Designing, building and manufacturing footwear has never been an easy task and unlike fashion isn’t a process we tend to get to see or hear a lot about. This never stopped owner and founder of BespokeIND, Damian if anything he was encouraged to create a bespoke atelier service specifically for sneaker lovers giving them the foundations to learn, understand and put together their very own pairs of some of the the industries most popular models.
We sat down with Damian to go over his journey and what led him to create what has become one of the works leading bespoke sneaker ateliers.
Footpatrol: First of all, welcome Damian, thank you for spending time with us, we know you’re a busy guy! Before we hop straight into it could you introduce yourself for the readers?
Damian: Hi FootPatrol, Damian Sim here, Founder, Design Lead & Artisanal Architect of BespokeIND. Manually Made In Melbourne Australia.
FP: Let’s start from the beginning. You are a passionate sneaker lover who has been able to produce some of the highest quality bespokes on the market, could you share with us a bit about your journey and how you ended up starting BespokeIND?
Damian: Being born & raised in Melbourne Australia in the early 1980s, I embraced what my city had to offer as a young kid growing up in such an emerging multi cultural city, with so many influences & sub-cultures from across the globe. I embraced my asian heritage however I was pretty much influenced by US & Japanese subculture from the onset. Travelling to Tokyo & New York copious times over the decades to embrace the sneaker culture & learn from the best in the game.
Alike cities like Berlin, Paris, London, Tokyo & New York, Melbourne had an underground subculture growing in all facets of what we now know as Hype Culture. Graffiti, skateboarding, hip hop was the underground society of the ERA for these cities.
My early days stemmed prior to the evolution of the quote on quote word “sneakerhead”. The industry now is more like an all you can eat buffet, saturated with monthly drops & collaborations, less niche, with the big guys like Nike, retro’ing everything hot from that ERA. My ERA lol. Live your own ERA I say.
A niche almost geek like hobby & market, that has evolved into a mainstream industry, where the mums & dads are now embracing the industry like their offspring. Matching sneakers & fit with their kids, copping that extra pair to resell on the side. Whatever floats your boat I guess.
I came from the geek ERA of sneakers, before dial up internet, pre Nike Forum Talk days, where it was all about the actual sneaker itself, the shape, the form, the materials, the rake, the cushioning & technology, or who endorsed it or wore it, not so much what the sneaker itself will be worth in time like the stock market. A toxic culture now albeit, but whichever the ERA, it is good to know its thriving more than ever. Embracing it is all us old heads can do haha.
I submersed myself in the early stages of sneaker culture (late nineties) via basketball card collecting, NBA Jersey archiving, skateboarding, street art, & adopted a passion for collecting sneakers & all things rare around it. This was pre-internet ERA, so it was all about magazine subscriptions, mail orders & getting to know my local OG sneaker & skate stores to attain what I like & could afford.
I’ve always been that collector who collects rare & hard to find grails, whether that be sneakers, street art, vinyl toys, skate decks you name it, if it’s rare & fits into my DNA, I’ll likely collect it. I have been a consumer of hype product for years…. so this BespokeIND Atelier I have created is a means of expressing that DNA. I know what the kids want so to speak. Thats as bluntly as I can put things.
All the above most definitely paved the way & became the catalyst to how I ended up starting BespokeIND. This all leads to your question…….
“Since young, I have always been creative. Painting, drawing, sketching, sculpting, hand-sewing, taking things apart and putting them back together. Was a blessing in disguise I guess. My high school years I excelled in Media Arts & Graphic Design & won many awards for design & innovation. I completed my degrees in Business & Marketing/Media. I worked corporately for many years in my early work life, & have run my own businesses since for the last 12 years in a few industries.
This path gave me the opportunity to go full circle in 2013 when I was tired of the ground hog day vibe of doing what you don’t love. Life is about fulfilment isn’t it? Waking up everyday knowing you are doing what you love. Life with a purpose. Creating something that is unique & yours. That was, & still is my goal with BespokeINDs concept.
