Chris Stamp of Stampdâ€™ L.A. is not new to the DIY shoe world, but he is making a comeback. Having previously hand-painted Converse high-tops for shoe savvy customers, this innovative visionary returns to the scene with a brand spankinâ€™ new approach and some sweet here-and-now designs that are sure to have sneakerheads and fashion divas lining up to cop a pair. The latest collection consists of several designs, from his sick limited edition Numberdâ€™ line, which are strictly black and white, graphically simplistic and beautiful, to his Gardendâ€™ line, an ironic conception of an actual garden, more akin to a littered lawn. He even has a line, Roomdâ€™, which appears to be peripherally inspired by the vibrant artwork of the late Keith Haring. Needless to say, theyâ€™re very L.A.
â€œThe fact that I come to my office every morning to design shoes is amazing. As long as Iâ€™m doing that, the challenges are minimal.â€
Format: I understand you just re-launched independently. What does this entail exactly and whatâ€™s it been like returning to the sneaker scene after your previous history working with Conveyor at Fred Segal and offering customizing online? Whatâ€™s new, whatâ€™s different, how have things changed?
Chris: We just recently re-launched Stampdâ€™ LA as a footwear line during the later part of January. Itâ€™s a really exciting time; Iâ€™m now able to see my products on more of a mass-market scale, rather than being held to extremely small production runs and limited market awareness. All of my designs for the spring â€™09 Collection were either silk screened or printed on my own silhouette. For the upcoming seasons, new styles have featured a variety of different fabrics combinations, as well as some of our new patterned work.
Format: Do you now have your own brick and mortar in L.A, or are you online only? Who carries your kicks in North America?
Chris: Setting up my own store is something that always surfaces in the back of my mind. I could possibly see myself getting into it in the coming years, but for now I want to do as much as we can internally to support our stores given where we are economically. You can find us in True (SF), Joyrich (LA), Classic Kicks (NYC), Sureel (Washington), Roden Gray (Vancouver)…
Format: Can we expect to see that online customization tool again? That looked rad.
Chris: Funny you should ask because my web developers and I have been talking about it a lot recently. Iâ€™m not gonna say too much, but weâ€™re definitely looking into re-vamping what we previously offered. For those who arenâ€™t familiar with what we did previously, we had a customizing tool online that allowed you to design your own shoe, panel by panel (similar to a NikeID, but graphic based).
Format: How does the design process operate now? Certainly, as you blow up, hand painting is out of the question, right? Or is it?
Chris: Now Iâ€™m designing everything from my office in LA. I work pretty closely with my production guys in China who are able to send me swatches of fabrics, and put into perspective what is actually possible when it comes to footwear production. A lot of what I conceptualize isnâ€™t realistic from a manufacturing point of view. [Laughs] They break it down for me.
Format: How have you gained exposure and what else is on the horizon? I know the Internet and word of mouth must be for you. I first heard of Stampdâ€™ simply by talking to Stunnaman, who sported a pair (I believe the Roomdâ€™) to the Trouble Andrew show in New York. I liked them so much I photographed his feet!
Chris: [Laughs] Thatâ€™s dope! I donâ€™t even know who Stunnaman is, but thatâ€™s cool. A lot of our exposure has just been through word of mouth and the Internet. We just got covered in Nylon, Complex and Antenna last month, which helped us domestically. But, we also just did Bread and Butter in Barcelona in early January, which was great to see how the European market reacted towards our line. Weâ€™re now dealing with the guys behind Patta Distribution (Amsterdam) and theyâ€™re really helping us cater to the European crowd correctly.
Format: What is your background in design, education-wise? How did that experience translate to canvas?
Chris: I donâ€™t have a design degree. I actually went to school for business. Iâ€™ve always been into art and design since and early age, and thought when it was time to go to school I wanted to switch it up. I actually wrote the business plan for Stampdâ€™ LA Customsâ€™ my last year at Cal Poly.
Format: Thatâ€™s awesome! Any influences within the sneaker world? What other inspirations? Art? (Looks like Warhol and the â€™80s.)
