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Editorial

Interview: Alexis Sablone talks architecture, skateboarding and her Cons One Star Pro.

Interview: Alexis Sablone talks architecture, skateboarding and her Cons One Star Pro.
Posted by Neil Chester6 min read
Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Getting right into it, did skateboarding and the time spent in the streets and downtown city areas introduce you to architecture? 

Maybe subconsciously, I started skateboarding so young that it’s made me who I am, I’m sure it’s influenced it somehow. I always had lots of creative outlets and I think skateboarders look at cities really differently, and with an intention to use space in a different way, so I definitely think they are related. I think with anything, skateboarding is so much a part of who we are, our influences, what we think is cool or interesting, it’s just embedded in us so much, whatever you are creating outside of skating it’s obviously going to influence it, it’s just hard to pinpoint exactly how.  

Do you have a single or a few preferred architects or architectural style? Personally speaking, I’ve always looked at them as artists and their structures are their work we get to experience, visit and interact with. 

That's a hard question, just like ‘who’s your favourite skateboarder?”, which can change sometimes. I’d say Enric Miralles, he’s a Spanish architect with a bunch of stuff in Barcelona. Lina Bo Bardi is another, I love what you might call paper architects, like visionary architects from the late 60s, early 70s, stuff that’s never been built. Superstudio is an example and also Japanese Metabolism, which is all these crazy ideas for the huge population and urban growth in Tokyo, just wild schemes for how are you going to house this expanding population. Also, Vito Acconci, as I have a lot of interest in people that go back and forth from architecture, sculpture and performance art, I’m really inspired by that. And Gaudí, some people just think differently y’know, so many years later and there is nothing like that anywhere, it’s pretty incredible. 

Do you think you’d have taken this path and had these interests if you hadn’t happened to skate?

It's an impossible question to answer, it’s hard to imagine if it wasn’t skateboarding what I would be doing. I think like a lot of skateboarders I get obsessed with things, so if it hadn’t have been skateboarding, then it would have been who knows what and I would be somewhere else and obsessed with something different. I’ve always had creative projects since I was really little and skateboarding just fitted into that. 

"Without skateboarding I wouldn’t have so many friends"

What’s crazy for me is how everyone I now know in my life is through skateboarding.

Definitely, without skateboarding I wouldn’t have so many friends (laughs)! Most of the other stuff I like to do is quite solitary, working on some project, and skateboarding in a way is an obsessive project that follows your whole life, you meet a lot of people along the way and it becomes really social and changes your life in that way. I think I would have been more into computers or making weird robotics, probably just alone somewhere working on something weird (laughs).

Alexis Sablone, Paris June 2019 for Parade (4)

Many (older) people will know you from the PJ Ladd video, which I'm sure you’re sick of talking about (haha). But how did that whole experience of seeing PJ blow-up, as well as everyone in the video, feel for you? Did it inform how you approach things today - global tours, contests and potential US Olympic inclusion? 

First of all, it feels like a lifetime ago, it feels so distant, it’s more about what was happening in relation to the point you are at in life. That was an amazing time and definitely changed my life, I was deciding whether I wanted to go to college and I was seeing PJ, Ryan and Jereme get all this attention, moving to the West Coast, all these brands wanted them. That's where it clicked for me, it sounds awful, but I didn’t want to move to California and just skateboard, I wanted to do a lot of other stuff. For me it almost made me go in the other direction, not just that experience, but it put things into perspective. I wanted to move to New York, study all these things, I wanted to keep skating but I didn’t want it to be my job. Skateboarding is still something that’s both the best thing and a really frustrating thing, cause it’s my job right now, so it’s good and it’s bad. But back then I just wasn’t ready to see skateboarding like this, it helped me figure out what I didn't want to do. 

Then you swing to the other extreme, you're in school and you see friends from school getting regular jobs and working for someone else, which is great for some people, but that made me think I don’t want to do that! So I’d swing back to skateboarding cause that's independence and freedom in terms of doing what I want with my time. I guess there are people telling me what to do to some extent, like go skate here and do this, but it’s pretty free compared to most things. For me, it’s always been structure and no structure and trying to figure out what I need and want. It’s worked out now, I’m really fortunate that I’m still able to skate and have all these companies support me, it’s amazing. I couldn't have envisioned this way back then ‘cause skateboarding is such a different world now. 

How is the whole US Olympic path going, it must be a trip to actually be a potential US Olympian? 

It’s definitely a trip, it’s another thing that I would never have imagined myself in this position, I didn’t even think skateboarding would be in this position. Very few people that skated in the mid-90s would have believed skateboarding would be in the Olympics, you’d be like ‘yeah right, no way’!

"I don’t know how the Olympics will change skateboarding, I hate to say but I’m scared"

Skateboarding was actually a demonstration sport at the Atlanta ‘96 games closing ceremony, Danny Way and Colin Mckay were in it. 

