size? x Dave White x Nike Air Max 95 DW: Gary Warnett interviews Dave White - The Drop Date

size? x Dave White x Nike Air Max 95 DW: Gary Warnett interviews Dave White


gary warnett interviews dave white

To celebrate the release of the SIZE? x DAVE WHITE x NIKE AIR MAX 95 DW, we brought the artist together with legendary trainer connoisseur and general human encyclopaedia Gary Warnett for an exclusive interview that covers art, technology, social media, shoes, Jurassic Park and Batman. Read the interview below and click on the banner to buy the shoes directly…

The collaborative shoe has taken plenty of forms since Liverpool-born artist Dave White painted shoes in Carnaby Street’s size? store in the winter of 2005. What was appreciated by a few is now something that dripped into mainstream culture and it could be argued that the artist-affiliated ‘Wet Paint’ pack of Air Max 95 inspired shoes represents the closing year of a golden era. But the notion of a golden era is subjective. After being the painter who used shoes as his muse, Dave ended up spending time with Nike Inc. CEO Mark Parker as well as designing a charity version of the Air Jordan 1 for Jordan Brand.

During the last decade he avoided becoming that “shoe guy” by side-lining athletic footwear in his work for other passions like wildlife, planes, Americana, sharks and military vehicles – all of which come to life as a result of those kinetic brushstrokes. But, like Pacino in The Godfather Part III (or Silvio Dante’s atrocious impression), just when he was out, they pulled him back in.

A size? assisted duo of Air Max 95s created with the close assistance of the Nike Sportswear team in Beaverton, plus friend and size? brand director Paul Ruffles, deploys Dave’s ‘Albion’ collection of artwork depicting British wildlife to the iconic gradients of Sergio Lozano’s masterpiece. The Hyperfuse panels of this remix could have been heresy, but somehow it feels like the right choice to showcase vivid depictions of a fox and a hare – a predator and a prey in some daily countryside drama. It’s all very conceptual, down to the packaging, and it’s easily the best footwear interpretations of this easy-going creative’s work.

gary warnett interviews dave white

It’s the first time I’ve seen art translated nicely to a shoe in a while — were you aware that can be a real challenge?

DAVE: What’s really crazy is that in 2002, I was painting Nike sneakers and in 2016, Nike are using my art as a source material for their sneakers. It’s bizarre to me is that.

I prefer the animal stuff and military stuff to the shoes — I think it shows that there’s a lot more to your work.

I made a conscious decision in 2007 that I’d kind of said it all. Even before the collaborations started, I’d done it all — it was just another one. I’m the type of guy who, even though I was thoroughly enjoying working on the animal stuff, with it evolving, I felt that I’d done it and I’d said it, so it was time to move on. It’s a real honour that people still remember that stuff.

How did the move to Dorset and now Devon affect your work? Social media means you can’t be outside the loop any more? 15 years ago, maybe you could be.

I think moving where I’ve moved has had a profound influence on the work that I make. The older I get, the more I’m learning. Seeing the wildlife and appreciating what’s around and understanding how special it is can be profound. In the city people see a fox and it stops you in your tracks.

gary warnett interviews dave white

Do you feel that within that art world there’s issues with accessibility and cost is kept up through being aloof — people expect pretension. But sometimes things are just what they are.

It’s funny that you say that — in this world there’s a game that’s meant to be played and I’ve never played it. If anyone asked me to say what I’m about I’d just say that I’m honest. No pretense. The best, best saying I ever heard was something Jarvis Cocker said — “An overnight success is 20 years in the making.”

Could you paint something you don’t like?

I could do, but my heart wouldn’t be in it.

Is getting typecast a real issue in what you do?

I’m not mercenary — on commercial projects, I work with people whom I have a deep affinity with and a love for. It’s an honour when somebody comes to you and says, “Would you like to collaborate?” but if it’s not right, it’s like round hole, square peg. I just won’t do it. Every collaboration’s got to be the best of both. When I ended the sneaker thing it was after a glory day of collabs — Stash AF1 Highs and Supreme Dunk Lows — there were no restocks and when it was gone, it was gone. It was a period of history. Some of the kids now weren’t born when that was coming round and I love that. It’s almost like a rebirth, but more of a re-evolving thing.

gary warnett interviews dave white

Some kids might not have seen your work — they might just like these Air Max you’ve worked on as objects. How did this project actually begin?

It started as a very different animal actually — no pun intended. I had a meeting with a couple of guys in special projects at Nike. Me and Ruffs go back a long, long way. This is Paul’s animal in a sense. We chatted about something we wanted to do. Something else nearly occurred that could have happened and it would have been amazing too. The 95 was coming around for its anniversary and we started toying with some stuff, We got onto the Albion collection which was where my head was at the time — it was all about focusing on British wildlife. I now make the work I make, not just because I love animals, but because when I say to you that hedgehogs will be extinct in 20 years, that blows your mind and it blows my mind, because when we were kids we put a saucer of milk out and they used to come every time. Now barn owls are on the extinction list. The more research I did, the more it led me there. The most iconic pieces were the fox and hare, because there’s a natural rivalry here. There’s a parallel with sports and survival of the fittest, plus there’s dynamism in the brush strokes, so that’s kind of the ethos. It just organically came around.

