I came across Made by WES' Instagram page from the @dimepieceLA IG page over a month ago! I was so fascinated by the quality of the custom shoes, I had to know whose work it was. I originally commented thinking the shoes were a collaboration with the Vans shoe line, but a guy (@devanondeck) replied to me in the comments with @madebywes attached at the end. When I clicked the name I was even more intrigued to know more because it wasn't like any other customs I had ever seen. I think the simplicity of it (which is seeming to be pretty popular in menswear) is what makes them so amazing. Besides the fact that his color combinations are perfection. Anyway, after a few exchanges of emails I am able to provide you with some exclusive information on an influential creator working to change the custom shoe game and man does he make it look easy...
Check out the interview below:
Armand, 26, currently residing in San Leandro California
What was it like growing up where you are from?
San Leandro is a small town squeezed between two other larger well know city's Oakland and Hayward. This town has changed a lot with the times as well as the people living within its city limits. More of my earlier childhood was spent in Oakland playing up and down the street in front of my grandparents house were they held tons of family gatherings (mothers side of the family) while a good portion was spent with my father in Hayward or Daly City with my fathers side of the family. As I grew up i stayed attending school in San Leandro where I met the core of my friends which are like brothers to me. We roamed all over our town skateboarding and doing are best not to get into too much trouble.lol I used to dislike San Leandro for how small and boring it was growing up here, I always wanted to live elsewhere but I'd never change that part of my life cause I made great memories here.
How did #madebywes impact your life?
It gave me the chance to show and share my concepts with the masses, while opening my eyes up to the idea that I can create a brand for myself that I could take care of myself individually, help my mother out and create a stress-free environment for her, and travel the world.
How did the #madebywes brand come about?
When I was in high school, roughly around 2005-2006, I would paint designs on shoes for people. I used to charge dirt cheap because I actually just like creating on all surfaces! I would charge people like $10-20 and I would work on their shoes for hours sometimes a day or two to make them perfect! Now blast back to more recent times, I painted a shoe last year a few days before Black Friday. I painted an entire vans sk8-hi a Tiffany's teal and added some gold lace aglets on them. I had never seen a pair like that before so I just wanted one for myself. I wore them to San Francisco on Black Friday, me and a friend went out to the city and the response I was receiving was crazy. I mean I didn't paint them with the intent to get reactions or anything, but we were only out there for about maybe an hour or two and 20+ people had literally stopped me to ask where I got them. My response was always the same "oh I actually painted these" people's reactions ranged from appreciating the shoes, asking for info to get there's done, if I had more they would pay me for it, or didn't really believe me.lol after I left later that night I thought to myself how awesome people's responses were and figure why not let's try and see what happens if I do put myself out there as a customizer and see how this goes. Although I didn't want to just jump into customizing without doing some research, so for the next few months I spent time figuring everything out. I didn't open up shop until around February of this year.
How much painting/fashion experience did you have prior to your custom sneakers?
I have always been an artist, experience ranges from acrylic to marker, as well as aerosol paints since I did graffiti for a small portion of time. So I'd say for about 14 years or more. I actually have another brand that is art an apparel called Boxzilla, which always me to express myself a little bit more openly. Fashion was something I got really into in the last 3-4 years. I grew up going through different clothing phrases. I had a lot of influences, music was a huge one since I listened to a bit of everything. Also skateboarding to, as times progressed so did the fashion in skateboarding that was starting to become a fashionable trend. Throughout all the time I was always into shoes.
What obstacles did you come across from the beginning of #madebywes to now?
Well it's an ever growing and evolving brand. I am always trying to improve the way I do my customs with regards to improved quality while trying to cut the time it takes to create and send out. Challenges I have right now is different people stealing my photos and claiming as their own work. I highly disapprove of that, it's one thing to take a photo and credit the original source but say you can make shoes like this. Hey I'm all for that just, that like free advertisement and exposure for me if you at least credit the source.lol just never take something from another and claim as your own, I work hard at what I do and the photos and shoes themselves show that. I would hate for someone to claim my photo but send a shoe that doesn't have the same quality that I can provide.
When did you realize #madebywes would be your brand name?
It was a little bit of a challenge in the beginning thinking up a name. So I had to think about the basics of what I was doing. I needed a name that people understood from the get go, that I was the one creating with my own hands. Plus I didn't want to think of something corny I wanted something on the more simplistic side of things, as well as something that was able to freely create from. Thus Made By WES was born.
What designers/influencers do you look up too?
Let's see, I've got too many.lol although the consistent ones are Pharrell Williams, John Elliot, usugrow, Richard Branson, Joshy D of Rebel 8, mike giant. Eclectic bunch but all dope for different reasons.
What tips would you give a beginner in the business/fashion/marketing world?
How do you feel about different competitors in your field?
I honestly don't focus on that too much, I just try and focus on my passion for creating. So far that's set me apart a bit, I just didn't need to clutter myself with other stresses.lol
What can we expect in the future from #madebywes?
Well you can expect the shoes to be consistent and ever developing. I will be learn some new skills to help add to the customs, trying to by this time next year turn this into an actual shoe company based out of the Bay Area. I want to bring that "Made in America" feel back. I will also be release apparel in the future. I want to expand to other industries to, maybe do some custom furniture that would be dope.
Special exclusive product?
I'm in the works with a couple different brands and individuals currently trying to get some product out. Once those release I know I'll be busier then ever, because the exposure from the brands will be crazy! Eventually I'll need to start looking to recruit a crew to help me out because this solo-ness can only last so long. lol
How cool is he? He kept it all the way real with me and I was so happy he agreed to allowing me to share this with you all! Don't forget to follow @MadeByWES on IG and shop the link in his bio!!