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Interview: GOVRN's Raudel Bares His Sole Swaps

Date: September 20 2019

By: Sneaker Freaker

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Raudel Arteaga loves solving creative puzzles. Founded in 2017, Raudel’s business GOVRN is based on the premise of giving his knowledgeable clients the kind of hybrid footwear that can’t be bought at Foot Locker. From customised Jordan golf spikes to 4D sole-swaps and cheeky double-branded hybrids, there are no limits when Raudel takes a scalpel to your favourite two pairs of sneaks.

How did you get into sole-swapping?
I was flipping shoes to make money in my college days and noticed that old heat was still going for good money, but often the soles were crumbling. Depending on the price, I scooped up hype stuff and invested in a sole-swap. This business model worked pretty good for quite a while until the scene became saturated. When I graduated to making proper hybrids, I had to figure out a new set of skills, such as ensuring the soles and uppers match, resurfacing soles, and learning about adhesives. It seems simple, but there’s a surprising amount to learn.

Are they all wearable?
All the shoes we create can be worn confidently for any purpose. Even hardcore runners are wearing our hybrids in marathons and, so far, we’ve had no blow-outs. I actually wear my creations on the daily because that’s the only way I feel confident about the durability of our work.

Interview Govrn Futurecraft Ultraboost

How do you assess whether a sole-swap will work aesthetically and on a practical level. Can you do it by eye now, or do you have to get into it and see what happens?
Over the years we’ve had many ideas which seemed cool in theory, but were simply impossible to make. Sometimes the upper is just too wide or too narrow for the sole, or the shoes are made in such a way that deconstruction makes it hard to hide the evidence. The only way we can assess if an idea works is by taking apart loads of sneakers to see how they are put together. Once the uppers and soles are apart, we can tell how low a sneaker will sit inside the new sole unit, how wide the sole is, how narrow the uppers are, as well as figure out the thickness of the materials and how that plays with sizing. Every new hybrid project is a puzzle which helps me to learn a little bit more about what works and what doesn’t.

Interview Govrn Futurecraft Soles

Your UltraBOOSTs with the 4D sole are insane. Are people really cutting up both pairs to make one?
All the 4D pairs we have made so far are provided by clients. We have safely separated and extracted all the uppers and soles needed for our projects. Our clients are so into it that cutting up two shoes to make one unique pair is worth the investment. To date we have sole-swapped both Yeezys and UltraBOOSTs with the 4D sole, and both look sick!

I imagine that sole-swapping an upper to an Air Force 1 would be relatively easy as you can stitch the two units together. Is my hunch correct?
Sole-swapping an Air Force 1 is pretty much the same as any pair to be honest. We just prep and bond the sole and upper together using adhesives. I actually made a pair of slippers with an AF-1 sole and didn’t stitch them together, since the material was too thin and the needle would have shredded the fabric. The stitch that wraps around AF-1s and Jordan 1s is functional on the OGs, but keeping it on a sole-swap is more about maintaining traditional style than making the hybrid shoe functional.

adidas UltraBOOST x adidas Alpha EDGE 4D

I geek out when function and design come together beautifully, but what I really love is looking at how technology such as Zoom Air pockets, adiprene, carbon fibre plates, and BOOST cushioning are inserted into soles. It gives you a deeper level of appreciation for sneaker design, and how to deliver comfort and protect your feet.

Converse Chuck Taylor x Nike Air Max 270

We have had many inquiries about sole-swapping Chucks, however the vulcanised construction makes them tough to work with. We’re currently experimenting with bonding different EVAs and polymers together with rubber, since this concept is more about using the sidewalls of the Chuck instead of taking the sole off.

Nike Pegasus Shield x Nike Vaporfly

We had a client who was competing in the Chicago marathon. It was raining heavily, and he wanted to keep his feet dry. The plan was to have the functionality of the Vaporfly, but make them waterproof. This project was a great example of creating hybrids that meet the specific needs of a client.

Nike Tailwind 98 x Nike Air Max 270

I’m proud of this shoe because it brought me back to the joy of repairing crumbled soles for a flip. The Tailwind 98 sole was dusty and, because there’s no sole quite like the OG, I had to get creative. The problem-solving process inspired me to make hybrids in the first place. I just love bringing vintage uppers and new soles together.

Air Jordan 4 Golf Spike

The new wave of golf nuts definitely want to add sneaker style to match their attire. When we started making the golf hybrids we thought the appeal would be limited, but once word got out, we realised this market was actually pretty big.

adidas adi Speed x Nike Air Max 95

The adi Speed 95 was the first time GOVRN incorporated double-branded parts and logos into one shoe. It was like a crazy science experiment. Nike Swooshes are embedded within the adidas stripes, while the heels have a Trefoil emblem and the soles have Nike logos.

Interview Govrn Sole Swapping

And where do you stand on fusing two brands together?
I’m not into creative restrictions at all. I really feel that total freedom is what makes hybrids so great. We’re doing stuff that brands would never do with their own shoes.

The new Nike Air Max 720 upper is slick but I’m a grown-ass man, not a pre-teen. What sole would you suggest for the 720? The big-ass foam rand that wraps the shoe looks tough to work with.
Funnily enough, we are working on this exact sole-swap right now. We now know that the upper comes off really clean with minor signs of where the 720 sole was. The Air Max 97 sole looks amazing with the 720 above. Staying in the Nike family, the Air Max 1 is another classic option, or the Air Max 95 or Air Max Burst would be dope as well.

And when did adding golf spikes to sneakers become a thing?
The new wave of golf nuts definitely want to add sneaker style to match their attire. When we started making the golf hybrids we thought the appeal would be limited, but once word got out, we realised this market was actually pretty big.

Are you aware of any brands watching what you’re doing? Surely it’s only a matter of time before one of your Frankensteins becomes a legit release.
We are not aware of any brands watching us. At the end of the day, if they recreate a hybrid we have made, I think that’s awesome. We only create from what the brands provide anyways, so it seems a fair trade.

Where to from here for GOVRN?
One thing we would love to do is incorporate our vision of sneaker culture into other sports and lifestyles, like we’ve been doing with golf. We would also like to start reconstructing shoes using different leathers. However, instead of just reconstructing a shoe readily available in the market and placing the original sole back on, it’d be dope to take vintage trainers and reconstruct them with a new sole. We’ll just have to see what happens and inspires us along the way.

Interview by Raoul Duke. Originally published in Sneaker Freaker Issue 41. Buy your copy HERE.

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