Sole Mates: Leo Mandella on the Converse One Star
Line up on a Thursday morning to make the last drop of Supreme is something we’ve probably all done, but who among us turned their two-piece Supreme outfits into an Instagram-based mood board? Not everyone can make this evolve to more than 700,000 subscribers, a global campaign with Converse, and become a brand ambassador and model for Gucci, GCDS and Fendi.
Previously it was best known as the Gully Guy Léo, but as the creative enters a new chapter in his life, it’s Leo Mandella for you and me.
Mandella began his journey as a child in Warwick, a town about 100 miles from Soho, London. But, being obsessed with fashion, that didn’t stop him from heading to Supreme, Palace and other cult hot spots as a teenager where he bought, returned and reinvested in more interesting clothes – the ones that defined his. signature and its colorful adorned aesthetic.
Today, Mandella wants to be true to himself. Growing up, his taste for clothes adapted and matured – but one thing that has stood out for him since working with Converse is the One Star.
In this issue of unique companions, we spent a day with Leo Mandella in East London and told him about his love for the Converse One Star, his nostalgia and what the future holds.
HYPEBEAST: Let’s start from the beginning. What attracted you to sneakers?
Léo Mandella: You wear shoes from birth, they have been a staple from the start of your life. I started out in fashion in 2014, and it wasn’t the shoes that came first, but the outfits, the tracksuits, stuff like that. As I started to match two pieces, it made sense to have the sneakers matched.
The first thing I look at when I look at someone is their hair or their shoes. It’s just me as a person. Obviously, I wouldn’t judge someone for the shoes they wear, but because you always look at your phone when you walk, you look down, so you subconsciously look at people’s feet without realizing it.
Yeah, you can time the sneakers.
So if I look down and see some nice shoes, I’ll look up. Seeing shoes that I would wear or want, like the Travis Scott Jordans that I want right now, if I saw someone wearing them on the street, I would look at the rest of their outfit. I think shoes are such a part of everyone’s life.
“Don’t feel like you have to wear a designer from head to toe to look good. I used to think it was one thing, Supreme, Palace from head to toe… People care about the style, the fit of the clothes, the way they sit on you, the colors instead. only the logo attached on the front.
For me, being based on fashion, it just happened. Nobody put me on sneakers or anything like that, it came hand in hand when I started to really get in fashion.
A slight break, but if you see someone wearing a good pair of shoes, what do you think of?
If someone has a nice pair of shoes, that’s fine. If someone is wearing a pair of shoes you know and knows what you’re wearing, that’s a topic of conversation. Without sounding weird, if I see someone and they seem nice or attractive, it’s an easy way to have that first conversation.
So you see the shoes as a in?
You can use it to your advantage. If I see someone in a nice pair of shoes, I’m obviously going to look at them more and maybe compliment them.
You mentioned the two coins that you shot a few years ago. When and how did you start to understand your personal style, which is a bit of a signature for you now?
At the time, I was pretty lazy with my shoe choices – they really were Air Force 1s, Jordan 1. As my style evolved into wearing suits and outerwear. smarter, I had penny loafers, Kickers, I went that way. I feel like growing up with my style, my shoes must have gone with it. These types of shoe designs and shapes are so much better suited.
What do you mean when you wear a certain type of shoe to suit your style?
I want to show that… I… want to look good.
I want to show that I care about what I’m wearing, that I have a sense of style and that people can appreciate it.
So we’re here today to talk more specifically about your love for the Converse One Star. Can we talk a bit about the One Star campaign you starred in?
It was 2017 and I was sitting on the couch. My manager called me, “Converse wants you to fly to New York to shoot the One Star campaign. I was like, “What the hell?”
In the country, Brockhampton was there, there were musicians, skateboarders. The One Star fits everyone, it shows there are no borders and anyone can wear it – a skater, a mom, a grandfather, a 15 year old on Instagram can wear it.
Before your partnership with Converse, did you have a personal connection with the brand?
I can’t lie they were sending me shoes but it was never about a long term partnership. It is from the countryside. Everything was very fast.
I wore Converse before I got into fashion. It’s such a simple shoe, the Chuck is a sick shoe, it goes with everything, there are all colors in the sun, such a beautiful figure with work pants. It’s like a pair of Vans or an Air Force 1, everyone knows that.
Do people associate you with One Star?
I was at that point, I was the face of this shoe.
And what was it like, to be so young but to be known as the Converse kid?
It was fucking crazy to see my face on a bus going from Kings Cross to Oxford Circus. What’s going on, I’m just a kid from Warwick, it all happened so fast. I always type a pair of Converse, the first one A $ AP Nast made with Converse, I still wear them all the time. I think the association [isn’t there so much] more, but people are still talking about it.
How do you interact with Converse on a daily basis?
Tyler’s FLOWER *, the Creator, I’m so glad it happened. The One Stars are sick, the classics were good but it got tough to style as they got repetitive and because I love clothes and bright colors, when Tyler released the FLOWER * it was just what Converse needed. When I wear them today, I gravitate towards the FLOWER *. They correspond to what I want to wear on a daily basis.
Does Tyler’s work speak to you?
It’s an attitude, man. He didn’t give a shit. When we hung out together I could see him. This man doesn’t really care. And I am the same.
It’s like there’s that moment of loop with your relationship with shoes, Converse, Tyler, and who you are today.
The One Star has a place in my heart because of what he has done for me. It triggered a lot of things. It’s a weird connection to make, but I hope it makes sense. Let’s say there are two restaurants but they both cook the same food. The first one is where you’ve been with your mom all your life and it has a place in your heart, but the next one serves the same thing. You are going to go to the one where you have always been.
So it’s nostalgia?
I will wear a Chuck, but I will always gravitate to a One Star because of how much it has helped me, my career, and I guess, my name.
You also mentioned how your style is changing.
As I grew up, I want it to adapt more to my aesthetic. I think the best thing for me – and not to have a big head or anything – is when I wear something at a Gucci show and they give me suits or something, it’s in. what I’m comfortable with and that’s what people around me say I look better.
Personally, it’s me now. Obviously I’ll always wear a tracksuit, I love a tracksuit. Style has no limits.
What have you learned as you have grown with your evolving style?
Don’t feel like you have to wear a designer from head to toe to look good. I used to think it was one thing, Supreme, Palace from head to toe. Because of TikTok or how people evolved during the lockdown, people care about the style [in terms of] the cuts of the clothes, the way they sit on you, the colors rather than the logo attached to the front.
What’s next for Leo Mandella?
I work with adidas a lot now, and will be doing a lot more when things start again. I started DJing and I have some exciting things to come in the next few months, and I hope that by the middle of next year I will be an actor. I want to do whatever I can. I started music lessons to learn how to produce music – it all goes behind the scenes until I perfect it. Because I am such a perfectionist.
Does acting seem like a left choice?
I’ve always loved acting and I love watching Netflix shows, behind the scenes, the way things are shot, actor interviews, and it’s so interesting to me. This is exactly what I want to do.