Shaniya Carrington’s “Sneakerhead” collection began with a conversation with a friend about buying and collecting sneakers. Such talk, says Carrington, can be the “telltale sign” of a sneakerhead. “The wacky thought of a person with a sneaker as a head made me laugh! There was no way I wouldn’t draw this, but had no idea how far I’d take it.” All the way to her senior thesis project.
“It’s about how just one little weird idea can become a cool illustration!” says Carrington.
There’s an obsession at the heart of a true sneakerhead. Footwear and Accessories Design Prof. Vasilios Christofilakos describes what sneakerhead culture is, and how Carrington’s work “captures it beautifully.”
“You’re a sneakerhead once it becomes your life. You buy, you sell, you indulge yourself completely in the sneaker world. They’re your go-to shoe every day. A sneakerhead is going to wear sneakers to a funeral to a wedding, to a baptismal, through the park, deer hunting. If they could swim in them they would,” he says.
“If Carrington’s work doesn’t visually define what a sneakerhead is than I don’t know what does. Art is a visual language. Sometimes it’s open to interpretation and guessing, but this is clear sneaker culture. Each illustration defines its customer as seen in fashion houses.”
Carrington began with her Nike Sneakerhead, her “gateway” piece she says. “After countless adjustments I saw it was going somewhere. The cup and straw are a little extra spice. There’s no way for a person with a sneaker for a head can possibly drink this! Once I completed it, I knew I would make more.”
Prof. Christofilakos is taken with “the bold feminine color,” of it. “She’s young pink and fabulous because she doesn’t know what’s ahead. She’s bold and she’s a temptress.”
While considering her senior thesis, illustrator Jessica Karpishin ’18, spoke to Carrington’s Mentor and Specialized Projects class taught by Prof. John Nickle. She showed work from her final thesis and suggested that students ask themselves what makes their work unique. “I got onto Procreate and began planning a Doc Martens Sneakerhead character,” says Carrington. I proposed the idea to Prof. Nickle, and he loved it. I created a gothic persona with a leather jacket and a choker. I added an animal to it.”
“These are so fun and funky. I love the surreal collision of visual elements. She combines high fashion with street fashion and I like the way that Shaniya uses flat graphics with realistic, and stylized rendering. Shaniya’s Sneakerheads idea has so many potential avenues to explore. I am interested and excited to see where she takes it. – Illustration Professor John Nickle.
“It’s like an homage to the late, great Eartha Kit, says Prof. Christofilakos. “It’s an Illustration of a well-known brand. It’s part of our lives. Doc Martens has become as iconic as Cat Woman from Batman.”
Carrington worked with another favorite brand, Converse, and incorporated it into her next thesis piece. “I wanted a more relaxed character wearing street and a tattoo. I went for a sitting pose. By going for a variety of poses and personas, not one piece is similar to another,” she says.
Vans Sneakerhead was a “no brainer” for Carrington. “Vans have so much personality. I joke that no one owns a clean pair of Vans. Within a week of wearing them they’re filthy and torn up,” she says.
Carrington’s Gucci Sneakerhead is her final thesis piece (below). “I wanted a classy persona with a classy dog that’s wearing a Gucci collar,” she says.
“The Doberman is powerful,: says Prof. Christofilakos. “Gucci sets the trend. Who is the powerhouse here, the Doberman or the wearer?”
Carrington says the piece was challenging because of the number of elements involved and the textures of the clothes. “I enjoy looking back at my first Sneakerhead to this one. It really shows growth that I take pride in.
“They’re part of my permanent style now. I’m into conceptual portraiture and playing with cool ideas that come into my head. I want to show that wacky side of me.”
As for Prof. Christofilakos, he has designs of his own — for Carrington to consider Fashion Illustration as a component to her career.
Watch for Shaniya Carrington’s illustrations on NYC kiosks as part of NYCxDesign Student Spotlight initiative. She is a recent winner of the Black Student Illustrators Award. To see more of her work, check out her website: Shaniya C. Illustrations, and follow her on Instagram: @scrco.art
To learn more about the School of Art and Design Illustration program go to Illustration at FIT.
All images used with permission.