Was no-sew always used for samples?

Originally it wasn’t on a no-sew Air Max 95 — it was on a proper one, but it looked clunky. It used a vinyl kind of material. Then the boys in Portland told us about a new kind of construction with this paneling and we were like, “Really? Are you sure?”

The gradients are so important.

The shape and the dynamism are so important — if you stretch it too much one-way, it doesn’t work. We had a few moments where we changed a panel and the initial panels we chose from the paintings weren’t as fluid. There was toing-and-froing between us all. We were very specific there. The air bags on the original samples were the same colour as the midsole, and then Ruffs and me were really adamant about the pop in the bubble.

gary warnett interviews dave white

The blue really works on the Fox version.

It complements the source material because the perfect complimentary colour for orange is blue. So, from an aesthetic point of view those two colours work together because your brain will naturally accept them. We explored the suedes too. When people get hold of them, we want people to appreciate the textures and how they’re put together — I can’t get round the ribbing on them and how that technology was deployed.

I think technology deployed correctly on a shoe is so beautiful.

Off topic, but when do you think technology and the designs was on par or better than retro?

1997/98 I think. I mean, that total air unit on Air Max was used from 1997 to 2005. The 2003 was so unremarkable to me at in 2003, but I appreciate it now.

My very first work with Nike was when I got a phone call from Nike LA because they’d seen my sneaker pictures and wanted to do an in-house tee for the Air Max 2003. They made 50 of them. I don’t even know how they got my number! That was my very first work with Nike.

gary warnett interviews dave white

1997 was the last time when I wasn’t retro focused. I find it hard to get excited about retros these days. That said, I was hunting for the Olympic Spiridon.

We’ll always get excited about that stuff though. I pulled out all the stops trying to get them. I love the Terra Humara and the ACG stuff — all that stuff. Those things are so unique and so good that they have to come back.

It’s hard to release something strange now. I doubt the Foamposite could be launched as something now without a Twitter roast. There’s a new conservatism.

I was in the Innovation Kitchen in 2007 and I got speaking to one of the guys that designed one of the midsoles — he was so excited about soles. He made me a pair of Waffle Racers with the 360 midsole.

I can’t see anything organic happening again from any brand because of online and social media overexposure.

I think there are a lot of rose tinted glasses at work from us though.

gary warnett interviews dave white

Yeah, I think you’re right. The Air Max 95 is a classic though — there are a lot of collaborations where I’m not sure that the partner cares for the shoe source material, but you really like this one, don’t you?

I got married in them. I loved them back in 1995.  I was walking through Liverpool city centre back in the day, long before the internet, and I saw some guy wearing the original neon greens. I said, “Listen, what are they?” He lifted his jeans up. They were amazing. I offered him money for them but he wouldn’t take it, he said, “I’ve had a nightmare getting these!” I went to Wade Smith to get them but he only had the white and teal ones. They were good, but not the ones. I saw another guy wearing the neon greens and I offered him money and he sold them to me.

Were you just walking around Liverpool trying to buy shoes off people’s feet?

I got the 95s and visited London a little later wearing them for some art opening I had and a guy in London said, “I’ll give you a thousand quid for them off your feet!” I just said, ‘No way!”

In Japan they were selling for 2000 pounds or something mad like that.

They were the most unique and special shoe. There is nothing like it. That design doesn’t come from any other process than being made with love, skill, passion and intelligence. You can talk about the human body influence of the shoe all day, but it’s there. If you wanna get philosophical about my versions, we’re layering animals over that body inspiration — that physicality.

It has a lot of heart — no pun intended. When I saw it, we didn’t have retro. It was the then and the future. It rendered predecessors obsolete. It used to be that wearing an Air Jordan V in 1992, it would be odd. Wearing 93s in 1995 would be a no-go.

It’s still absolutely timeless.

gary warnett interviews dave white

Do you think that the designers of the iMac from around 1997 were fans of the 95? The colours and the visibility seem to parallel them to some degree, or was that just a coincidence and aesthetic of the era?

That’s very interesting. Wow. I hadn’t thought of that. That inside out structure was the thing. The Air Max 95 was the first sneaker painting I ever did. I was sitting at home and I’d just done a series based on planes — I’d just got the shoes and I was just looking that them thinking that they’re the most amazing thing, so I thought I’d immortalise them. I wanted to paint them just for me. But bear in mind that I’m not the first person to ever paint sneakers.

It’s a big shoe in Liverpool isn’t it — what’s that down to?

It’s massive there, massive. I think it’s that price and the status of something being expensive. I mean, you even get that 110 nickname because of that.

The TN was big there.

