INTERNATIONAL - As an alternative to customers lining up at sneaker stores fighting for the chance to buy a designer shoe that only a few people have, Mark Gainor and Jimmy Gorecki are offering something even more exclusive: a kick designed for you, and you alone.
Gainor, the former creative director of Native Shoes, and Gorecki, a onetime pro skateboarder, founded No.One in February 2017 in Venice, Calif. The luxury startup creates custom-made and extremely limited-edition sneakers using traditional shoemaking techniques. No.One employs a crew of four cobblers in the company’s small studio—a size that allows for creative flexibility and attention to bespoke commissions, which in recent months have included sneakers made from impala fur, as well as a waterproof pair reconstructed from a Gore-Tex military jacket. Gainor and Gorecki have found fans among a steady flow of actors, musicians, and sports icons, including 2017 NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant.
Alongside these unique creations, the team also works on small batches of production-run models, producing from 14 to 17 pairs in three classic silhouettes, with prices starting at $575 a pair. The process of creating each run takes roughly two weeks, and with each release, typically only a couple of pairs in each size are made available.
“To us, No.One is very much a post-skateboarding shoe,” says Gainor. “Not only in the physical sense, but in the larger sense of finding a home and platform for the DIY values and culture from growing up in skateboarding.”
In a sneaker market so focused on high-tech fabrics, and new and innovative manufacturing processes, the idea of a handcrafted, customized sneaker stands out. Each pair of No.One sneakers is hand-lasted, a process that’s identical to what John Lobb or any other classic bespoke shoemaker would use—and one that can’t be rivaled by more modern, mass-production slip lasting or machine lasting.
For its premium materials, No.One works with a small group of luxury tanneries, each specialized in a specific product, and most often family-owned. For its sneaker linings, plongé lambskin is sourced from a Chanel-owned tannery in the south of France—the same skin that lines many of the luxury brand’s handbags.
Gainor points to the leather counters (a piece near the heel) as indicative of the attention to detail that ensures a pair of No.Ones will long outlast any trendy pair of Yeezys exposed to the same amount of wear. “These leather supports are never seen, but we hand-cut, hand-skive, and wet-mold them out of Italian vegetable-tanned leather,” he says. “That’s hours of detailed craft for each pair of shoes for something that will never be seen, but will be felt for the life of the sneaker.”
So far the brand has created three distinct silhouettes—the Alpha desert boot, the Bravo low sneaker, and most recently the cap-toed Charlie. No.One’s plan is to create a comprehensive line that runs 26 models strong, one for each letter of the alphabet, while still satisfying the ever-growing demand for fully customized service.
WWD fashion director Alex Badia says No.One has figured out how to sell a personalized experience to consumers who’ve grown tired of settling for the immediacy of an off-the-shelf purchase. “The modern menswear consumer has become much more savvy in recent years,” she says. “We’re seeing a growing appreciation for the process that comes with commissioning bespoke fashion, and a better understanding of the time and costs involved.”