Custom Sneakers vs Sneaker Copies?

We are here to have an internal debate to where the line is drawn between sneaker customizers versus creating a sneaker brand by replicating iconic silhouettes but with your own branding. Where would you sit on the fence? We understand that since the start of time, inspiration comes from what’s been done previously but if you take a full silhouette, shape, design and replicate it while portraying to be “unique” – is this classed as paying homage or copying? Let’s break this down by splitting the two into separate departments and giving a list of pro’s and con’s for each way of creating. Let’s make this Designers vs Customizers.

Designers: Warren Lotas, MSCHF, John Geiger & Hender Scheme

Warren Lotas

Instagram: @warrenlotas

L.A based streetwear brand Warren Lotas was one of the first brands that became hot property due to their new take on a classic silhouette which has near enough identical traits to a Nike SB dunk with a new twist on signature sneakers such as the Pigeon, Heineken & Stussy which has been replaced with the swoosh’s curving endpoint with a hockey mask commemorating the Jason from Friday the 13th character. This got to Nike so much that they filed lawsuits against the brand for infringement of designs that are blatantly a copy of the iconic pairs mentioned above.

From the images to the left of this, what would be your first thought by looking at the designs? What would run through your head.. Would you ask if they are Nike SB Dunks that have been remade or would you think they were bootlegs from a designer?

“The passion for sneakers has been there since day one, but I never held onto them. I never shrunkwrap them. It’s always been about getting it, buying it, wearing it, showing it and moving on to the next one.” – Pusha T


Instagram: @mschf

An art collective from Brooklyn, New York has come under a microscope the last year for their latest sneakers created in collaboration with famous artist Lil Nas X which caused a stir among the industry for being a Satan worshiping shoe and an unofficial collaboration with Nike, which caused them to file a lawsuit for trademark infringement, once again. What are your thoughts on creative collectives using a brand, putting their own remix on the product, and collaborating with a famous artist to sell a product.. is this acceptable or not? MSCHF has also gone on to create the Wavy Baby in collaboration which is a clear rip-off of a classic Van which a physical twist.

Nike have stated that they “suffered harm to its goodwill, including among consumers who believe that Nike is endorsing satanism.” Do you believe this would have caused harm for a household brand like Nike or not?

“I’m like a little kid that has a basketball and don’t want nobody else to play with it. “It’s mine, it’s mine, and it’s mine!” When it comes to sneakers.” – Fat Joe

John Geiger

Instagram: @johngeigerco

John Geiger is a high-end brand that has been crafting a name for themselves since 2017, they are famously known for their signature sneaker which resembles a classic Air Force 1 silhouette. JG have created this mould which gets constructed from premium materials, high-end leather and put together well. But, like we have spoken about in the previous two brands – we are already programmed to when we see that silhouette of sneaker, we believe it’s a Nike AF1. The only tell tale that would make you think otherwise is the colourways and the replacement of the swoosh with the brands signature swirled g.

Like previously, Nike filed a lawsuit against John Geiger on a case of trademark infringement of a classic AF1 silhouette. People in the industry are split saying that this is a blatant homepage paying remake in a tasteful way, where as others are saying it’s a bootleg copy. What would your thoughts be in this situation?

“My Martin was a Maison rock Margielas with no laces.” – ASAP Rocky

Hender Scheme

Instagram: @henderscheme

Japanese footwear maker, Ryo Kashiwazaki is seen as more of an artist when it comes to recreating signature silhouettes from brands such as Nike, Adidas, Maison Margiela. You can see the tanned leather from afar and know that they are a pair of Hender Scheme remakes, but we have to ask the question; is there a bias within the industry that if they are completely unique, new and refreshing that people will allow copying? or do they just pick and choose who they want to go against?

As we know, there is no lawsuits from any brands against Hender Scheme which may prove our question above right. Even since the release of this, Adidas have officially teamed up and collaborated on a project.

Customizers: Lorenzo OG (Studio OG), Mache, The Surgeon, Chef Huyle (Lechef Studio)

Lorenzo OG (Studio OG)

Instagram: @lorenz.og & @studi.og

When it comes to sneaker customisation, you have to be unique and bringing something new to the table. This is where Lorenzo, who is based out of London has made his mark ad created a foothold with his patented colour schemes in gradient colourways on some of the hottest drops, silhouettes and unique pieces of all times. The quality of the dyeing caused a ripple effect when the late great DJ Clark Kent had to grab himself a pair, along with the sneaker god JLP (Joe La Puma).

What are your thoughts on the keeping the sneaker how it was made, but putting a unique twist on the colourways to create a 1 of 1 within your wardrobe where you may never see again?

“I got more soul than Nike Airs, givin MC’s nightmares.” – Big L

Chef Huyle (Lechef Studio)

Instagram: @chefhuyle & @lechefstudio

Chefing up in the kitchen, Lechef Studio have became a name buzzing around the sneaker community for being followed by the titans within the culture from the late great Virgil Abloh and KITH’s Ronnie Fieg. Huyle will take the latest drops to be released from GR to 1 of 1’s and put them through his signature ageing process and custom dyeing to create gradient tones, vintage feeling and throwback vibes to each pair.

“Stand on the block, Reebok, gun cocked.” – Raekwon

The Surgeon

Instagram: @thesurgeon

Dive deep into the sneaker Dr that is Dominic “The Shoe Surgeon” Ciambrone, who is the main creative behind Surgeon Studios is a Los Angeles-based collective of creatives, built to inspire creativity, further the industry and push the unique and timeless craft of custom shoe making and design. You can get a handmade pair of sneakers which will be built from the a sheet that the client fills in. You can pick everything you would like the sneaker to be made from i.e. materials, fabrics, extras, branding etc.

“My Timbs start feeling like they Nike Airs on me.” – Jadakiss


Instagram: @mache275

Over 18 years of being in the sneaker industry the one and only Dan Gamache better known for his work under the name “Mache” has been an artist most of his life and has made footwear his canvas of choice since 2004. He is well known for his close relationship with Nike but we can’t deny his unique talent to create unique 1 of 1’s for athletes, superstars, artist plus more. He also has his very own sneaker with a last and silhouette created from the ground up.

Being around the brands that are held in such high regard for nearly two decades, do you get a pass for uplifting their brand by creating decorated limited pieces for clients?

Written & Edited By Dalton Notley (Social & Content at Brother2Brother)

Comments are closed here.