Meet MattB Customs, the artist behind the one-of-a-kind nameless trainer collab with ellesse and Google.
MattB Customs has fast become a huge name in the worlds of music and fashion, having designed trainers for some of the planet’s biggest artists including Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande, and collaborated with Stella McCartney on a collection for London Fashion Week in 2018. Now, the celebrity shoe customiser has teamed up with ellesse and Google to create a one-of-a-kind, limited-edition pair of trainers with no name, which is only available via posters and on social media by using the Google App.
For Matt to be working alongside Google is a full circle moment as using the search engine showed him what was possible when he first started customising his own trainers as a teenager. Working in retail at Schuh aged 17 and unable to afford rarer pairs, Matt would buy plain shoes from the store he worked at and paint on them to make them unique. After going online, it was then a case of trial and error to figure out the durability and the right process.
As trainer customisation started out being a creative outlet for Matt, he didn’t see what he was doing as being part of an industry. “I was just making things that weren’t already out there on already trending products,” he says. Rather than having a plan for how he could turn this passion into a career, Matt took to social media to build a following. Through word of mouth and “the power of Instagram, which allowed for free marketing,” he says it built out into something that has taken on a life of its own – being able to work with artists and creatives that can take it further than I ever could.”
When it comes to collabs, Matt says “every connection is different“. Pop princess Ariana Grande found MattB Customs on Instagram via a repost on HighSnobiety, followed the page and DM’d to place her order. With Ed Sheeran, Kick Game connected them as Ed was looking to wear a custom pair of Jordans throughout his world tour. Understandably, seeing his designs being worn by celebrities is something that Matt finds “very surreal and bizarre”.
As if that CV wasn’t impressive enough, Netflix asked them to put a four-billion-year-old meteorite rock on a pair of New Balance 550s for a movie. This success is hard-earned, having not stopped building the business since it started; “it’s been a constant thing for the past six years”, Matt says.
As well as putting their own unique designs on shoes and accessories that have limited availability, MattB Customs offer a ‘create your own custom service’; “this is where either you have a design in mind or work with us to create one, we then mock up that idea and, if you like it, you can purchase it and be the only one to have it”. This 1 of 1 ethos is what makes MattB Customs stand out: “Everyone wants to keep up to date with the latest trends, but then be unique in their own right, and we sit right in the middle of that.”
Talking about the new collaboration with Google, Matt believes “this campaign is a true reflection of where our scene is at – that not only do Google and ellesse want to push custom footwear, but it also aligns so well with what we do. As we’re always creating things that are indescribable and hard to find (unless you ask the person wearing them), this new piece of tech utilises this problem exactly”.
The brief, he says, was that the company needed to create 130 pairs of trainers within two weeks. It needed to be all their original artwork and needed to incorporate autumnal tones. “As a team of creatives, we all specialise in different things, and we wanted to show this throughout the concept,” Matt says. To this end, collectively the team created a piece of canvas art which was then photographed with a Google Pixel phone and this was printed in-house. Once this photograph was printed onto material, it was cut, glued and sewn to the shoes. The team then added hand-painted assets and heat-pressed vinyl assets. The whole process was captured on a Google Pixel and the video has been live on the MattB Customs Instagram page, so that people can watch the process from start to finish. According to Google, the aim of the new campaign is to demonstrate how easy it is to ‘Find That Thing’ on the Google app using images instead of words. Matt views the collab in the same way: “it’s a perfect fit as what we do is built around creating things that can’t be found on the high street or anywhere else. So this new Google application allows people to find the answers. Because the trainer model has no name, it can’t be searched the traditional way with words but only with Google’s visual search tool. It’s a great way to show how easy it is to ‘Find That Thing’, particularly for items we don’t have the words for. And the only way to get your hands on a pair is to upload a picture to google.com/ellesse.
Posters of the Google collab trainers have been popping up in London’s Euston and around Manchester since Monday. They have been shown off on social media by rapper and trainer lover IAMDDB – yet another surreal moment for Matt. “I was buzzing when I was told about IAMDDB as she’s a homegrown Manchester talent and not only known for her music but for her style, too. So it was great to see someone we listen to in the studio be a part of this campaign as well.”
Building a relationship between fashion, fine art and AI feels very new and future-facing, so Matt says “it’s a privilege to be able to show the functionality of the Google Lens through what we do in fashion and sneaker culture”. It’s not the first time that he and the team have worked in a multimedia way, though; recently, they worked on an NFT project where all sneakers had an inbuilt NFC chip which, when scanned by a phone, the NFT private metadata would load to authenticate them. This also loaded an image of the team creating the pair of trainers in their studio, so that they cannot be forged. Summing up both the Google and NFT projects, Matt concludes: “It’s really interesting to see how digital can mix with the physical.”