“My name is Gabriela Cajado, recently graduated in Fashion but I go beyond just that. I’m a stylist and art director, I usually include a lot in my work, I think my focus, isn’t just in fashion, our design, styling in general, I like to look at things with a bigger scope. I live in São Paulo, but always in Salvador – I go a lot from one place to the other, it’s something that’s very me.
I have a brand called Cajá. It’s started right when I finished college and it basically brings all my essence, what I believe and what I feel is lacking, especially in the Brazilian market – which is clothing made for women, but not the way society sees women, but how I see women and how I feel about it. Especially in the world of streetwear, sportswear, that real urban type clothing.”
Where does the name Cajá come from?
Cajá comes from Cajado and also from the name of a typical fruit from Northeast of Brazil – so it has this link between my name and this Brazilian factor, which is something I want to have in my work and in my brand. I really feel the lack of local references, I think brands, in general, get a lot of references from what’s trending abroad, when we have so much to explore right here.
I go for this tropical feel in my work, it’s an essence that I have very strong within me, I love this beach vibe, but at the same time I’m very urban – and that’s something especially women’s sportswear and streetwear lack.
How was the processes for customizing this Air Force?
The Air Force 1 was the first sneaker I got in this sneaker universe mindset – it was the first sneaker I bought knowing that it was a part of this universe. In 2017, my senior project happened during Air Force month, and it was such a coincidence because I wanted to do some costume work on a sneaker. – To make an intervention on a product that already existed and not have to make one from scratch. So the opportunity came up, and Nike helped me out supplying me with the pairs.
It was pretty cool because my senior project was happening at the same time as the Air Force celebration event – 35 artist from São Paulo were invited, and I was one of them, to customize and AF1 and it was perfect, it was a link at the right time. I made a design at the event and two others for my brand, so it was a total of three creations. It just made so much sense to me because it was my first sneaker, and I had this memory of bringing back my origins, the reason I started doing this, my whole connection with streetwear and sportswear universe.
And the cool part was that the AF1 was my first sneaker but I didn’t wear them, I ended up in my closet, because I really like Air Maxes, I’m crazy for the 95s, 97s and the Tn’s, and I ended up leaving my AF1’s on the side. But when Air Force week came, and there was this movement, I didn’t know what shoe to customize, but when I saw the Air Force 1 it just made sense, so when the event came it just happened. Things don’t just happen for coincidence, they happen because they need to happen.
What were your ideas behind these customs?
The two-story one came from two insights: I first thought about that moment when you store your sneakers when you put the new ones on top of a pile of sneakers. I have that memory in my mind, a pile of sneakers one on top of the other. So I wanted to bring that feeling. In parallel to that, The Ten of Off-White costumes were going down, Virgil changed the top part of a sneaker into another sneaker sole – so I thought, why don’t I do an Air Force with an Air Force? It’s as if it had changed, but not really, I just put one on top of the other. So I put it all together and it worked. The whole process was very manual, I did everything by hand.
Now for the second model, I always wanted to cut a sneaker but I never had the courage – no one has (laughs) – I got one at day of the custom and I thought “I’ve already painted, I’ve already put one on top of the other, I wanted to really go for something different, “I got there and went straight for the scissors and started cutting. It’s very simple, I turned it into a mule, I handmade the shoelace and that was it.
What is your relationship with sneakers in general?
I’m all Nike since my first sneakers. I’ve had other brands but my relationship with Nike designs is very strong, I really like how they rescue old designs and give them a current look; the entire Air Max bubble universe. For me the most brilliant thing was the VaporMax, which basically is the same thing – the air bubble – only totally external, in addition to changing the name of Air Max to Vapor. It is a very contemporary issue, that you only adapt to the world with the idea that it is the same – it is the same essence, the bubble. Nike has these things that I think are pretty cool.
When and how did your relationship with sneakers begin?
Well, I think to live in São Paulo, comfort is the keyword, mobility as well. As a woman, I have worn all kinds of shoes, but I discovered that it was possible to wear sneakers, which people used to play sports or just to go out, that I could use as a styling tool and at the same time be comfortable, I feel part of the urban environment. That is such something you see in people who live in big cities.
The time I bought the Air Force – my first was the high, he was not being used so much, but his silhouette is very incredible, it’s a perfect shoe on foot. After studying its history and everything, I discovered that it came from basketball, which at the time he did not even launch a successful shoe, only after he broke out.
Besides these Air Forces, what are your favorite sneakers? Which ones do you really want to have?
I really want the VaporMax Plus and Air Max 93 – I was very happy that they brought it back, it was the first one on my list, nobody had the 93, it was that model you hardly saw. Another one that I also really wanted was the Nike Zoom Spiridon, which was in collab with the London subway. A friend of mine showed me and I thought it was very ugly, but today I want it so much (laughs).