Our obsession with sneakers knows no bounds; from customizing the kicks on demand to nail art to match our favorite sneakers, we always seem to dress with our feet at the forefront of our minds. While our entire wardrobe seems to revolve around sneaker options, ClÃ©mence Chasselon is helping us see our shoes as accessories in a whole new way.
The French plastic artist behind the L’empreinte Design brand has a knack for reinterpreting one of the often most modest elements of sneakers, the soles, as superb works of art. Casting a mold of the clear resin soles and incorporating finishes like pressed florals, marbled ink, or glitter speckles in between, Chasselon’s vision elevates the once-humble sole into an eye-catching and authentic work of art that could be proudly displayed in any sneakerhead house.
We caught up with the designer to learn more about her unique process, how she developed her unique perspective as a sneaker artist, and what she has in the pipeline for 2019 – read on to find out more.
What made you decide to start creating art from sneaker soles?
I have always liked to experiment with different materials. When I moved into my first apartment, I tried different ways of decorating my walls with sneakers; I started to hang real soles on my wall and then I was like “Why not try to mold them and make different pieces to be a little more creative?”
Do you have a traditional training in the arts? is this something that you have studied?
Yes. I went to the AcadÃ©mie des Beaux-Arts in my hometown, Marseille, but felt that my work was not very appreciated and that I could not properly express my creativity and grow in the direction that I wanted to, so I left, changed my plan and started my own business.
Can you explain the process to us? How long does it take to create each piece and how do you decide what style you want each to adopt?
First, I need to create a mold, which I make from the soles of my own sneakers. Once I have created the ones I want, I have to choose what to put on. It’s a long process, especially for pressed flowers as I have to let them dry before incorporating them into the sole. Each creation is unique, so it depends on my mood. My pieces are made with love; it takes time but it’s worth it.
You seem to be focusing primarily on Nike-related products – is there a reason for that?
Because I’m a Swoosh girl, for sure! Nike is my favorite sneaker brand – I love the logo, the story behind it, etc.
Where does your love of sneakers come from?
I grew up dancing a lot and needed comfort [for my feet] so my mom took me to Foot Locker to find the perfect sneakers for my breakdance lessons. I ended up choosing a Nike Air Max Plus – the most comfortable shoe ever, in my opinion. Then I met my boyfriend and love became a passion. I’m more minimalist than him, but I really like my little collection.
You are based in France, what is the sneaker culture like there?
I have seen a new movement develop rapidly over the past three years and now a lot of young children wear sneakers just to keep up with the âhypeâ. It makes me smile. There’s also the older generation, which I call the OG sneakerheads, who resent the younger ones because they don’t know the history or the basics. I’m in between, I’m more on the aesthetic side; I love a pair for the shape and materials they showcase more than the name, brand, or hype surrounding them.
You start to branch out and apply your design aesthetic to other products, like key chains. What prompted you to make this decision and what other pieces would you like to start creating?
I always think of all the new creations to try to play with. I like to experiment and see how things go. For example, this year, I did a lot of testing reworking Nike suspension sneakers. I also tried turning Nike bags into cushions, that kind of thing. I am a big fan of Mini Swoosh, we have the same vision of upcycling to create new clothes or accessories.
What’s the next step for you? Do you have big plans for your job in 2019?
I continue to work on my second label @thefreshestcustom. I’m also working on a cool new thing with Girl on Kicks – new projects with new friends!