For seven years Myroslav Fareniuk has been customizing Nike and Jordan apparel and sneakers in the STILLALIVE project. He has also been noticed abroad: in 2018, American rapper Tyga starred in Fareniuk’s customized Nike Air Force 1 in a Billboard magazine photo shoot, and in 2019 Barneys Tokyo hosted an exhibition of customized STILLALIVE sneakers
Now Myroslav started making his own sneakers, launching the STUGNA project. Two models came out, namely STUGNA, inspired by the military aesthetic, and GHOST, created in honor of the Ukrainian pilot nicknamed “The Ghost of Kyiv”. Additionally, the project team promises to donate 100% of the net profits from the sale of the sneakers to the volunteers. Fareniuk tells more about his project in a blitz interview with DTF Magazine
— This is your first experience of making sneakers from scratch. Why did you decide to do it?
— In 2019, I had my solo exhibition in a gallery at Barneys Tokyo, and at the same time there were legal problems concerning copyright with the Nike Japan office. That is, on the one hand, I felt a rise, but on the other hand, I realized that if I rely only on customization in the brand, there will be periodic conflicts with other brands. Then the issue was resolved thanks to my lawyers in Japan.
But I gained experience, and it pushed me to create my own full-fledged product. Plus, my name is already well known and my style is recognized in the Asian and Western markets.
I was also asked to join an NFT startup related to the sneaker industry. I created a fully authored design that we were supposed to unveil in April, but an invasion of russian pig-dogs [russians] screwed things up. I remember taking my family out on the night of February 25th and texting my partners in the work chat that we weren’t stopping anything and nothing was going to stop us from getting our super project off the ground. But it didn’t work out the way we thought it would.
It was no longer up to my own ambitions because of these tragic events for all Ukrainians, long-distance relationships with my family, not being able to hug them, volunteering, looking for opportunities to become more useful.
But at a certain moment I had an idea, which allowed me not to lose all my experience in making shoes and make my brand STILLALIVE useful for Ukraine, i.e. to launch the STUGNA project. Moreover, I did not want to produce banal T-shirts with a flag or a portrait of the President. I didn’t do it during and after Maidan, and now I don’t want to do it even more so.
— How quickly did the STUGNA project idea come to fruition?
— I think it took three months, because first of all we created a sample made from the materials we had, and then we ordered the accessories and technological parts of the sneakers after we saw the shape and what came out and it took a long time to wait.
— What difficulties and problems did you encounter in production?
— Now for me production is not a problem, it’s about gaining experience. Most of the time it’s long, boring and stressful, but I’ve been in this field since 2010, when I created my first streetwear brand, so I look at it as a quest.
Finding a good, quality manufacturer is a standard routine, even in peacetime. I believe we went through this phase pretty quickly during the war, because five months is nothing in the stories of legendary companies, and I hope we will become just that. We’ve changed three productions and our third master is just perfect. Right now I’m looking for serial production opportunities, so I hope they may come up after my talk with you.
— What inspired you to create your sneakers? Perhaps you were inspired by specific silhouettes of other brands or the overall aesthetic of other brands?
— I’ve been a fan of Nike and Jordan all my way as a sneakerhead and customizer. I use the legendary Nike Air Force 1 more in customization because they are as affordable as possible, but I personally love the Jordan 1, 3, 4 and 12 retro models. These are the silhouettes I was inspired by when I designed the STUGNA model, adding my signature style from the customization namely embroidered patches, which has proven to be a more durable and interesting product than painted sneakers.
Of course, right now I am inspired by our military and what our nation is becoming. I want to contribute to these amazing processes and create a non-trivial product, which will have connoisseurs both in our country and abroad, and which will carry our cultural code.
— Tell us more about the materials and features of the sneakers.
— The important thing is that it is completely handmade: it is my idea plus the hands of one craftsman, with whom we refine each pair, fix some lines and details. Now our shoes are available in a small grid of sizes, so that customers do not have to wait. The upper part of the sneakers is made of genuine Ukraine-made leather and pixel oxford with elements of embroidery and rubber back, even the sole and all molded parts are made in Ukraine.
It comes with an extra set of orthopedic insoles, themed patches, stickers, and a metal token with the logo and QR link to the site. Everything is wrapped in the paper used for ammunition packaging, and packaged in a branded, handmade, military-style wooden ammunition box, each of which I personally paint and finish.
— You have two models of sneakers so far. Do you plan to expand this series?
— At first we only had one color version in the style of our infantry, but all of our armed forces are beautiful, particularly the aviation. Modern historians should write about what pilots do in the sky without having super-modern fighter planes, and I would generally design author sneaker models to honor each pilot. How we were all inspired by «The Ghost of Kyiv» in March! So we came up with a model in gray tones called GHOST. Now we are collecting orders and selecting materials.
In addition, we have designed and created models of STILLALIVE sneakers with a non-military theme. The release is scheduled for mid-September.
By the way, I want to point out that our military project is not tactical footwear for the military, but practical, reliable and stylish sneakers for civilians who want to help Ukraine and have a cool functional product to commemorate our victory and the turbulent times that preceded it.
— What kind of volunteer organizations or individual volunteers do you help?
— We donate 100% of our net profit to various needs. So far we help volunteers that I know personally, it’s just a local fundraiser on instagram, sometimes for a quadcopter, sometimes for clothes, sometimes for a car. In fact, we all know and see the same fundraisers organized by popular people.
But we are in search of a permanent official partnership with the most effective results. Therefore, we are open to suggestions and to bloggers, celebrities, all those who are ready to talk about our project in their publics, on their pages and sincerely join the good cause.
— What audience are you focusing on in the first place: foreign or local?
— First of all, we focus on foreign customers, but anyone who has a desire to support Ukraine can order on the site. We deliver all over the world, except russia and belarus.
— You published the first photo of the sneakers two months ago. Are there already some sales results? And how interested are people in this format of charity now?
— We plan to report on the results of sales later on the site, perhaps it will be some counter on the product page.
But we already have the first sales from partner countries, people abroad are more interested, they support us and this is very motivating. So now there is an opportunity to make the whole world wear fashionable Ukrainian clothes and shoes and at the same time to stimulate to help the AFU.