That’s a banger! Those tiger ones man.

gary warnett interviews dave white

I never saw anyone run in TNs. That looked painted too – a sort of airbrushed aesthetic.

They weren’t that well received like the 95 by all the subcultures were they?

They never got that cult reverence in some circles did they? I suppose that way that things that people derided as chavvy a decade ago and became holy grails recently applies to them. When the Wet Paint thing happened, the infrastructure for leaks wasn’t really there was it?

The Jordans got leaked two days before and it was really annoying. We’d kept that under wraps for so long.

Were you disappointed? I wish people leaking things took better photos.

Or put them on a better carpet!

gary warnett interviews dave white

When I first saw a picture of these shoes they were strangled and just looked pretty bad because of that.

The thing is, they leaked and there was one factory shot. I wanted everyone to have a sticker in the box for the picture. It was very important that everyone had something – a sticker for the laptop if you can’t buy a print. But anyway that guy leaked it then a second guy leaked it and went on my Instagram feed to announce what they’re about – I knew that! “It’s about a rabbit and it’s by Dave White” Thanks for that! (Laughs) If they want their two minutes they get it then they spread like wildfire, then the real pictures come out.

I don’t understand what anyone gets from leaking pictures. I always think it’s a bit like grassing rather than being like leaking a record to get it out first – at least that’s a DJ tradition.

There’s nothing clever about it, but let’s face it – I’m one cog in a far bigger thing. I’m incredibly blessed and I never know if it’s the last one. I haven’t got a game plan. I didn’t start painting Nike shoes thinking, “Ooh, I’ll get a collaboration!”

gary warnett interviews dave white

Do you think this is your best collaboration with Nike?

Well, there’s two ways of looking at things – I think the best one for the best reason is the Jordan Wings because that was for the kids and I met them and spoke with them for it. I love Nike shoes and I painted them because of that. For me I never had any idea of the journey I’d go on. At the end of the day, Nike could have sued me like, “Errr, excuse me – that’s our IP! What are you doing?” And someone somewhere liked it. This whole thing is bizarre for me. I’ve never really worn any of my collabs – except today obviously – because it’s too bizarre for me. I have them in a case in the studio like, “Did that happen?” Then I get on with the day.

Was tweaking the packaging a process in itself? That can be complex to get that made. That seemed to win over some folks on the fence.

It’s bizarre to see it on the side. I mean, a Nike box usually changes colour every few years. When we had the Skype discussions and meetings, we all agreed that we didn’t just want to make another colourway. At one point the artwork wasn’t actually on them! We were going to do a rabbit and fox colourway, but Nike were absolutely adamant that it had to reflect the artwork. Even from the top – they issued the directive that it had to be special.

Mark Parker has implemented this respect for art within projects. Do you think some of that comes down from him?

I had the pleasure of meeting him and he hosted the trip and I spent a couple of hours in his office. It was 2006 and it was literally before blogging was massive – he showed me stuff and it went from mental to me having to be like, “I just need to have a sit down Mark!” He handed me the Mag.

gary warnett interviews dave white

Did you see the Jurassic Park shoe?

Dude! And the Batman boots.

Have you been paying attention to a lot of collaborations in recent years? There’s a lot of black and beige shoes.

I think you focus on what you like. Let’s face it, we’re all obsessives. We absolutely live and breathe it. I’m 45 and I grew up visiting Wade Smith during the whole casual thing. I remember going and spending two hours in there. I’ll never forget seeing the original Vandals and I was like “Are you kidding me?” My mate bought Marathons and I bought Vandals and he was like, “You look like an idiot!” I was like, “Nah, I look like a spaceman! I’m into Electro 5 – go put yer Dire Straits on and get lost!” I think why I love it so much is looking at things like the new ACRONYMS – they’re mind-blowingly good. The detailing and different textures…all of it. They are very special things. It would be a very sad day for me if I lost that wonder. I still have that impulse from when I was a kid – I’ve gotta have ’em! Maybe my tastes have changed and being a bit older I can’t pull off some stuff.

It’s an opportunity to do something special when you get a collaboration. I like to see someone give it 100% when they get the opportunity.

I think if people go away from these shoes and think about it and maybe have a look at who I am or what I’ve done before and get inspired to do something or try something, that’s the best part of doing things like these. The most important thing about these ones is that all my collaborations have to come from my work…I don’t sell out if that makes any sense. I’ve been doing that gallery thing for 25 years and it’s at my core. With Mark Parker’s love of art and how that filters through the company, there’s a genuine honesty and creativity that allows you to be.

I can pinpoint moments in my life through Nike shoes.

It’s like tattoos in a way. Parts of your life are documented by what’s on your feet. We’ll be in a nursing home and whatever retro is out will be on our feet and I’ll be trying to blow up the Ms. Pac-Man machine. For me it never ever loses its hold on me.

gary warnett interviews dave white

gary warnett interviews dave white

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Organising the Chaos

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