A Studio Visit With The Super-Crafty Customizer Behind SOLESclusive
A masterclass with Jette.
When it comes to sneaker customization, SOLESclusive's founder Henriette knows every trick in the book – a true Jette-of-all-trades. Her Instagram feed is a treasure trove of seemingly limitless creativity, showcasing intricately painted uppers, amped-up Nike swooshes, embroidered primeknits and bespoke refits. Every sneakerhead's dream, basically.
Working industriously from her Hamburg studio amid an impressive stash of eclectic materials, paints, threads and tools, every shoe – from the Air Force 1 to the Yeezy Boost 350 V2 – is a blank canvas ready for Jette to transform into a unique work of art. But unlike many artists, Jette sees no reason to guard her trade secrets, happily sharing her techniques via workshops and YouTube tutorials.
We paid Jette a visit to get to know the girl behind the customs, and see her incredible skills in action. Inspired is an understatement. Read the interview below and view all the shots in the gallery above.
Can you name a specific moment or shoe that kick-started your passion for sneakers?
Probably not. I have always been a 'boyish' girl. I remember my piano teacher complaining about my dirty sneakers when I was around 12. The earliest sneaker-related memory I have is painting my parents' fence to get a specific pair of adidas Superstars – must have been in the late 2000s, when they were really big. We wore them with fat laces, artistically woven in pairing colors with the stripes. Oh gosh.
What inspired you to start customizing them?
I have always been altering and sewing clothes, painting jackets and such. It was just coincidental when I worked in a sneaker outlet and they had some white Air Max coming in. I had already been restoring my older Jordans for a while and the white canvases tickled me to try out something new.
You offer everything from painting to embroidery – where did you learn all of these creative skills?
Most of my skills are self-taught. My mother showed me sewing and painting from a very young age, as she is also a very creative mind, and I evolved my skills through trial and error and had a lot of practical experience in different creative jobs as media designer, silversmith and T-shirt printer. I also studied 3D animation and computer games which gives me the awesome opportunity to involve 3D printing in my work.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Almost everywhere: by walking in the streets and seeing patterns, color combinations and natural environments. But a museum visit from time to time also helps to freshen up the mind and find inspirational concepts, or even go back to more basic thoughts and ideas. From pop art to baroque to tech, I can find pretty much any style appealing, although my work mainly characterizes as rather colorful,very detailed and even 'kitsch.'
What's the most challenging part of the whole process?
The most challenging part, even of being an artist – especially in fashion – is, in my opinion, to find a concept that has never been done before and is not too easily copied. Something that you personally like, but that also works as a concept without you.
What's the craziest request you've had from a customer?
Usually people don't ask for too crazy things. Rather, I have to persuade them. The weirdest question I ever heard – to me as a non Rick and Morty watcher – was, “Can you put Mr. Poopybutthole on a Shoe?”. I had to google that.
What are your favorite sneakers to customize, and why?
I have a thing for [Nike] Prestos, as they provide a sleek, classic silhouette and an easy sewing pattern,which gives me the possibility to install bold and colorful patterns with the best impact.
As much as customization is about self-expression, do you think that it's also kind of rebellion?
I think I wouldn't label something as capitalist as sneaker customizing rebellious; it just caters the needs of an over-saturated market. With globalization making everything available to anyone with money, people have to go to further lengths to stand out. Probably the most 'rebellious' part of my job is when I cut apart high-end pieces to reinterpret them. I like absurd combinations, mashing up luxurious patterns and materials with rather chavvy cuts. I try to make luxurious materials more approachable for me. While some people say it is disrespectful to cut apart a handmade Hermès Silk Scarf, I highly appreciate the craftsmanship behind these pieces and try to create something completely new and sometimes absurd.
What led you to start doing workshops and filming tutorials?
Actually the fact that people tend to ask me the same questions over and over again and I was tired of writing the same replies over and over again. I want to encourage people to take care of their shoes on their own and do the minor work they used to send to me – it saves both of us time and money.
What are you excited about right now?
In general: 3D printing – it's the shit. adidas is really running forward with Futurecraft, and I hope that there will be even more improvements regarding recycled materials, sustainability and also workplace ethics. And personally: silk. Hermès,Versace, Chanel, all those provide high-quality screen-printed silk in the brightest and boldest patterns and I really want to do more clothing and shoes with materials like these and bright color patterns.
And finally, we've given you full creative license on a FIZZY MAG custom, what does it look like?
I guess I would go for a classic, yet striking, silhouette like a PUMA Suede with platforms, a Reebok Workout Lo, or similar. Lush Materials, like rich suedes or really fine nubuck in bright pastel colors like yellow, light green or pink. Small details in veg tan, small and flashy high-contrast logo labels. Colorful, but tone-in-tone. Something you could wear both to work and to fashion week.
Photography by Brit The Kid / Fizzy Mag