The sneaker-customizing king
Brahm Wachter '12 has a unique talent for sneaker design
Like many college students, Brahm Wachter '12 spends his Sunday evenings watching the HBO television show Entourage. He sits down with a bowl of popcorn, turns on the TV and admires the glamorous lifestyle of the Los Angeles actors around whom the comedy is based.During one episode, Wachter found himself particularly impressed by sneakers that a character named Turtle sported. The sneakers were gold and black Air Force Ones. Wachter immediately wanted a pair of his own.
Wachter knew he would not be able to buy his own pair, as there is only a limited amount of the custom-made shoe available. Determined to own a similar pair, Wachter decided to learn how to design his own sneakers, so that he could create a pair like the coveted footwear.
"What I wanted to do is take the sneaker I saw and redesign it but make it similar," says Wachter, who is 6 feet 1 inch tall and speaks confidently about his interest in sneaker design.
Now, 15 months and approximately 12 pairs of sneakers later, Wachter has started his own unofficial sneaker design company called Brahm Wachter Sneaker Design Studios that has been featured in a magazine and gained the attention of several prominent sneaker blogs.
Although the Manhattan native, who is double majoring in History and Business, attests that his first sneaker design was poorly done, his interest was caught by the art form.
Last spring, he decided to turn his hobby into an unofficial company. He now produces sneakers for various charities and clients, who are mostly friends of his.
Wachter often chooses themes as inspiration for his various sneaker designs. His first design was based around Keith Haring, a New York City artist who uses his art to promote social change.
Wachter says his biggest success in sneaker design was a pair he made for the charity Hoops 4 Hope. According to its Web site, Hoops 4 Hope is a global not-for-profit organization that supports youth development in southern Africa by setting up basketball and life skills programs. The sneakers, which are green, yellow and red and are lined with motivational sayings, brought him to the attention of Bounce magazine, a grassroots basketball magazine, and various sneaker blogs.
"I connected with this girl from Hoops 4 Hope, and those were a big hit," says Wachter.
Bounce describes Wachter as the sneaker "customizing king." The sneakers were displayed at Hoops 4 Hope's biannual fundraiser.
Wachter has also made sneakers for a fundraiser for his high school and the Red Sox Foundation.
Wachter says the number of pairs of sneakers he designs is limited by time constraints.
"Depending on the pair of sneakers it can take me a day, it can take me four days, it can take me an hour. It's a lot of work," he says.
Because he only has a certain amount of time, Wachter says he does not make sneakers for everyone who asks. He is selective about his clients.
"I don't really like to [design] just for clients. I like to do it for a cause," Wachter says.
In the future, Wachter plans on reaching out more toward charities. He is currently interested in working with the Oceanic Preservation Society.
To design a pair of sneakers, Wachter starts by using acetone to strip the factory sealing off the shoe and wiping it off with an old sock. Then, he lets the acetone evaporate.
Next, Wachter makes a blueprint design of the sneaker and asks for the approval of the client, to make sure they like what they see. After that, Wachter begins painting the shoe with special leather paints. Lastly, Wachter gives the sneakers either an acrylic or matte finish and picks out the colors of the shoelaces.
Wachter designs sneakers in his dormroom and several of his sneakers line a shelf in his room.
Wachter's roommate, Daniel Popper '12, says, "It's exciting [to live with Wachter] because people will come in[to the room] and look at the sneakers all the time."
In promoting his company, Wachter has used Facebook and his Web site.
"I try and get a lot of people to join the [Brahm Wachter Sneaker Design Studios] Facebook group, obviously," says Wachter. "A lot of the promotion happened kind of naturally I made a Web site. I don't know how exactly it happened, but that's when all the sneaker blogs found out about it, and that's when I got a lot of attention."
In the future Wachter hopes to further expand his company. His main goal is to produce the best sneaker designs possible and work with more charities. He is also looking into getting an internship at Nike this summer.
"The best way to develop [the company] is to refine my technique. Each time I make a sneaker they're different," he says. "I'm trying to simplify my designs now and make them more succinct.