Expat Diaries: Sierra Leone Gangstas Design Kicks for K1X

Expat Diaries: Sierra Leone Gangstas Design Kicks for K1X

Expat Ieishah Clelland traces the Lion Base crew's journey from homeless gang to sneaker designers

by Ieishah Clelland, November 28, 2012

Expat Diaries: Sierra Leone Gangstas Design Kicks for K1X

result. Everyone loved it. Well, the company didn’t love it, but the response was good. Internationally, especially.

IC: Tell me about the making of the Lion Base batik sneaker.

MBW: Just as the first sneaker was being sold (we hadn’t seen any returns or profit yet), I went back to Sierra Leone. I found 6 Pack, and I’m chatting away to him, when one of his friends came up to us and started talking about how he’d managed to finish school, and he wanted to continue to university. But the finances weren’t there. I said, Okay. I’ll come up with a solution. They didn’t think I was serious. I called up K1X in Germany and told them I want to do another sneaker. A batik sneaker this time. I thought it would be so easy. I’d done batik in kindergarten, and it’s a really traditional African way to print, so I thought it would be perfect. It wasn’t easy at all! We had no clue what we were doing. It just wasn’t working out. The colors were all muddy and looked disgusting. Getting it right took about a month.

IC:So you were there in Freetown, on the ground, working to get these batik patterns right?

MBW: Yes! [After the first failed attempts], we found someone that had a hookup with a man in Freetown who does batik professionally, so he volunteered to come show us how to do it: how to mix the colors, and certain techniques, and we got busy executing it. We produced enough material to make 20 sneakers from each pattern.

IC: Where did you work? Not under the bridge?

MBW: We worked in an abandoned compound that somebody gave us. But in Sierra Leone generally, there is little electricity. [In Europe] you press a button and the water boils in five minutes. There, you have to collect rainwater, then the boiling process is like three hours. Want to work at night? You work with candles. We had to be creative in this whole process and it really made us grow together.

IC: How long was it between when you met the Lion Base Crew, and the day when each and every one of them was in school?

MBW: Between the conversation on the beach and when we did the project? Two years. Between making the batik [sneaker] and all 20 in school was eight months. But everything was step by step. Because at first they were all like, Nah I’m not doin’ it.

IC: If you could do it all again what would you do differently?

MBW: Nothing. Everything happens for a reason, and this happened perfectly.

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