Multihyphenate visionaries are king in the world of streetwear and sneakers. Stefan Janoski. The most famous example would be Virgil Abloh, who has gone from architecture to DJing, sneaker design, fashion design, product design, and more. Another example is Tom Sachs, the multi-faceted contemporary artist whose Nike collabs, the Mars Yard Shoe and Mars Yard Overshoe, feel somehow beyond mere footwear. Stefan Janoski.
Janoski also owns a number of other companies in addition to his signature Nike SB shoes. Janoski also writes books, records music, and paints, sculptures, and builds pool floats when he is not skateboarding. After a long struggle, Janoski and designer James Arizumi brought to life the Nike SB Zoom Janoski skate shoe in 2009, and now the Nike Air Max Janoski 2.
Nike SB has sold millions of OG Janoskis since 1995, making it the Swoosh sublabel’s best-known signature model beyond the Dunk. There are four different types of Janoski Remastered (RM) sneakers featuring the original: slip-on, Velcro, low-top laced, and mid-top laced. Nike is celebrating 10 years of Janoskis in a variety of ways.
The free indoor skating park, tucked away in a backstreet in Paris, was opened to honor the anniversary. We caught up with the man himself in Paris to dig a little deeper into the complicated story of a shoe that has become a modern skate classic.
When James Arizumi and I were talking, he was explaining more technical details about the Janoski. Making it must have been a difficult process.
I found it difficult. I found it to be easy, but they [Nike SB] found it to be difficult.
What made it easy for you?
It’s only a joke. Fortunately, I had an idea of what I wanted. What was hard was getting my desired outcome. When they replied, “I want that.” I replied, “No, you get that.” They replied, “No and no and no.” I replied, “Yes.”, and then they said, “No.” [Laughter]
It’s been 10 years since you created what you created. There’s no doubt that integrity is at play here. You wouldn’t have succeeded had you not stayed the course.
When you first started design, how did it feel?
In my initial meeting Nike called and was like, “You’re going to get this shoe.” And they handed it to me at the first interview, like, “Here you go.” But it wasn’t this. It was something different. [To the Janoski RM] I found it a bit crazy that Nike tried to copy an existing item. Why does Nike need to copy an existing product, do you understand? Stefan Janoski.
The problem was skate shoes at that time weren’t very good or cool, so they tried to make it very skate. A bulky toe and a puffy tongue accompanied the bulky shoes.
Have your shoes become lighter and thinner since your transition?
The first couple of times I wore clothes I saw people wearing, I thought I was just following the crowd. Seeing all the pro guys in San Francisco and taking notes, I would basically copy what they were wearing. In my early years of skating for myself, however, I developed preferences. Initially, it seems as if I would’ve worn anything I’ve been given. I would have worn it with spikes if you had given me free shoes.
That was the first thing you thought when you got older, “Yay, free stuff!” But then your tastes and personal tastes change as you age. Since I’d already been a pro for several years when I joined Nike, I already had a lot of experience. The style and flavor I had were unique to me. My shoe design was clear from the outset.
What were the obstacles? Could Nike pull it off?
It didn’t work out for them. Their reaction wasn’t good. Their last resort was to just give in. Their response was, “Just give him the money.” [Laughs]