Trainer aficionados (aka sneakerheads) are a demanding bunch. They spend large amounts of time and money searching for that elusive holy grail of footwear, something that is at once unique, attractive and luxurious. Sneakerheads of the UAE will be happy to learn that British company Swear – which boasts of offering the world's first truly customisable luxury trainer – has just arrived on our shores. Available exclusively at Level Shoes in the Dubai Mall, Swear has gone all out to give customers the power to create the perfect shoe.
Founded in London in 1997 by José Neves, the man behind Farfetch.com, Swear was completely rethought and updated earlier this year. “Swear has always been about personal expression,” explains managing director Mario Muttenthaler during his recent visit to launch the label. “When we relaunched in September, we decided to make it about personalisation, both in-store and online.”
Equipped with state-of-the-art 3D modelling, the website allows customers to choose every element of the shoe, and see their design taking shape at every stage. You can select the material (metallic gold leather, anyone?), the colour of the toe, heel, sole, lining and hardware, and even remove the Swear metal logo from the tongue, and replace it with your initials, or an emoji – all with the click of a button.
"On the website, you can spin [the shoe] by 360 degrees. You can buy a pair as is, or customise it. Maybe you want natural python and white nappa, and the laces to be white, and the hardware to be silver? You can have fun switching things out. It's about being playful with personalisation, without being too serious. It's a lot of fun. And it still looks great, and it's great quality, so it's not just a gimmick. We wanted to create something that people will look at in a year and still say, that's a beautiful sneaker," Muttenthaler tells me.
While trainers usually have a reputation for being cheaply made, once you've created the Swear shoe of your dreams, the precise specifications are put together by hand, by artisans in Portugal, and dispatched after four to six weeks. "It's nice to see that this is real craft, as opposed to shoes that are just made somewhere," he continues. "They are all family-run factories, and we have had relationships with them for over 20 years. We are bringing together traditional manufacturing with technology. These are small businesses that make our shoes, and we have trained them to make basically bespoke shoes, one by one, for us."
How bespoke the shoe is, is entirely up to each customer. For those looking for something ready to go, with perhaps just a tweak or two, there is the Just Dropped collection, predesigned in different shapes and colours. Those feeling a little more adventurous can opt for Curators, a range that features custom designs by figures such as singer will.i.am, KicksTQ from Kuwait and London's DJ Siobhan Bell. Inspired by their own innate style, the designs can also be changed as little or as much as desired. Finally, for those wanting total creative freedom, there is Customise 360, which starts from a blank canvas. With a dozen shapes to choose from, from slip-ons to high-tops, there are literally hundreds of thousands of possible combinations.
Additionally, to celebrate its arrival at Level Shoes – one of only four Swear boutiques worldwide – eight unique pairs have been created especially for the store, with more exclusive designs set to arrive periodically. These, on top of the new designs that will drop online every few weeks, means that sneakerheads can, finally, have one-off shoes on demand.
“Every month, we are introducing a new theme, like urban military, which is a big trend right now, but even these you can customise,” explains Muttenthaler. “You can change as little or as much as you like. It is about inspiring people, and we will be launching a new style about every eight weeks. It is constantly evolving.
“There are so many things you can do with this, that makes it so exciting, so if you have an outfit, you can design the shoe around the outfit. And everything we do is completely unisex, in sizes 35 to 46.”
With the design work all done online, Swear provides swatches of all the leathers and exotic skins in-store, so customers can really get a feel for what they are getting. Also in-store is a full range of shoelaces, plus all of the metal letters and emojis, which Swear will gift its buyers at no extra cost.
“All of the 3D-modelling technology has been developed in-house, and we have tried to connect the physical with the digital experience, as much as possible,” says Muttenthaler. “We think it’s all part of the experience. In this day and age of fast fashion, there is something nice about having something that you’ve created and that you have to wait for to arrive. But when it does arrive, and it’s all yours, it’s amazing.”