Chris: I try and stay up to date on what people in the industry around me are doing, but I really get inspired by things outside of fashion. I love to take pictures and to shoot short movies; it really keeps me creative, outdoors and around my friends. Surrounding myself with people is really what allows me to think outside of the box.
Format: What have been the greatest rewards? Challenges?
Chris: The fact that I come to my office every morning to design shoes is amazing. As long as Iâ€™m doing that, the challenges are minimal (but the state of the economy right now is a little challenging).
Format: What prompted the graphic, limited edition â€˜Numberdâ€™ shoes? And will all lines you offer be limited edition only?
Chris: With the Numberdâ€™ I wanted to create something limited, but at the same time nothing that was over designed. I think a lot of times when people try to do a limited run of things they keep adding details and too many fabrics and so on. Here I just wanted it to be simple, yet eye-catching and timeless. I think we did it; people are responding really well to it.
Format: What inspired the ironic, tongue-in-cheek design of Gardendâ€™, which feature cigarette butts, flamingos and sandwiches?
Chris: The Gardendâ€™ was one of the last designs I put in the collection. I wanted something with a little more color, and something out of the ordinary. A lot of what I was seeing at that time was in the shoe. We had just got back from Coachella last year, which explains the geckos and flamingos (desert inspired). The sandwiches were just something that at the time I think I was eating a lot of [Laughs]. I love taking random pop art and pairing it eclectically.
Format: Why design only half of the sneaker?
Chris: For the Spring collection I only wanted to print on the outside panels to parallel the style from which the customs were done. A few years ago, when we were doing the customs, only the outside panels were painted and I wanted there to be some similarities in the first footwear collection. For Summer, Fall, and Holiday there are a lot of styles that carry graphics on both sides of the silhouette.
Format: On the site, how did the models get involved? Are they personal friends or what?
Chris: Everyone featured in our lookbooks is a close friend. I thought it would be comfortable to use them and promote what they do simultaneously. We donâ€™t do any heavy styling or over think things. I want the shots to feel natural, something you would see any of them wearing on a daily basis. The shoes were paired with the people by look. I thought certain styles pertained to certain people. For instance, we shot the guys behind the line LOVA with our Numberdâ€™ shoes. Their style is that of the contemporary. The Numberdâ€™ fit that.
Format: What styles/designs can we expect come fall? A little Fashion Week action perhaps?
Chris: For Summer/Fall and Holiday, weâ€™re introducing 16 new styles. I developed our low or â€˜Slowâ€™ top series. We have a lot of different fabric integration, embroidery detailing and a take on the â€˜Numberdâ€™ series called the Letterdâ€™. Some dope styles that I wish we sampled in my size.
Format: I understand the Japanese are fans of your kicks; whatâ€™s their response been like compared to the U.S.?
Chris: Japan has responded to our collection really well. My partner has close ties to a lot of great stores in Tokyo and Osaka, which has helped a lot. The Japanese market and trends move so much faster than the US; theyâ€™re always looking for new brands and, luckily for us, theyâ€™ve responded really well.
Format: When will we be able to buy all the lines straight from your site?
Chris: Thatâ€™s our next step. It might be as early as next week. Weâ€™re putting the finishing touches on our web-store now, and will be releasing some cool product in the coming months. For now weâ€™ll have select shoe styles, limited t-shirts, books and a few vintage pieces.
Format: Speaking of your site, I wanted to give you props for having such a 360Âº approach, with the photos and the blog and the video content. Very cool. Very now.
Chris: Appreciate it! Itâ€™s something that I felt is more than necessary these days. As we build our presence in stores globally, I wanted something very visual for our customers to see, something that explains the lifestyle behind our brand through videos, images, and daily inspiration. Check it out if you havenâ€™t already!
Format: Any advice for other young designers who wish to take a nontraditional but seemingly very rewarding route with their education/experience?
Chris: Stay focused, work hard and believe in what you do. As long as youâ€™re inspired, youâ€™ll be happy.
More Info: Stampd’ LA