In 2014, London's Evening Standard ran a feature titled 'Chips of the Old Block', referring to famous offspring Connor Hirst and Sascha Bailey (detailing the former's debut sculpture at Covent Garden's 17 Floral Street Gallery, curated by David Bailey's son Sascha). Beginning with the age-old debate, 'Does artistic genius run in the family?', the piece made a case for when 'the work of' belongs to 'the son of' and whether this naturally translates to talent. You decide, but Connor Hirst isn't the only son of famous father Damien to make his own way in the art world.
Cassius - known as Cass - may not be as well known as others in his family (yet), but his talent sure does compare in equal measure, proven by his recent sneaker collection made in collaboration with the Italian luxury house Prada, reimagining the label's America's Cup Sneaker.
Cass' first pair of spray-painted sneakers were intended to be a gift for his father, made with love when he was 14. Growing up in a household where exposure to art was inevitable, sneakers became his canvas: sculptural objects whose topographies were reworked through hand spray-painting, meaning no two pairs were exactly alike. Confessing in a Q&A with Prada, young Cass spoke of his love for shoes by commenting, 'For me, shoes are special compared to other items of clothing: to me, they're like cars, they're like skateboards, they're like swords. They're objects.' And so naturally, his work eventually (and, inevitably) garnered a cult following, purchased by the likes of A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Offset, Rihanna, AJ Tracey and the late Virgil Abloh.
However, it's worth mentioning that this collection is probably his most experimental yet. Recognising the shoe's unique design, Cass also admitted that his original thought was 'Compared to other sneakers, the Prada America's Cup shoe is totally different. It actually confused me for a bit because I just thought: what can I do?' Working to transform the 20th century design classic (Prada's America's Cup sneaker) for Gen Z, the shoe's surfaces have been radically reworked, presenting a total of four styles in 22 colourways. Initially invented in the late 90s for the sailing crew of Prada's Luna Rossa line, the sneakers could always be identified by their leather with distinctive cross-hatched breathable bike fabric inserts, a detail that still exists today re-seen through Cass' lens.
Although there are only four styles, the young artist's explorations of colour were actually nailed down from 44 to 22; so it's not hard to guess which part of the process Hirst enjoyed most while working on this collaboration. 'My favourite part is always the painting. Coming up with the different colourways to best highlight the design of the shoe was so much fun and I'd love to paint more', Cass told SHOWstudio. However, he also went on to admit he 'did enjoy the final stages, too, where all the decisions and components were coming together to create something everyone could be truly proud of.'
All styles have been made in Italy and are sold in a co-branded Prada box, featuring Cass' logo, which, to all who don't know, is a scan of his brain, a 'kind of like a weird self-portrait', if you will. Opening up about why the young creative thought it relevant to include a scan of his own brain as his logo, Cass declared in a statement, 'The brain scan represents hope and knowledge in a world of shadows and uncertainty. The brain is where the thoughts happen – for me, it all became about creativity and the creative process. I've learned that sometimes we have to look inside ourselves to see what's really going on, we shouldn't be afraid of that.'
Each shoe style takes its name from 'the world of music', reflective not only of Cass' passions but the passions of his fans too. Titled, ATT4CK, D3CAY, SUST4IN and REL3ASE, the names takes after the 'envelope' or life of a sound and the stages of its evolution, mirroring the evolution of Prada's own America's Cup sneaker. The shoes' titles also give way to the individual four styles: the hard-edged, moulded spikes of ATT4CK, sprayed with neon; the distressed leather of D3CAY, stripped and intentionally faded; the solid brights of SUST4IN, with overpainted white relief details; and the neon-spray finish of REL3ASE.
Asked where he thinks this collaboration sits in the world of sneakers today, Cass divulged:
'This collaboration feels new to me. It feels like something I haven't seen before, and I hope it pushes other brands to consider branching out in the way that Prada have. I feel like 'customs' are being painted everywhere in the world on a daily basis, whether it's shoes or other clothing, and people often don't see the potential. Hopefully, this collaboration can show brands what is possible.'
The Cass x Prada collection is an edition limited to 3,000 pairs globally, sold through a selection of Prada boutiques and via prada.com.