FP: BespokeIND has now got this huge worldwide following, did you ever see it taking off as much as it has?
I am only really just getting started to be honest. This “Conceptual Bespoke Sneaker Atelier” I have created is just a stepping stone for myself to unleash my own brand atelier in the near future. Due to Covid I have been unable to travel to get my next stage of my startup activated. I have been a consumer of this industry for so many decades… It is now my time to show my archive to the world. I’ve been archiving & sketching for years now. Everything thought is part of the process I guess. “My whole life has been retroed in some way or another”. I have always had attention to detail with everything I am interested in or have a passion for. The creative DNA, the decades of being that hype consumer & collector that has lived & breathed it before Sneakers became a personal gain, more than a passion, has been & will always be, the true catalyst as to why BespokeIND has taken off like it has.
FP: When you started how difficult was it to reproduce the lasts of the shoes? It doesn’t sound like a straightforward process when you hear some of the big brands having their fair share of issues with them.
Damian: Australia almost had zero industry with footwear when I first started researching shoe lasts manufacturing back in 2013, when I initially had this BespokeIND Atelier concept idea. I tried out my hand in Solidworks 3D software to develop the CAD drawing for 3D printing, but we soon found out that shoe lasts cannot be 3D printed for the purposes we required them for. RMIT Footwear was then my next point of contact.
Fast forward to 2015 I contacted various industry people locally to help me develop the correct shape shoe lasts from using my personal collection of my favourite classic silhouettes in OG format. An expensive exercise yet a necessary one, as you’d know even the likes of Nike get it wrong at times when they try to retro their own classic silhouette. For example, the Nike Air Max 1. For decades toes, mudguards, swooshes & heel heights were all over the place.
To create you have to destroy, so this is what I had to do to be able to get the right form for my lasts. The amount of hand wrap shaping I had to do over a course of say 2 years on & off to get my shoe last shape as perfect to mimic the OG shapes of these silhouettes was a huge task in itself. Although well worth it, as I have a master set that can pretty much make any shape sneaker we want now. A great step forward when we start developing my own archive line of sneakers.
Pressure points on how panels sat, toe box rake, mudguard heights, how the shoe is put together, or the miniscule little details on how the overall form & shape was from day one when it released, were all mandatory design details on how I perfected my set of shoe lasts across many classic silhouettes. Call it geeky, but this is what it takes.
As all experienced shoe makers say… “shape & form comes from the shoe last first & foremost”.
FP: How does the process go between yourself and the customer, is it very hands on from start to finish on everyone’s part or do people tend to come with a concept and let you take full creative control over it?
Damian: We are a full bespoke conceptual atelier & offer our clients an organic design to fruition service, which can be scaled from a simple custom edit on a factory sneaker, to a full blown build from a design sketch.
We offer partitions of this BespokeIND service with our 1of1 Classic Silhouette Program, Build Slot run of samples (for example the Air Diors or FL.OW pack), or full package “sketch to physical form sampling”. We can deal directly with the likes of Vibram, to develop the clients midsole design, where most would have to subcontract that type of development out.
Our client’s limitation is governed by their imagination & their budget. I would say 90% of our clientele are overseas, so interaction with clients from start to finish is crucial. It’s all handmade hours here, so we take it very seriously to ensure our clients are well informed about the whole process, & can visually see digital renders, materials in-hand by video conference or messaging apps prior to us commencing the actual build process.
We are transparent with our quotations & ensure all our clientele achieve their ultimate grail piece.
FP: Looking at your work the attention to detail is insane, do you have a Top 3 you’ve made since you started that have become your favourites?
Damian: Thank you. Perfectionist mentality is how I have conveyed BespokeIND from day dot. I never let anything slip from the process.
