SNEAKERS & FASHION

Mache: Stepping into the Arena

How Daniel “Mache” Gamache used his paintbrush to make a footprint in sports and entertainment

When Daniel Gamache put down his mitt and picked up a paint brush, there was no indication that this new tool would actually be his ticket to the big leagues.

The transition from throwing fastballs in Oneonta to pitching pairs to Quavo began taking shape back in 2002 when the college athlete took a road trip to Englishtown, New Jersey in hopes of handing a pair of painted Air Force 1s to one of the biggest names in hip-hop.

“I was at the Funkmaster Flex Car Show and Fat Joe was one of the special guests,” the artist known as Mache told Boardroom. “I made a pair of Terror Squad Air Force 1s for him.”

The “Lean Back” rapper who was already getting love from Nike was impressed by the entrepreneurial painter.

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Joe’s early appreciation was enough to inspire Mache to continue creating his own colorways by brush, seizing opportunities to seed his wearable art to the likes of Pharrell Williams.

By the late 2000s, Mache and his custom kicks were bubbling beneath the surface of the booming blogosphere, though still not with enough clientele to foot the bills. Because of this, Mache maintained jobs in sneaker retail to stay paid and on the pulse.

In 2011, the infamous “Nerf” Nike KD IV released, which Mache wanted badly. He couldn’t afford the thematic sneaker, which was limited to only 300 pairs.

However, he could make his own.

Taking his paint brush and applying the same nostalgic Nerf motif to a pair of general release Nike LeBron 9s, the 1-of-1 customs quickly became a 12-pair run with the final shoe selling for $4,000.

In a matter of months, Mache went from painting pairs of LeBrons to painting pairs for LeBron.

“It was LeBron’s customs that a lot of people got to know me from,” said Mache on a pair of Ironman-inspired LeBron Xs he made for King James. “Wale was definitely an early adopter, too. He was buying all of the LeBron 9 customs.”

The veryVirgil Abloh approach of making his own collaborations through imagination and DIY drive soon put Mache in arenas far bigger than the Division III diamonds he threw sliders in over the course of his college career.

Soon, the athletes bold enough to blaze their own trails in business by expression counted on Mache to make their next move their best move.

“When Dwyane Wade left Jordan Brand and went to Li-Ning they trusted me to give a little more exposure to the brand,” Mache said. “Then WWE work actually started through the NBA.”

With the advent of Instagram, Mache was suddenly taking calls from the biggest names in both sports and sports entertainment, making “Moon Landing” customs for Steph Curry and trading Shane McMahon hand-painted Air Jordans for Wrestlemania tickets.

The cache surrounding his work for NBA All-Stars, WWE icons, and rap elite eventually led to pairing with perhaps his most consistent client: NFL All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs.

Over the course of his career in Minnesota and Buffalo, the man with the gold hands has kept a sweet pair of feet thanks to collaborative cleats made by Mache.

“The cleats help build his brand identity,” Mache said on his partnership with Diggs. “When they’re playing Detroit, we’re doing 8 Mile or Axl Foley cleats. It’s probably 50/50 on who picks the ideas. Some people care about his stats, some people care about his cleats.”

Stats and shoes considered, the 2010s were a dominant decade for Mache and a breakout time for custom footwear in general.

The cross-category success of seeing his customs in every arena wasn’t lost on Mache, but it didn’t mean his work was done.

“You have a list of goals and people you want to work with and it got to a point where a lot of that stuff got checked off way sooner than I thought,” Mache said. “People always asked, ‘Where’s the Mache shoe?'”

As a new decade dawned, the wheels started spinning on making the leap from painting popular shoes for the stars to creating his own signature model from scratch.

While success took him to this space, it was ultimately disappointment that sparked the jump.

“When NBA All-Star 2020 was in Chicago, for the first time in years I didn’t get any phone calls,” Mache said. “I got frustrated working with the brands and letting them dictate the growth of what I was doing, so I took it into my own hands and ran with it.”

Months later, the Made in the USA Mache Run released at retail, proving that much like Michelangelo, Mache could both paint and sculpt.

Since its August 2020 arrival, monthly Mache Run releases have been selling out via pre-order at $300 a pair, winning over an audience that’s matured past the blinders of big brand releases.

“It’s okay to rock something that not everyone knows what it is,” Mache said. “I’ve got loyal supporters that buy every shoe and people that are catching on. When people get my shoes, they’ve never felt this quality and I get excited about that.”

Approaching the 20-year anniversary of presenting painted pairs to Fat Joe at an auto show, Mache’s drive has taken him to the top of the sports mountain and into a lane where he’s now competing with the top sportswear brands.

2022 is said to see a new silhouette from the Mache brand as well as more monthly Mache Run releases and collaborations that canvas culture.

Still, his passion for paint will never leave him no matter how far this new road takes him.

“I’m always going to be an artist,” Mache said. “If a creative idea comes through, I’m going to do it.”

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