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For a special Prada Linea Rossa project, the Milanese fashion giant has turned to 21-year-old artist Cassius Hirst, son of Damian Hurst, to imagine the America’s Cup sneaker anew. Based out of London, Hirst – who goes by the moniker Cass – has used trainers as his canvas since he was 14, after taking to a pair gifted from his father with spray-paint.

Plastering Nike Air Force 1’s in disruptive sketches using vinyl stencils – coating each in vivid patterns and hues – the young artist began creating custom trainers for friends and family. “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,” says the artist. Since, Cass has garnered an impressive following in the world of celebrity, with the likes of A$AP Rocky, Rihanna and the late Virgil Abloh all purchasing shoes from the artist over the last four years.

When approaching the America’s Cup sneaker, Cass admits to being a little puzzled at first: “Compared to other sneakers, the Prada America’s Cup shoe is totally different. I just thought: what can I do? I explored 3D design – I put a shoe inside a shoe, creating a new shoe but with the substance of both. And that felt so Prada – but that was too much. So then I began painting – I painted 44, trial and error, and narrowed down to 22. And then worked with the factory, to reproduce them.”

He settled upon four distinct styles: ATT4CK, D3CAY, SUST4IN, REL3ASE. Each name is derived from the shoe’s appearance, from the moulded spikes of ATT4CK to the distressed leather of D3CAY. “This is the first time my work has been industrialised. It was about finding a balance. I love the handmade and I was scared that these shoes were going to become really industrial, really rigid,” says the artist. “But working with the Prada factories changed everything – I realised they were actually painting them, by hand, doing what I do. There was a dialogue, too, between me and the artisans.”

For the collaboration’s accompanying campaign, Cass envisioned a brain scan motif, which punctuates throughout. “I had a seizure, when I was a teenager, and had all kinds of tests – the visuals come from there. Full scans, cross sections. I find them fascinating,” he says. Models wear neon masks as they don the trainers, ignited by the artist’s childhood obsessions with Power Rangers and Slipknot (quite the combination). “Within the streetwear scene – it’s not something I’ve ever really invested myself in much, but I look from an outside perspective – there are shoe collectors, toy collectors, art collectors, and people who make masks. It’s all connected, closely knit together.”

Portrait: Photography by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. Ó Cassius Hirst. Shop the Cass x Prada collection here.