Tod Waters has always had a unique artistic vision, and has returned to his hometown of Houston since conquering the rock and roll fashion world with his custom clothing company Junker Designs. After more than ten years of creating amazing clothes for stars ranging from Lady Gaga to Mötley Crüe, in Los Angeles, Waters has re-established his main base of operations in the Bayou City, a place he's always drawn inspiration from. Not content merely to continue with his successful clothing and accessory line, Waters has decided to expand Junker's catalog to include something very special - a high-quality, limited-edition shoe designed by Waters and built to his exacting standards. We decided to ask him a few questions about this new venture, and Tod was eager to tell us more.
Houston Press: Junker Designs has been hugely successful with things like custom leather clothing and T shirts, but what inspired you to design a sneaker?
Tod Waters: "To me there's a weird relationship between shoes and T-shirts, and when I figured out that I could print my own T-shirts, it was really mind-blowing to see that a person could mass-produce artwork, stick it on a shirt and it would go out there somewhere. I've always wanted to do shoes, because I love sneakers, but there's certain stuff like Vans or Converse, and to me they're too flat and not good to jump up and down in all the time."
"I'd worked with this guy, Hedi, who's from Indonesia, on the limited Junker jewelry awhile back. We've been friends for about five years, and he turned me on to this shoe company and I realized that I could do this - I could actually make my own sneaker finally."
Houston Press: Did having the shoes made in Indonesia complicate the design process, or was it relatively easy to get this done?
Tod Waters: "It's weird when you hook up with another artist and they become your friend - It makes the creative process much easier. Hedi knows what I wanted to do, so the whole design process was a back-and-forth with photos; the company he'd found already does whacked-out, distressed shoes, so when I went to them, we weren't reinventing the wheel as far as these sneakers. We're basically making a Junker version - a shoe that would work with Junker clothing."
Houston Press: What can you tell us about the company you're working with in Indonesia?
Tod Waters: "It's a really small company - like five or six guys, and all the shoes they make are completely handmade - This is not a factory by any means, which is why the Junker shoes are limited to 100 pieces per run."
"I want to make sure people know that this is a fair trade product. The guys making them get paid a wage that they ask for, and these aren't made in some kind of sweatshop - it's just a few guys owning and working in the shoe company, and the interesting thing about Indonesia that's kind of hard to grasp unless you've been there, is that when you go into a place that makes boots, they're making boots from scratch. This is a small company with a limited number of skilled craftsmen."
Houston Press: Did you consider having these shoes manufactured in the United States before deciding to collaborate with your Indonesian friend?
Tod Waters: "I looked in the U.S. for quite some time to try to do a shoe here, and unfortunately the answer I kept getting from the companies here in the United States was that they were going to get them made in China anyway. There's plenty of U.S. companies who are just having their stuff made in China, and I don't feel good about that, and don't want to do that - I'd rather work with my Indonesian friend, who's super cool."
Houston Press: So you were consciously trying to avoid having your shoe line manufactured in a place like China?
Tod Waters: "Vans and Converse...Most of all those shoes come from China now, and I definitely wanted to avoid that. The weird thing is there are people who think they're a healthy consumer because they bargain hunt, and sure, if someone wants the cheapest thing they can possibly buy, then of course they're always going to find stuff from China. I don't understand that. I like to buy and collect stuff that's going to last, and I like to know things about the people who create those products. When I was growing up and buying sneakers, I was into brands like Vans, but then eventually as a consumer I snapped to the fact that they're made in China now. It's shitty to realize that those aren't Californian skate shoes; they're Chinese skate shoes."
Houston Press: What can you tell us about your shoes? What kind of features will they have?
Tod Waters: "The first run that we're doing is an aged and distressed black shoe, and it's got a zipper on the inside, it's got the Junker Hellstar logo on the outside, it says "Mutha Fukkr" across the back and has a really interesting toe piece.
The next 100 we do, even if it's similar to this one, we're going to add a button feature or an extra snap - something so that people can keep these generations of shoes easily separated. I'm hoping that I'm creating a collector's sneaker, and I'm also hoping that people will wear the shit out of them. They're not going to be cheap, because they're handmade, but what we're doing, and I think this is fair, is that a pair of the shoes is going to be $300, but with free shipping, and we're going to include a collector's T shirt, so the first run of shoes will come with one shirt, the second run with another, and so on and so on. It'll also include a sticker and a patch, and comes in a cool burlap bag. I think it's a lot of value, and is a total collector's package."
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Houston Press: Are they engineered for comfort? You've been part of the Houston and Los Angeles music scene for decades, and are known for being really animated and athletic onstage. Did you design your shoes with that sort of heavy use and abuse in mind?
Tod Waters: "These shoes are great for that. I've been giving them test runs, and they're doing awesome. We just started working on a commercial and had a stunt woman in the shoes all day long, and she said they felt really good. These are my stage shoes now. I did a Die Fast (Tod's band) practice in them already, and I'll do some more practices and some shows in them when I get back from L.A. To me these shoes are really gnarly, and I really like wearing them."
Houston Press: How do you think your shoe lines will progress? What can the consumer expect to see in Junker footwear in the near future?
Tod Waters: "This first one is the distressed black shoe, the next will be a white medics version, then we're going to do a military version, then we're going to do a boot. That's the plan right now. The first shoe comes out on June 10, and I'm very excited about that."