Cass Hirst talks complex about her Prada America’s Cup capsule

Although he is only in his twenties, artist and sneaker customizer Cass Hirst has already created a unique visual code. Where many sneaker customizers rely on precise paint placement and technical reconstructions, Hirst’s style is more organic, if just as well thought out. Instead of imposing his vision via precision brushstrokes and X-Acto knives, Hirst prefers “when things fall naturally into line”, spraying colors onto his shoes to create textured, gradient finishes that buzz with visual energy.

This spring, Hirst brings that technique to a limited-edition selection of Prada America’s Cup sneakers, using his skills to transform the clean, athletic shoe into something more naturalistic. Here, four versions of the America’s Cup each represent a different part of the envelope – or life cycle – of a sound. From the pointed, neon molded toes of the ATT4CK shoe to the stripped and distressed leather of the D3CAY and the overpainted shine of the SUST4IN model to the neon spray finish of REL3ASE, each shoe is a creation in its own right, one that also fits perfectly into the environment. entire collection.

Curious to know more about his Cass x Prada America’s Cup capsule, we reached out to Hirst, who is the son of famous contemporary artist Damien Hirst, to tell him about his process, his inspirations and even why fingerboarding remains one of of the last. real subcultures. See what he had to say below, then keep an eye out for the May 17 Cass x Prada drop – limited to 3,000 pairs worldwide – at select Prada boutiques and via prada.com.

Image via Prada

When I think of the Prada America’s Cup sneaker, I imagine a technical sports shoe, often in patent leather. Your versions retain that sporty silhouette, but with the spray techniques you use, they look very hand-crafted and worn, which contrasts with that shiny, technical look. Was this an intentional deviation from the original design for you? Or did you just trust your style and intuition to achieve this result?
It was mostly about confidence and experimentation, but the original shoe design was a big part of that. I wanted to take it somewhere more action-packed, which was a challenge considering how clean the shoe was. I also didn’t want to make it so chaotic that it was unattractive – balance was a big part of the decision making. I love the D3CAY series mainly because it strays so far from the original design and further accentuates the design of the shoe. It’s fun to see how far it can be taken.

The America’s Cup quickly became a Prada trademark when it dropped in the late 90s. As someone who wasn’t born when the original came out, how did you approach the redesign of such a well-known shoe? Did this story overwhelm you or were you eager to put your own spin on it, almost like a total model refresh?
I walked into this shoe totally blind to be honest. I had had very little interaction with the America’s Cup sneakers prior to this project and went straight to painting them in the studio, probably before I even wore them. I think it helped me find my love for the shoe visually and personally, rather than researching its history and understanding what it means to the world.

Cass Hirst Prada America's Cup sneakers
Image via Prada

And then back to your art style. Your sneaker designs are all very unique and individualized. No two are exactly alike. Why do you think the hyper-customized look is something today’s sneaker fans value so much? Is it to stand out? Or is it more personal and private, like valuing something that only you have?
I think uniqueness is so important these days. Maybe people need it because of how many copies and followings there are right now. I think people like to stand out, but they also want to feel like they’ve been thought of in some way. Throughout the project I kept thinking about what it would be like to open a pair of these, which is why I chose to have softer painted insoles in the shoes, shoelace tips painted, a poster in the shoebox and a box that has been printed inside and out. I’ve opened shoeboxes before and I know how amazing it can be when everything has been put through some extra thought.

Before customizing sneakers, what were your experiences with art and design?
I spent my last two years of studies focusing on graphic design, photography and art. Having three projects going on at the same time was intense but fascinating. I also did 3D design in school, which I loved but unfortunately couldn’t do as an A-level. Other than that, my art and design experiences mostly came from my childhood – spray painting skateboards when I was 11 or drawing miniature graffiti on sideboards. I think it all merged once I finished school. It seems like the lines between everything no longer exist. It’s good.

Cass Hirst Prada America's Cup sneakers
Cass Hirst via Prada

And with your hand-sprayed designs, how much did you work with spray paint and graffiti or even airbrush before settling on sneakers?
I’ve had fun with graffiti for years, but never got very deep. I spent a few years trying to master lettering styles and ended up learning a lot, but it was always very difficult. I’ve never really been too into airbrushing, although I recently purchased a sturdier spray gun that can cover a lot more ground than your standard airbrush. I need to have another try with this soon. I think the airbrush is just too slow for me; I want to work fast and I want consistency in my shots. I could spend more time with the airbrush and get better, but when spray paint gives me such good results, why would I?

Beyond that, I read that you grew up skateboarding and loving skate shoes. It’s interesting to me because the Prada America’s Cup inspired at least one pair of famous professional skate shoes in the mid-2000s. That experience in skateboarding, where everything is so organic and DIY, inspired your sneakers creations for Prada?
I think it definitely does one way or another. Skateboarding made me think a certain way when I was younger – that way of looking at the world when you just want to mess around. I remember skating a fridge door in the garden with my friend George when I was younger. It sounds so stupid, and it was pretty stupid, but I was always looking for stuff to skate. It lets you see everything from a different perspective when you’re stuck at home and desperate to skate. I really think the DIY mentality plays a role in my mind today and must have helped me at some point while creating these designs.

I think weathering a fridge door sounds awesome, actually. Outside of skateboarding, have you ever participated in any other subcultures? Did these things influence your Prada designs?
I think the only other subculture I’ve been heavily involved in is fingerboarding. It’s like a subculture within a subculture, very niche. Meeting someone else who touches is quite rare, which I love. That makes it special. Did fingerboarding influence these shoes? Probably somehow. I definitely spent a lot of time fingering around the studio, waiting for the paint to dry.

Cass Hirst Prada America's Cup sneakers
Image via Prada

My favorite thing about your America’s Cup designs is how they work as individual objects on their own, but are also clearly part of a whole. Each of the four shoe designs almost interlocks with each other. And then the names of the shoes – ATT4CK, D3CAY, SUST4IN, REL3ASE – which refer to “the ‘envelope’ or the life of a sound and the stages of its evolution”, seem to indicate that the framing was intentional. Can you say more about this and how you conceptualized the shoes not just as a set, but as part of a “life cycle”?
I’m glad you can see the interweaving of the series. That’s how I feel too. It wasn’t a plan from the start to slot them together like this, but once the names and numbers were decided on, it all started to make sense. I prefer when things line up naturally in front of me, rather than working to force things into place.

I like the term “life cycle” and it seems relevant to the series. The perfect thing about creating multiple colorways for a single shoe is that the base is always the same, so no matter how far the designs go, they will always be connected by the base, like how animals have infinite variations of a single species. It’s just an evolution really. I knew when creating the designs that the natural evolution would be there, since the series is linked by the base shoe and my art. That’s why I like to watch them as a family.

Cass Hirst Prada America's Cup sneakers
Image via Prada

And I know your logo, which will be used on Prada America’s Cup boxes, is a brain scan. Can you talk about this symbolism and what it means for your work and your creations?
Truth be told, the symbolism doesn’t mean too much to me. If I think about the truth and its origin, then I know the meaning is there, but to me it’s just a cool logo. It’s the same of preferring when things line up naturally – I’ve taken advantage of having to do endless tests at the hospital and used them as images, it’s just the only image to which I clung to.

No problem with that. A cool logo is crucial and it’s important to like things just because they’re cool. So, to conclude, how would you wear your Prada America’s Cup creations? If you chose a Prada fit to go with the shoes, how would you wear it?
The perfect thing about these shoes is that there are endless outfits that would go crazy with them. I think I’ll probably find a balance between wearing overly matching outfits and wearing all-black outfits. Both would look amazing with any of the shoes.