Really, that’s when I started skating, in 1996. On the one hand, it seems like a life-changing opportunity, so I'm trying to do my best and do it, it’s a huge honour. But at the same time, it’s really different to what I consider skateboarding. I try and compartmentalise it, they are competitions and I do my best, then there’s street skating and trying to film parts. Transitioning mentally between the two is difficult sometimes as competitions have never been easy for me, I've managed to do well in some of them but its always such a stressful situation. I’m a competitive person by nature, but this is different, it’s fun to play SKATE against your friends and talk shit, but this is a whole different type of competition that doesn't feel fun, it’s pressure, which is mostly self-imposed. I can remind myself all day that’s it not the end of the world, it’s an opportunity and just take it for what it is, but then my body is freaking out ‘cause of the pressure I put on myself. It’s a crazy time, but I do think skateboardings inclusion in the Olympics has done a lot for women in skateboarding, a lot of extra eyes are looking at skateboarding. 

I’ve noticed a lot more people seem to care about what women are doing, which wasn't really the case before. It's oversimplified to say it’s all because of the Olympics, but the timing is just too perfect to think it can’t be related. I’ve obviously benefited from it, and in my mind it’s long overdue, so I'm happy it's happening, I'm grateful.

I don’t know how it will change skateboarding, I hate to say but I’m scared, skateboarding has already changed so much. There’s no way the whole world will understand skateboarding, it’s cool if people see it, get introduced to it, maybe from that some people will start skating and develop a whole new relationship with it. Like my mum, she’s supported me so much and been around skating so much but she doesn’t ‘get’ skateboarding, which is fine as she doesn’t think she understands it. We’ll see, it’s too hard to predict what is going to happen. 

Alexis Sablone, Paris June 2019 for Parade (5)
Alexis Sablone, Paris June 2019 for Parade (6)

You’ve designed some skateable sculptures in Malmo of late, any plans for more?

Yeah, I’m designing another one now in Florida, the one in Malmo is concrete, this new one will be made from sheet metal. I don’t want it to look like a skatepark or a street spot, I'm interested in finding some middle ground where its a space that skaters would want to skate, but other people would be interested in it and wonder what it is. For the Malmo sculpture, I was inspired by the architect I mentioned earlier, Enric Miralles, he plays with sharp and soft angles, he mashes things together, I also wanted to mix different languages together. It looks like a face from above as I thought about giving a place an identity, so to people that don’t skate they’re like, ‘oh it’s that big face’. The eyeballs and lips and different shapes on a face don’t actually go together so I just wanted to play with that.

You grew up in Connecticut but largely skated in Boston, how did you get to know all the skaters there?

Yeah, I grew up in a small town that was two hours from Boston and two hours from New York. There was no scene in my town so I’d mostly skate alone. Then I met Jereme Rogers at Woodward, the same year I also met Zered Bassett and Eli Reed, we were all in the same group as twelve-year-olds. So then I went to Boston and skated with Jereme who introduced me to everyone at Coliseum, I’d go there every weekend to skate. It was a magical time to skate in Boston, you’d go to different spots and see crews all over town. I only ever lived in Boston during Grad school, but I have a lot of love for Boston, I still skate for Orchard skate shop.

Since you started skating in ‘96, did ever wear the One Star when a lot of skaters rocked them back then? 

I didn’t skate them, but I saw them, to me they were a classic shoe for skaters. They always felt like a skate shoe although it was originally a basketball shoe from the 70s. It’s like, if you wore them you were in a band or you skated, or just alternative kid, they weren’t a mainstream cool kid shoe.

Alexis Sablone, Paris June 2019 for Parade (1)

"The Converse One Star is the perfect shoe for me"

Did this play any part in you getting a One Star Pro for your first model, the obvious choice would be a Chuck Taylor?

Right, when I started to skate for Converse I recognised the shoe, but I’d never skated a pair until I rode for them. I knew that was the one I wanted to skate in, I just like how classic and simple it is. I’m quite picky about shoes, but right away it worked for me which is why I wanted to build off of it, which they allowed me to do. Not to say I couldn't have done that with a Chuck, but it’s almost too classic and set as a Chuck. With the One Star I added a half-rubber toe cap to the front, it became the perfect shoe for me as I blow through shoes really fast, they also double stitched the eye row and added extra cement compound underneath to make it more durable.

Cool, so the next step after changing the One Star Pro is surely a signature shoe, any plans in the works already? 

I’ve only been on six months! Converse don’t do pro shoes that often and the Louie shoe is the only one which I love skating in. We have more colour ways of this One Star Pro in the works and another project after that which I'm designing. Obviously, a pro shoe would be great but Converse has been really open with the design changes I've brought to them and they’ve given me creative freedom with it, so I'm happy with this right now. 

And the gold star is in no subtle reference to what might happen in Tokyo 2020?  

Absolutely not! Haha, no, it’s just a colour, I usually wear dark shoes and just felt like something new, the idea of a light shoe was just stuck in my head. I made the half-rubber with tape at first to see how it would look for the shape and size, then we sampled it, it was a really hands-on process that was really cool.

Alexis Sablone, Paris June 2019 for Parade (2)
Alexis Sablone, Paris June 2019 for Parade (3)

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