ‘I’m going to find a woman that’s gonna represent.’ I used to own a streetwear store and there’s never enough for women. There should have been two women. I didn’t have to fight for her, I just merely suggested it and her artwork represented exactly what we needed. It speaks both to men and women and really transcended higher than what the brand anticipated.
Tell me about the shoes you designed for this collection.
For my introduction with the brand on this level, I wanted to ease my way in and not do something so drastic, come with a bit of familiarity. I was playing with a new model that I hadn’t worked with, so for me I just did what’s expected, what you’d assume of me, but then ‘oh wow, red and black, how interesting,’ because almost by virtue, most of my past projects have been using blue and grey color palettes.
You’re revered as a legend in the world of graffiti. In your opinion, what separates a great graffiti artist from a mediocre one?
Alright, let’s just go back to ‘legend’ — that’s an odd thing to be labeled. I like to think of that word as an acceptance because it’s humbling, it’s really weird, but I’m honored. I think it just comes from my diligence and my purity about my passion about the movement.
Art is subjective, there are so many variables that it’s more subject to your own critique. To me, you gotta be diligent about creating something. And yes, you will fall, but will you get back up and do it again? In graffiti, over time you develop your sensibilities, your style, you find your voice. So it’s over time, and it’s your willingness to be vulnerable.
What is your personal mantra?
Tomorrow never dies. You can always start again tomorrow.