Sneaker artist Dan 'Mache' Gamache creates kicks the whole world gets to see
When it comes to customizing footwear, there are few out there as iconic as Dan “Mache” Gamache, owner of Mache Custom Kicks. Over the past 17 years he estimates to have designed over a thousand commissioned pairs of sneakers and cleats for top tier celebrities, athletes, musicians and multinational corporations (including the insane Ace Ventura collab with Ewing Athletics shown on the Rooster November 2019 cover).
His work has found its way into the WWE WrestleMania ring. Into Super Bowl endzones. Across Coachella stages. On countless courts and fields. Even featured with corporate campaigns. All said, his artwork reaches billions of fans in every corner of the globe. But he stays humble in it, much like his basement-to-superstar roots.
Do you remember what the first sneaker was you customized as a kid?
I wish I could say my my first custom shoe was when I was a kid! I’m 40 now and have been at it for 17 years. I know my first ever pair was REAL basic. Took some all white AM90s and painted them in all different shades of purple. I had no clue what I was doing. [laughs]
Your client list is huge — up there with massive global luxury brands — what does that mean to you as an artist?
It’s crazy what it’s become. When I first started taking my art with footwear seriously, I was like most artists: broke and starving. [laughs] To see the opportunities and growth that I have experienced now, it’s always a reminder to myself that no matter what I’ve done, I can lose it all and be back to being a starving artist. It keeps the fire in me burning.
Do you have a customer service department? Like can someone return a custom pair of kicks if they don’t fit?
[laughs] That’ll never happen! The customer always supplies the shoes unless it’s a special circumstance where I have to supply it. But obviously customer satisfaction is always the goal. They either talk to me or one of the #MACHEGANG who help with replies … but no matter who’s answering, it’s always me who will be there to meet expectations.
Your Twitter bio reads: ‘If they all love your work you’re not taking enough risks.’ What’s the motivation behind that being your calling card?
I think it’s human nature to feel like they belong or feel accepted. And with my art I had focused on doing custom shoes that I knew people would like, which when you’re trying to build a following is a good idea. But with the growth of custom sneakers and so many artists out there, you have to find your own identity to separate yourself from the others. That meant pushing themes that I personally liked, and stopped caring about if everyone else approves. Once I accepted the fact you can’t please everyone, the happier I was.
Do you really have haters though? Seems like your work is too clean to critique ...
Haters is such a funny term. I feel like no matter what industry or circle you work within when someone sees success, or becomes a perceived front-runner, there’s going to breed some envy or jealousy. Whether they feel they should be where I am or whatever, I’ll admit I’ve felt that way before. I never feel entitled to anything though, my perspective is like, I gotta work harder so next time that opportunity comes I’ve made myself the best candidate for the job. It’s all about perspective.
What are some of the smaller trends in your industry now that you see becoming much, much bigger?
Definitely all the DIY stuff. I remember when we would be critical when someone’s custom job was sloppy or not looking finished. But now half these high-end collaborations all look like failed arts and crafts projects. [laughs]
The ultimate struggle: If you have shoes you love, should you wear them or frame them?
I wear everything eventually, no fun keeping them in boxes.
What’s some of the best advice you’ve gotten in your journey?
I don’t know how much advice I’ve personally received, so I’ll pass on some advice instead: expect to suck. When you mess up you can either quit or learn from it. Over 17 years of doing this I’ve screwed up more times than I can count. The difference between me and others is I’ve learned a lot from those mistakes.
What can we expect out of you in the future?
That’s the fun thing about this business, in my world everything is a last minute project and they need it yesterday. Guess you’ll have to stay tuned!
A FEW A-LISTERS MACHE HAS CREATED FOR: