Salehe Bembury.

“The thing that makes me the designer that I am is a combination of 10 things. Whereas I know some designers are sick fucking designers, but they are awkward as fuck or they don’t know how to dress, or people don’t like to be around them. [They] don’t have the other nine things.” – Salehe

Salehe Bembury is a designer. He is most notably making his mark in the world of footwear design. Since 2009, he has applied his Industrial Design degree and interdisciplinary design skills to a diverse array of footwear brands. Salehe got his start at Payless Shoe Source.

Bembury grew up in Tribeca back when he says it was an “artist’s neighborhood.” (“Now,” he says, “it’s like the Upper East Side.”) He watched the NBA religiously with his father, and said that when he laced up his Nike Jordans, he would feel like one of the players.


Bembury sketched shoes after school, traded shoes. He went on to major in industrial design at Syracuse University and after graduation got a design job at Payless. “At the time, [Payless] wasn’t something to write home about,” he said. “But looking back, Payless designs every kind of shoe, so from an education standpoint, it was a great place to get my feet wet.” Pun not intended.

Bembury is well known, thanks to his standing as one of the sneaker industry’s most in-demand collaborators. He doesn’t run a luxury label or operate a buzzy store. He is simply very good at designing and selling shoes, a skill he burnished at Kanye West’s Yeezy label before building out Versace’s sneaker catalog. Along the way, he built a public profile as a new breed of sneaker designer: one nearly as popular as the famous people who love his shoes. Now, on his own, he is chasing grander ambitions.

At the moment Bembury is ramping up his own brand, which he’s calling Spunge. The new imprint will allow him to continue collaborating on sneakers but also transcend that world.