Daniel Cordas and the business of customisation

London-based street artist Daniel Cordas transforms sneakers into works of art. His custom designs on luxury items ranging from Birkins to Jordans have won him a spot on streetwear’s walk of fame. Between his documentary for Red Bull, his collaboration with Harrods and celebrity cameos, he talks to us about his road to success, what inspires him and how social media goes hand in hand with his art.

Describe your brand in 3 words
That is an easy one: ART NOT CUSTOMS.

Walk us through the process of customisation.
The process can vary – but what creates the best final product is when the client has trust in me and therefore allows me some freedom to create. I often need to adapt the artwork to the piece, so it is better to not be confined to a strict brief. The painting process is very specific and built up in thin layers, so any one piece can take anywhere from around 5-50 hours. As such the price of my artworks can vary from hundreds to thousands of pounds.

You have a business degree from UWE. How does art fit into that?
Different things work for different people. I have always had a massive passion for business as well as art, so I felt I could learn more studying a business degree and still painting in my free time, rather than the other way around.

Do you still do art on canvas or does streetwear consume all your time?
I do still work on canvas but not so often. I think its important to adapt and I absolutely love working on footwear and clothing, and people seem to love it – so it has made up the large majority of what I have recently painted on.

You worked at Nike on the shop floor. How did your career shoot up from there?
In the space of exactly one year; I started working for Nike in Harrods as a temporary sales assistant, then went on to maternity cover, then got given a permanent role – and then after people started seeing the artwork I was doing on the side, I was asked to quit my job on the shop floor and collaborate directly with Harrods on a 3 month pop-up. It was truly a dream come true and just felt surreal! It was a crazy 3 months and we created some amazing pieces and I met some amazing people that I still work with to this day. That was an overnight turning point for my career.

Did you have to deal with unsatisfied clients?
I think if you manage yourself well, you luckily do not have to deal with this very often at all! It is important to let people know the deal before hand as the artwork can often take a long time, and I have a 4-6 week waiting list of clients that can sometimes be even longer. For me it is crucial to always put out quality work – I cannot send anything out that I am not happy with.

Tell us about your collaboration with Harrods. How does it work?
My collaboration with Harrods was available for anything bought in store, from footwear to t-shirts and any designer a client may pick. I was painting in store 5 days a week as well and would bespoke paint items based on a theme that myself and the client would decide on. It was so popular and amazing to see so many people stop and take pictures and ask what it was all about. I still do some work with certain clients from Harrods and also directly with Harrods personal shoppers, for high spending clients.

So you can paint on anything the client desires… say a Birkin bag?
Yes exactly! Provided the material will provide a durable finish for the artwork I can paint on it. I have worked on several Hermes Birkin bags before. They are extremely beautiful and unique pieces to work on.

Is customisation a trend brought back into fashion by the likes of Alessandro Michele at Gucci or can it sustain a life-long career?
I think that fashion trends can repeat in waves, things are recycled and arguably nothing is original. However, I think that people will always want to express their unique selves and that is something I can offer – to give people something that absolutely no one else has. I see myself as an artist and is something that I hope to continue in some way for the rest of my life, in some creative avenue.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I do not think that anything can be predicted. They say the next generations job roles do no exist yet and I believe that to be largely true. It is important to adapt to your surroundings and what you develop a passion for. I have always been drawn to anything creative so I am passionate to continue what love.

How do you feel about celebrity endorsements?
I think I have worked quite naturally in this aspect. I have been creating pieces of artwork and putting the final pictures on Instagram for a couple of years now, and that has in turn organically grown me a following and exposure. Since then I have been asked by and done work for many celebrities, which further adds to the exposure of my brand.

Social media and streetwear, do you think their success goes hand in hand?

Yes I think social media is a very powerful thing. It allows people to express themselves and show people into their mind – which is exactly what streetwear and art is all about.

What inspires you?
My work is influenced by absolutely everything around me and that I see – whether that is music, fashion or my friends. My biggest drive has been freedom, so I am often inspired by people that have built their own businesses and brands and create the work that they want to, and it is their lifestyle – which luckily I am currently doing, this is a dream come true. Inspiration for artwork can come from anywhere at any time, so it is something I am thinking about 24/7.

What is the biggest satisfaction in your line of work?
The biggest satisfaction is delivering the finished piece of work to the client and seeing their reaction. That wow moment when it is revealed is something I do not always see, as my work is often shipped overseas or across the country – but when I do see this in person, or receive a message of thanks, it fills me with great joy.

Photos curtesy of Instagram @danielcordas