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The Making of the Community-led SS1 Custom Sneaker

author
DP

The idea for this project sprang to life organically in May, long before the current rise in custom design AJ1s —  some blatant rip offs and some more creative takes. With everything going on this past week between Nike and Warren Lotas I feel more compelled than ever to make it clear this is not an official collaboration with Jordan Brand. This is a community led art project that we brought to life as something special our members could be a part of creating. So let’s dive into how that happened…

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During a Zoom call with SoleSavy members and Rich Franklin of Garrixon Studios on May 15 I started to realize we could bring our own custom sneaker to life. We’ve seen and heard of Shoe Surgeon’s customs but the $5,000 price tag was never realistic for many people. After hearing and seeing what Garrixon was capable of, I hatched a plan for a custom shoe with an authentic Air Jordan 1 sole as its base. 

Days later, I did what I always do when there’s something we want to do for the community, I gauged their interest in the potential project. For me to take their feedback seriously we had to have some sort of commitment from the community. At this stage, my goal was to do a pre-sale to ensure we get the shoes into the hands of as many of our members as possible. 

This is when the SoleSavy community absolutely floored me with their support. Before even having a mock-up or any solid details, outside of an AJ1 high being the model, we sold out of our $100 pre-orders in under a minute for a total of 100 pre-orders.

Starting The Design Process

The excitement in the community swelled as ideas and details from brainstorming sessions filled our Slack. It became clear that the authentic donor soles for the custom would be green and white, based on the availability of the pine green Air Jordan 1 Low. This was a very important part of the process for me; I didn’t want the sole/soul of our custom sneaker to be anything but an authentic AJ1. With that in place, the shoe was built from the ground up. 

Over the course of three weeks I worked with members on concepts, ideas, color blocking and suggestions. A unique take emerged from the green and white base; a design that muted the pine green and brought neutral, wearable cream, black, and grey hues to the forefront while also drawing inspiration from one of the community’s favorite releases of the past year: the Aime Leon Dore x New Balance 990v2.

Once our design mockups were complete, we proceeded to do another round of pre-orders. This time we set aside 225 pairs for pre-order and watched those sell out in less than 5 minutes. My goal was to ensure everyone got a pair and at the time I believe we succeeded with almost 25% of members reserving a pair. 

Materials and Details

For the materials, premium tumbled leather covers the upper in cream, white, and black, while green suede hits the heel and main portion of the Swoosh. Grey suede eye stays and overlay sit atop the black tumbled leather on the collar, while contrasting gold smooth leather lines the sneaker, a luxe detail found only on top-tier Jordan releases. As a final detail, the green box features the Sole Savy split logo and a reminder on the side that this pair is for: “MEMBERS ONLY.”

With reference points to several past Air Jordan 1 releases, the final design is a lexicon of sorts for sneaker fans who appreciate the details and craftsmanship. The most glaring feature is the gold contrast stitching and custom canvas tags, both of which are nods to the Union Air Jordan 1. A small gold toe Swoosh pays homage to the Nigel Sylvester edition; the detached ankle collar evokes the Rookie of the Year model, and the debossed SoleSavy logo on the heel is a tip of the cap to the Fragment Jordan 1.

Putting Our Touch on It

Flipping the Nike Air logo on the custom tongue tag, the SoleSavy logo appears over a leather tongue, the back of which features each shoe’s individual number /325. Details inside include premium Upmatic insoles, extra padding in the collar area of the shoe, and Union-style two-tone laces. 

The split two-color Swoosh is a standout design item on the SS1 and our way of adding a special touch to it. We split the Swoosh as a play on our logo design and concept, along with the fact no one has really ever broken up the Swoosh like that. Travis was the first to do anything new to it on an AJ1; Dior made it bigger, and we brought our brand to it as a way to highlight our split SoleSavy logo.

The SS edition’s contrast stitching represents the close-knit nature of the small community, a feature further emphasized with the “FAMILY” logo on the yellow canvas tag on the collar. 

Costs

While the final $675 price tag (split across 3 payments) may seem steep, doing a custom shoe on a real Jordan 1 sole that is handcrafted in Philadelphia was done at cost for our members. Garrixon studios lists previously-sold customs (that quickly sold out) for $1,000 each on their site, making the SS1 price point more palatable in context. All 325 pairs of this project have been sold to members of the SoleSavy community. 

The Final Result

The design process for us was simple, we wanted to symbolize the unity of sneakerheads and our community coming together to create this shoe. The result is a unique piece of the community’s history brought together on one of history’s most beloved silhouettes. 

Behind The Scenes

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Sole Savy is unreal! With a busy schedule it’s hard to keep up on shoes, and the group keeps me up to date on releases, tips on how to manually cop, and a marketplace with killer deals from fellow like minded collectors. It’s changed the sneaker game for me!

@SoleSavy is the truth. They've helped me cop kicks I never would've imagined getting at retail. Members always willing to assist on drops too. And most of all, a REAL community of REAL sneakerheads. These guys should be the gold standard for sneaker communities! #LifetimeMember

My membership paid for itself three fold by being solely responsible for my union 4’s, mesh sacai waffles, sacai blazers, court purple aj1s, glow in the dark yeezy 350s, travis scott lows (which I traded to get desert ore ow’s), air max 1 londons, bc3’s for way under retail etc.

Can't say enough about SS. The stellar help with copping shoes is a given but it's the community that makes it extra special. Hands down one of the best decisions I made as a wannabe sneakerhead.

The community of sneakerheads and resources available to help manually cop are great and really will help you get more Ws. The Zoom calls for hyped drops like Union Jordan 4 only adds to the camaraderie while providing real time instruction

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