Benji Blunt x Hanon x adidas CNTR

  • DESIGNED BY: Hanon

The Year of the Snake brings its scaled head around to the UK and sinks its venomous teeth into the masterful hands of Benji Blunt, sneaker artisan.

Well-known now thanks to his steady aim, determined focus, and that immediately recognizable animal texturing he loves to apply oh-so-much, Benji Blunt is climbing fast in the world of sneaker customization. Normally we’d let the pictures speak for themselves, but we’re lucky enough to have Benji Blunt, Michael Sterling (for whom the shoes have been created), and even Ed Toft (from Hanon) in the room to tell us a tale about these custom kicks.

Michael, lets begin with you – the man of honor in this art piece – we know it’s not your first Benji Blunt affair, but tell us how’d this collab begin?

Michael Sterling: Honestly, it was very simple. When these shoes dropped Ben had been playing around and used one of the Hanon press photos to Photoshop a variation of the shoe with red snakeskin on the mudguard and a black toebox. He posted the pic on his Facebook page and I was really digging what he had done with it. As it turns out, Ben ended up with an extra pair of the CNTRs in my size. I told him that if he was willing to sell them to me I’d have him do that exact colorway alteration. I already had the original Hanon-designed version which is fantastic, as well.

Right, those Hanon’s are simply sweet to begin with! I’m sure you know that already though, Ed, but about Benji, had you heard of him or seen his work before he made these?

Ed Toft: No, I hadn’t heard of Benji before, but I had seen some of his work. The guys at New Balance showed me the 30 Years of Flimby 1500 and I was familiar with the Pokey Superstar but until he contacted us with his re-imagined version of our adidas Centaur I hadn’t connected the work with him personally. I have subsequently checked out the back catalogue of models and it all looks fantastic. It takes a certain skill to alter a shoe by hand like that and then to have your audience assume they’re factory finished!

We’re completed agreed on that point Ed. And what did you think of the finished product… did you like what Benji did to your design?

Ed: Yes, pretty amazing really. He sent me some snaps of our Centaur, and at first I thought he had applied the detail via Photoshop, and this was what the shoe could look like if it were to be made slightly differently. It wasn’t until we spoke on the phone that it dawned on me it was the actual shoe that he had altered and photographed, which made it even more impressive! The attention to detail is fantastic and there is a real sense of consistency across each style that makes his work instantly recognisable.

Mike, did you influence Benji’s design choices at all in the process?

Mike: Ha! I wish I could say that I did. I’ve always thought that Ben’s instincts were spot on and these are no different. I just had him do a real life version of what he had already done with the original concept photo. There were points along the way where he had some questions but the overall result is almost identical to the original photo mock-up, except for the laces, maybe. We agreed in the end that black was the best choice for those.

And Benji, being your own hardest critic, how did you feel about the final outcome?

Benji: New shoes or new bases are always tricky, you never know what problems may develop. You can’t really experiment on another shoe, when the shoe is limited as it is. So I’m pleased there were no major disasters. The fellas are happy and that is the most important thing.

It is true Michael? Are you happy?

Mike: Of course! They’re stunning! You really have to see the shoe in person to appreciate the quality of the work that went into it. He took a great colorway by Hanon and made it even better while still preserving all of the elements that I loved about the Ed and Brian Toft’s original design.

Another perfect execution by Benji Blunt, your snakeskin sneaker stylist from the UK. Given enough time we wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the ‘official side’ of the fashion fence, getting his designs made for him instead of painstakingly by hand in the wee hours of the night by candlelight under a magnifying lens. At least, that’s how he’s told us he works.

Hats off to you Benji, keep it up!

written by Dylan Cromwell

photography by errol

shoes contributed by Michael Sterling