The slogan "Just Do It" neatly sums up Nike's ethos. The same might be said of the three words that greet visitors to the LinkedIn page for a much smaller company called MSCHF: "Nothing is sacred."
The defiantly iconoclastic spirit of MSCHF has been on full display this week with the online debut of "Satan Shoes" — 666 pairs of customized Nike Air Max 97s the company produced in collaboration with the rapper Lil Nas X.
Nike, which has insisted it had nothing to do with the modified sneakers, filed a lawsuit Monday against MSCHF, alleging that the "unauthorized Satan Shoes are likely to cause confusion and dilution and create an erroneous association between MSCHF’s products and Nike."
In recent years, MSCHF — a Brooklyn-based outfit that reportedly employs a handful of people — has cultivated a reputation on the online fringes of mainstream retail with a series of outré products and viral stunts, and an anything-goes attitude.
The company, puckishly blurring the lines between the cheeky and the morbid, previously drew attention with an app that chooses stocks based on your astrological sign, a bath bomb shaped like a toaster and an item called Puff the Squeaky Chicken — a chicken-shaped bong that squeaks when you smoke it.
The products are at once cynical bids for attention in a crowded digital marketplace and gleeful middle fingers to the corporate respectability of e-commerce behemoths like Amazon. (MSCHF's avatar on LinkedIn is a modified version of Amazon's smiley-face logo.)
MSCHF is not exactly an e-commerce platform, though. It might be just as fitting to describe it as an experimental art project or the ultimate anti-brand. It churns out some novelty items that would not be out of place at stores like Urban Outfitters even as it skewers that very idea.
"We're trying to do stuff that the world can't even define," MSCHF founder Gabriel Whaley told Business Insider in January. "Our perspective is everything is funny in a nihilistic sort of way. We're not here to make the world a better place. We're making light of how much everything sucks."
"Satan Shoes," however, might also be here to help promote a new track. The release of the customized sneakers coincides with the debut of Lil Nas X's latest single, "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)," and an accompanying music video that uses religious imagery to depict the artist's coming-out story.
The shoes, priced at $1,018 (an allusion to the Satan-themed Bible verse Luke 10:18) each contain a drop of human blood (drawn from members of the MSCHF team) inside the sole, the company confirmed Sunday. The sneakers sold out not long after they went on sale Monday.
MSCHF did not immediately respond to an interview request sent to its press email address Tuesday afternoon. Lil Nas X, whose real name is Montero Lamar Hill, is not named as a defendant in Nike's lawsuit.
It stands to reason that a company that thrives on pushing buttons will not be immediately cowed by criticism, whether in the form of Nike's legal challenge or a hand-wringing tweet from Republican Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota.
The same appeared to be true of Lil Nas X. The artist put out a brief YouTube video Sunday titled "Lil Nas X Apologizes for Satan Shoe." He holds up the shoe and begins speaking — and then the video cuts to a sexually charged clip from "Montero."