Standing in the Shoes of Alex Nash
For the past 20 years Alex Nash has made the sneakers no one else will.
Inside his Blackhorse Road studio are shoes stacked to rafters: Nike, Adidas, Lacoste, DC; a stock of coveted sneakers. Drawers full of thread, offcuts, labels, badges, and fabrics all betray a deep-seated dedication.
Alex’s love for sneakers started at school, but it was only later, at twenty-something, that he began to customise. ‘At the time I really loved the idea of looking smart, but still wearing shoes that were comfortable and good for going out in. In the mid-to-late ‘90s the rule was still no sneakers, hats or hoodies in clubs. I thought, if I deconstruct a sneaker and remake it with a moccasin stitch, would the bouncer think it was a sneaker or shoe?’
Today, a lot of Alex’s custom sneakers prominently feature a moccasin stitch that he threads by hand. ‘In my first attempts I was just using normal thread. It would snap and just be a pain to work with. After a while, my mum told me to run the thread through the wax of a candle, kind of creating my own waxed thread; which is stronger and much more durable.’ Alongside his signature moccasin stitch, there’s the custom tongues and quite frequently, entire renovations of the base silhouette.
Sneaker customisation has grown to be a huge point of focus in the last 10 years, with big brands now showing interest in the smaller creatives behind the work. ‘The community was always really small and the brands would never, ever, want to endorse what we were doing with their designs,’ Alex explains. ‘When I finally started working on big deals the rules I had to follow were difficult to adhere to, to say the least… the mentality at the time still didn’t fully welcome customisation.’
‘I did get to do some great stuff in the end though! Like having my own DC shoe when that was everyone’s dream. Working with Lacoste and Adidas, that was great. When customising really blew up though, I didn’t capitalise on it. I’ve always struggled with the business side.’ Alex sits with this thought for a moment before continuing, ‘I never made it through school, never had training in what I do. I found out recently that I have ADHD which made so much of my life make sense. Sure, if I’d had more of a head for business my stuff could have gone further, but the customisation world is so huge now I feel happy knowing I’m still doing exactly what I want. There’s still no one to tell me what to do.’
The community was always really small and the brands would never, ever, want to endorse what we were doing with their designs…
Now Alex is exploring his past ideas, delving back into old sketchbooks that brim with inventive and original sneaker plans that never came to fruition. Despite periods of uncertainty he has pressed on. ‘I’m really excited to be coming back to my work knowing how to engage with what goes on inside my mind. So many things I wanted to make years ago that needed laser-cutting or 3D printing are now possible as well. Things have changed a lot.’
His name, known in sneaker circles as Nash Money, is still a fixture. Perhaps even more immoveable than the big brands who once turned a blind eye to his craft. They move with the times, forever trying to drive new identities forward, whereas all Alex needs to do is hold on to his.