Chances are, if you're big enough into sneakers, you’ve daydreamed at least once about being a sneaker designer for one of the major brands. At the very least, you'll have imagined what your signature shoe would look like.

But while most of us have to make do with customizing existing kicks or playing around with brand-controlled customization tools such as miadidas and NIKEiD, that dream became reality for Amin Adjmi and his label STAYCOOLNYC — albeit inadvertently.

In April, STAYCOOLNYC posted a custom ’80s-themed mockup of Sean Wotherspoon’s Nike Air Max 1/97 on Instagram. Wotherspoon's original had just come out as part of Air Max Day 2018 and had quickly become one of the hottest releases of the year.

Before Adjmi knew it, his version had been taken from Instagram and was being offered by notorious Chinese counterfeit sneaker websites. It turns out that someone with connections to the factories in China that produce knockoff sneakers had liked the mockup so much that they took the design and turned it into reality.

“We posted it on our Instagram," Adjmi tells Highsnobiety via email. "People loved them and the sneakers even got reposted by a couple of cool accounts. We thought it was over from there. Little did we know that these shoes were actually created and knocked off in China. I just wanted to put a STAYCOOL twist on Sean’s amazing current design.”

As for the inspiration behind the ’80s-flavored colorway, Adjmi says, “The colors and overall vibe of our rendering go hand-in-hand with the colors we often use in our designs and fabrics. It’s almost like an ’80s or futuristic approach. The Nike Air Max 97 is a favorite of mine and I thought it would be cool to show the world what we would have done with the shoe.”

What started out as a fun Photoshop project for Instagram became an actual counterfeit item being produced halfway around the world. As peculiar as the story is, Adjmi is clear in his stance on counterfeit goods.

“I don’t think a company should recreate something that already exists in hopes of making people believe their version is real," he says. "After this experience, it made me realize how far something can go from just simply posting something on Instagram. There are so many people from all around the world on the app, so it's important to protect your ideas and brand properly.”

The knockoff is selling on certain counterfeit websites for between $55 and $65. After the shock of seeing his own design being sold without his knowledge or permission (let alone Nike's), Adjmi actually purchased the shoes.

“The pair hasn't arrived yet and is currently in transit," he says. "I'm curious to see how they hold up compared to the real ones.”

When asked about his opinion of DIY culture in streetwear and his thoughts on bootlegging (not to be confused with counterfeiting, wherein fake products are advertised as the real deal), Adjmi says he finds it interesting how saturated the industry has become with bootleg designs.

“A lot of brands are putting their own spin on other brands' logos nowadays," he says. "It almost feels like anyone can get away with anything. This obviously has its pros and cons.”

As for whether STAYCOOLNYC will be joining in with the trend, Adjmi explains, “I personally try to stay away from bootlegging others brands' logos when creating official designs for my collection because I want STAYCOOL to have its own unique brand identity. However, I do enjoy making one-of-one DIY pieces for myself and posting them for people to see.”

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