Just recently we had the opportunity to visit No. One – a footwear brand out of LA that’s hand-making some of the world’s most desired luxury silhouettes. Designed and assembled in house out of their Venice based studio, the group is redefining the concept of attention to detail with their sharp level of precise craftsmanship. Taking an approach that literally no one else in the market is, the brand allows clientele to personalize their own shoes by selecting from an assortment of exotic materials on the Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie styles.
While certainly not limited to just bringing the personalized designs of customers to life, No. One is also putting their own spin on their offerings by tapping the minds minds of their in-house creativity. We’ve seen a series of the company’s Bravo silhouette that released exclusively at Union with the lyrics of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, to a batch of the brand’s latest release of the Charlie, which featured pink pony hair on a cap-toe classic aesthetic.
After talking with the company’s founder Mark Gainor, we were able to get the inside story on how No. One came to be and how they’re taking drastic measures to give the consumer exactly what they want. While appearing to be a luxury footwear option, we learned that No. One’s offerings are more so just a byproduct of elaborate craftsmanship and expressive storytelling
Nice Kicks: What are some of the top silhouettes for No. One right now and where does the inspiration for how they were designed come from?
Mark Gainor: Our top volume silhouette is definitely the Bravo and then the Charlie following behind. We only have the three silhouettes, the Alpha is the third and that’s a desert boot, so it’s not as popular or as easy to wear. The Bravo is inspired by classic court shoes. A lot of the inspiration also comes from the German army trainer when we went back and looked at the most iconic or the most archetype silhouettes. And the German Army Trainer influenced the Samba and so forth. It really kicked off all of those shoes, so we went back to that and actually found the original lasts from the first German Army Trainer from a German supplier and that was the form that we built our shoe around.
Nice Kicks: You guys use an assortment of high-end materials. How did you go about selecting what those materials were going to be and what are some of those?
Mark Gainor: We’ve been fortunate to travel to Italy and meet with suppliers. There’s a great show there that we go to and have been able to generate relationships with four to five family owned tanneries that are from the luxury sector and we have personal relationships with them, so we’re at the point now where I can literally order off Instagram since we’re friends. It’s a 200 year old company and when they’re showing you pictures of hides through a text, that’s pretty rad. It’s an interesting mix, but we go and meet with these old tanneries and hold relationships with them at this point. For linings, there’s a family in France and they only make lambskin linings, so each one is very specific in terms of what they specialize in.
Nice Kicks: How did you go about starting this brand and what are the characteristics that make it so unique?
Mark Gainor: That we hand make sneakers is really what makes us unique. Those three words: hand-made sneakers says it all. It’s funny, the word hand-made has been thrown around so much a lot lately because technically every shoe is hand-made. Skechers are hand-made; people’s hands touch it and they make it. But we’re doing it in a totally different manner. Hand-made to us is more the idea of bespoke, where every piece is hand-cut. A totally different level of hand-made that has ever been applied to American footwear at this point.
Nice Kicks: You were at Gourmet several years back right?
Mark Gainor: Yeah, I was a Gourmet for several years, as well as Native Shoes. I’ve also worked with Matt George at Ransom and adidas prior to that. I’ve been working in footwear brands for probably the past 15 years. There was a time when I was really passionate about sneakers and constantly buying and wearing all kinds of different shoes.
Nice Kicks: What was it about footwear that made you want to take the luxury route in terms of your designs?
Mark Gainor: The inspiration really came from spending a lot of time in China and seeing how much control you surrender when you mass produce a product. And that was really difficult for me. Designs die on sketches because you know that you’re never going to be able to commercialize that design and beyond that, once you’ve decided on a design there’s so much compromise in bringing a commercial product to market. I was just like look, I don’t want to compromise. We’ll give up the volume if we don’t have to compromise. No. One is about zero compromise. We answer to no one and we do what we want to do here, while making shoes exactly how we want to make them. Luxury is just a side effect of all that. It was never my intention. I don’t come from a luxury background and luxury goods don’t particularly excite me, but making these shoes the way we want to, they’re going to be expensive.
Nice Kicks: Having a background in sneakers, what are three pairs that are heavy in your rotation?
Mark Gainor: I love Air Max 97s, which happen to be everybody’s favorite shoe right now. I also like the Rejuvenate Mid, which definitely isn’t going to be in everybody’s top three. It’s so form fitting and has a beautiful last in my opinion. I really like sleek footwear, so the Air Max Racer is another one of my favorite more contemporary shoes. And again, super sleek, super functional. When you look at that shoe, that thing looks fast. It was born to run, you know what I’m saying? I like shoes that have a function to them when you look at them. I’ll be totally honest, when I look at an NMD, the function of that is standing around at the mall. There’s no function to that shoe. I like the things that have more purpose involved, that’s why I’m not really a huge fan of lifestyle shoes. You’re gonna wear them three times and throw them in the trash. That part I’m not really a big fan of.
Nice Kicks: What’s your favorite silhouette from No. One so far?
Mark Gainor: I’m partial to the Charlie, it’s classic. This is California. If you don’t wear Chuck Taylor’s when you’re in this city, you’re doing yourself a disservice. They’re like slippers and so comfortable.