“Haile Pimenta, 29 years old and from Mozambique. Sneakerhead since always, but especially a skateboarder.”
What's this place and why did you choose to do this photoshoot here?
We're at the MACBA, a really important place for skateboard, it’s essentially the Mecca of culture since 1992. My dream is to be here, is to make sneakers that people will wear right here – skate here it’s like I’ve reached the top of the Everest (laughs). There’s no better place in the world to photograph my shoes then at MACBA.
To a lot of people, skateboarding is way more than just an activity, it's a way of life - what does skateboarding represents to you?
I wanted to go pro, but just like for most people that dream didn't happen, the level is too high these days. Skate is everything for me, it's my meditation, my medicine, it's everything I ever wanted to do, I started making sneakers because I was able to combine two of my biggest passions, and I'm still trying to turn that into reality.
I started skateboarding on June First of 1997, it was kids day and my mom got me a skateboard, I fell in love immediately. At the time there was no YouTube, there were none of those things and I still lived in Mozambique, where there were no skateparks or shops around, that skateboard was the only thing I had. Later on I moved to Zimbabwe, where there was also no skateparks, no shops. This in 1997, we were the first skateboarders around. Me and my friends tried to get people to skate, but it wasn't as easy as it is today.
What was like to be the only skate crew in an entire country? Where did you get your references? How did you learn to do tricks?
We learned through improvising, there was no YouTube as reference, so we would make up some stuff and later on we would find out that that already existed, that it had a name and that there was an entire industry. Looking back now the path I took was beautiful, I grew up with a skateboard, thinking that I had invented a lot of stuff that had already been invented many years before (laughs). With technology and the internet we found out a lot of things, we would read the blogs because there still wasn't videos on the internet.
It's really interesting how you were skateboarding for many years with no reference on anything, it was just because you liked it and that's it.
Thanks, for real! The first memories I have of skateboarding was watching the Ninja Turtles, this was my reference "If he can do it on the Ninja Turtles than I can do it in real life" (laughs).
What's your relationship with sneakers in general?
My relationship is actually quite intimate, I remember that I was 4 when I really liked a shoe for the first time. It was an purple All Star that didn't have in my size, so I had to force my feet to enter, even thought it would hurt, fuck it (laughs). I used these sneakers for a year with my foot all crammed inside, since then I already knew that this was what I liked, what I wanted. My next shoe was a red All Star.
As soon as I started skating I didn't know there were shoes specifically for it, so I would skate in my regular school shoes, the all black ones. Later on, we would only skate in All Stars.
You make your own sneakers, why and how did you learn to make them?
It started out as something that comes naturally to every skateboarder, we wear out our shoes really quickly because of the grip tape. So all skaters have improvised at some point with a little glue, some rubber, some homemade thing to make their sneakers last a little longer, just another week (laughs). Then one day I thought, "Why don't I just do it from scratch?" There's certain soles, profiles, heights that are ideal for me, I used that as reference and said "I'm going to start from scratch, I'm going to buy leather, a sole, the insole and I'm going to make the whole sneaker and not just mend a little hole".
And how did you learn to do this?
Improvising at home, alone, just like it was for skateboarding. One day I want to evolve and have this big production, but that's how it happened.
What's your process for making a sneaker from scratch?
First I take a look around me to see what materials are available, after I go by what I need – What do I need? More rubber here, more leather there, a high profile, a low profile, I take everything into consideration. Then I put it on paper to see if it is conceivable and after that I'll take it to a 3d mold I have of my foot – At first I had a homemade version, but then I had one made for me – it's super exclusive (laughs). Then after finishing the molde, I cut it and adjust it till it's how I want it, but it's only after all that that I start shaping the leather on the mold, and to finish I sow.
Do you consider yourself a sneakerhead?
I think I'm the essence of what makes a sneakerhead. Nowadays there's the Hypebeast thing, that goes with the trend and when I began collecting, with a lot of Jordans, Converse, Nike SBs before SBs, in the sense that I had a lot of Dunks before this obsession on having flat sole sneakers, I was wearing them way before. And nowadays that everything is the new trend, all you have to do is go to the internet, pick your size and 5 days later it's on your doorstep, I used to do that but I stopped because to me that didn't help sneakers evolve... I can't hate on them because I was one of them.
But with sneakers itself, the creative process, and creating sneakers, you have to have some references but you can't just follow a certain moment in time or something that has already happened, evolution has to be linear. What's happening today I wouldn't say is a step backward, but it's more like being stuck in time, being stuck in a certain nostalgy. People want to reshape the wheel, but the wheel has already been made, you have to evolve forward.
And why did you pick this Lodis Footwear Moyo from all the sneakers you already created?
Every model I've done so far has some reference to Africa, which is where I'm from. "Moyo" in central African languages, means "heart, middle, center, nucleus". And to me Moyo represents way more than just what it is, way more than just a skate shoe, it represents all the essence within one thing.
I had to do a surgery in the ligament in my knees, and I tried to make a sneaker that was stable but that also made me want to skate and that was resistant like a skate shoe should be. So Moyo is focused specifically on stability and skating, that's it's essence.