Selections From SUPRA, The Book
Chad Muska: The Skytop
By Dave Carnie
The Skytop was the shoe that brought SUPRA worldwide attention. “It took it to the next level,” as Erik Ellington said about the meteoric leap from skateboard shoe company to global footwear brand. Once the Skytop was discovered, it became the must-have footwear of the Hollywood elite and the darling of the sneaker community. The foundation of the design came from a newly hired and virtually unknown shoe designer named Josh Brubaker.
“When I came over [to SUPRA],” Josh said, “I was like, look, this is what I’m into, this is what I see, I see more fashion. And then my first project was working with Chad on the Skytop. Chad’s the best to work with because he basically brought in a suitcase filled with shoes that he likes, he had everything from Marc Jacobs, to Pumas, to Nikes, to whatever—it was just everything that he was into and it didn’t matter what the brand was. It was weird to me to be working with Muska, a dude that I idolized as a kid and then to be here in this room and we’re on the same page—we were almost finishing each other’s sentences. It was real strange for me. I met with him for a couple hours, I went back to the drawing board, and I sent in the Skytop the next day. I had two options: one with a rubber toe cap, and one without it, and he picked the one without it, and that was it.”
At the time, Chad had been kind of out of the loop in skateboarding and had been jet setting around the world in international fashion circles with his girlfriend at the time. So when he came to the table to design a shoe with SUPRA, he brought all these influences with him.
“Things were starting to change,” Chad said about the time. “We were getting away from the traditional, stubby-toed, goofy skate shoes. I just saw that the end of an era was happening. I was wearing a lot of retro stuff at the time like old Adidas, and Diadora, and just all these kind of old-school high tops and stuff that I was influenced by. And when I had the opportunity to create a shoe, I started conceptualizing, making some stuff. Right around the same time period, Josh was hired, and instantly me and him were both right on the same page. He got my vision. Me and Josh have always been really good at, like, me throwing all these random ideas, and inspirations, pictures, and different things out there, and then him taking all those ideas and craziness and turning it into one, finalized product. And that’s basically how the Skytop was born. Me and Josh were just on the same path and came together to create this design.”
Josh had, in fact, sketched something very similar to the Skytop when he was at his previous job at Soletech.
“It wasn’t exactly the same,” Josh said of that early Skytop drawing, “but the lines were there. And that’s when, after I met with Chad, I got out my old sketchbook and I’m like, fuck, this is pretty good. I just kind of flipped through this crazy bubbling stitch-and-turn, and the quarter in the collar, and he really liked the emboss lines from the Dior shoe, so that’s what I did. I basically took my old design, but with the embossments from the Dior shoe. We just developed it, worked with Chad, and it just came to life.”
The fact that the groundbreaking Skytop was almost created with a different shoe company’s name on it wasn’t lost on SUPRA founder, Angel Cabada.
“The people that didn’t listen to Josh in the past, where he worked at, I think they fucked up,” Angel said. “They had a diamond, and they let him go. So he came and worked with us, and I’m sure they’re scratching their fucking heads to this day.”
Everyone was scratching their heads when the Skytop was finally created. In fact it almost wasn’t created. While the artists were quite pleased with their work, the business side of SUPRA didn’t see how the Skytop was going to sell.
“Everybody hated it,” Chad said. “Everybody was like, ‘This thing sucks!’ Everybody was pissed off. I think people were actually mad about it. I just remember all the sales guys coming in and looking at it and going, ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ I think they even put it off for a long time. It was about an eight-month development process, and it usually doesn’t take that long. So it wasn’t going very smoothly, you know?”
“When that thing was built and we had the sample on the wall up against the rest of the line, people were like, ‘What the fuck is that thing?’” Josh remembers. “‘Is that a moon boot? That thing sucks.’ Including the team. Everybody was clowning on it and talking shit. We didn’t care. We were like, fuck it, we’re into it, we like it, this thing is gonna work. There was no, what if this doesn’t work? It was new. At that point we were trying to be different. We were this skate company that put out something that’s gonna stand off the wall. At that time, and even now, everything’s so flooded, everyone’s doing the same shit, and chasing dollars. I don’t know, magic happens when you throw all that shit out the window and you just don’t care what happens and you do what you want to do. Chad felt the same way, Angel was backing it, and that’s all we needed. Perfect. Let’s roll.”
The Skytop originally came out in three styles: white, black, and gold. And they received a similarly chilly response from the market. It was rumored the SUPRA sales reps wouldn’t even pull the sample out of their bag to show to retailers because they were so scared of it. Slowly but surely, however, it began to get noticed. Pictures of Chad skating and partying in the shoe began circulating, sneaker blogs had just started showing some interest, and eventually the celebrities found it. Chad started hearing stories from friends that, “Kanye just came in here and bought three pairs of your shoes.” And then Jay-Z was wearing them, and suddenly the Skytop was the most sought after sneaker in the world.
“There was no PR agency hired,” Chad said, “there was no money exchanged, there wasn’t even free product in the beginning. People were buying this shit. That was the coolest thing about it. We didn’t pay some marketing firm to fucking place my shoes on Kanye West and Jay Z. They went out and bought them and wore them in their videos. The most rewarding thing was to conceptualize it, design it, create it, feel a lot of doubts about that design, and then the gratification came when everybody was out there buying this stuff, representing it, and they were proud to wear it, and it was just like, wow.”
The Skytop went on to become virtually a franchise unto itself. Dozens of styles have been created from the original design, two additional incarnations were made (with a fourth on the way), and it’s spun off into low tops and even boots.
“I mean everything that’s happened with SUPRA,” Chad said, “has been an amazing blessing and it definitely wasn’t an accident, I know that much. I think this was an accumulation of Angel’s history, my history, Josh’s shoe design history, Tim Haley’s sales history, Vander and Bailey overseeing everything—it was a perfect storm of everything that came together. It was a really good group of people that came together and created something amazing. And, yeah, I’m curious to see what happens from here. I feel like SUPRA is just in its infant stages right now, you know?”