Top 3 is hard, I have done a lot of samples. But if forced to make one, it’ll have to be the samples I crafted that made the most impact for my creative reach. In no particular order :
Nike Dunk SB “FL.OW” – sold out in minutes & Leonard Futura Dosmil McGurr & Virgil Abloh reached out for their personal pairs, which was pretty special given it was their tapestry that inspired my idea.
MAKER : @DAMIANJENHOWESIM of @BESPOKE_IND
PHOTO : @SNEAKERFREAKERMAG
Nike Mars Air Jordan 3 Over Shoe – Probably the most technical build ever done in my studio. World first clout for sure. Using Tom Sachs’ over shoe, I designed & handcrafted a legit fireproof rated/waterproof Nike Air Jordan 3 with reinforced fibreglass textile woven into the upper, with all magnetic working clasps fully functional as Tom Sachs intended.
Part of this pack was a hybrid version of the inside Mars Yard 2.0 using a Footscape midsole (to date no one has had the balls to take apart that Overshoe the way I did, 99.9% just cut the bag off. I created two new shoes out of that Over Shoe, a similar end product like the FootPatrol x Undercover hybrid, however that was more straightforward.
MAKER : @DAMIANJENHOWESIM of @BESPOKE_IND
PHOTO : @PHOTOMONK3Y
Nike Air Max 1 – B Lucky & Sons – arcade gaming theme. Probably the most complex Nike Air Max 1 build BespokeIND/I have ever done. Day time glow panels, Pacman gaming screen toe boxes, working gaming ticket dispenser made out of kangaroo, you name it, I did it on this shoe lol. It’s also on display in my city with a massive ticket price that gamers can win from the arcade games. I think it was 450,000 tickets to win it.
MAKER : @DAMIANJENHOWESIM of @BESPOKE_IND
PHOTO : @LUCASBLACKMAN
FP: Now, we have seen a custom that recently caught our eye from yourself featuring a hybrid of the Undercover x Nike Daybreak sole unit and our Footpatrol x Nike Air Stab upper. Serious stuff!!! Could you tell us a bit about this project?
Damian: It was more to give back life to one of the best pre-hype sneakers to exist hehe. The Nike Air Stab has always been that devil between the 1 & the Ninety for me. The colour way you guys designed is timeless. Perfect. I would not have changed anything if I was part of this design in the day. I just wish they retroed the shape & OG panels correctly, which they didn’t.
It was only right, since I had acquired 3 pairs over the years, that I did something different to two of the pairs. I just had them laying around in my sneaker graveyard pile waiting for that right peripheral donor to show itself through my studio. The correct colour way midsole & outsole was crucial to these hybrids. I just patterned new mudguards & heels to be able to cover old glue lines & also give both shoes a new aesthetic. I hope I made you guys proud. More of a personal project for me to wear these again more than anything. However I did get many requests to open up build slots for these but I declined. I have to be super selective with projects these days.
FP: Is this the first time you’ve done a Footpatrol project or have you done others in the past?
Damian: First time.
FP: Do you get as many hybrid custom jobs as you do bespokes or was this more of a special one off project?
Damian: I get plenty of client requests however it has to work for me. I am selective when it comes to hybrids. Not anyone can make it work & execute it so it looks meant to be. Hard to explain the process but yes, many enquiries, but I usually just do my own pairs that are needing new soles or life. My vault has plenty of vintage. So I will be doing hybrids when I can, or when the right combination or donor turns up on the market.
FP: Damian it was great to meet you and thanks again for sitting with us! Before we let you go is there anything you want to share surrounding BespokeIND that you would like to get the Footpatrol family excited about?
Damian: Sorry for the rambling. Typing all this on the fly whilst making & playing catch up in my studio. We are like 6-12 month lead time now for our orders. It’s a crazy time, but a blessed time. Can’t wait to show the world my next step in this start up I created. Thank you FootPatrol. I’m a day one fan from Only in Sohos. I had friends in London at that time of drop. What a time to be alive! Would love to collaborate one day… Just saying 🙂