The Footwear Information Achievement Awards, generally known as the Oscars of sneakers, shines a highlight on the trade’s high designers. However when the singer Dua Lipa gained for a Puma assortment final November, her frequent collaborator Billy Walsh bolted on the sight of flashing cameras.
“Billy Walsh’s five-seconds restrict on the pink carpet,” Ms. Lipa mentioned, as photographers shouted her title at Cipriani Wall Road.
“Extra like two seconds,” Mr. Walsh, 40, added safely from the sidelines.
Avoiding consideration is a peculiar trait for a person who collaborates with a number of the greatest names in pop, together with Ms. Lipa, Publish Malone and the Weeknd, straddling the higher echelons of style and music.
He has collaborated with Rihanna on a Fenty assortment with Puma, and consulted Kanye West on video administrators. As a style stylist, he dressed the Weeknd in Givenchy for the Met gala and James Blake in Yohji Yamamoto for awards exhibits.
However his greatest achievements are in songwriting. His co-writing credit embrace “Sunflower” by Publish Malone and Swae Lee, and 6 tracks on Mr. West’s “Donda” album — and people are simply counting his Grammy nominations.
“Billy is a part of a small group of individuals on this trade that I take into account to be like household,” Mr. Malone mentioned by electronic mail. Their shared writing catalog additionally consists of the hits “I Fall Aside,” “Higher Now,” “Wow” and “Circles.” “Not solely is he among the finest songwriters, however he is a superb artistic and dressmaker.”
On a latest Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Walsh went buying at Dover Road Market, the retail temple in Manhattan the place he usually goes for inspiration. “I might come right here to do large pulls for the Weeknd,” he mentioned. “I used to begin on the highest ground and work my method down.”
He nonetheless does. As he flipped by means of racks of Raf Simons and Junya Watanabe on the seventh ground, Mr. Walsh recounted this unorthodox rise within the recording and avenue put on industries. “Trend and music are undoubtedly interrelated, however I assume I don’t know too many individuals who’ve succeeded in each,” he mentioned. “I keep within the again and don’t want credit score.”
Wearing an all-black “uniform” (T-shirt, Prada nylon shorts, Alyx socks and Nike Air Tuned Max sneakers), along with his signature shaved head and chrome-metal grills, he has the tough-guy look of a post-apocalyptic British impolite boy.
Mr. Walsh credit his dexterity to his rough-and-tumble upbringing within the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston. His father, William Walsh, a people musician who carried out at native Irish pubs, inspired him to put in writing poetry and dance. He was additionally an obsessive sneaker head. “I drove my mother loopy trying all around the metropolis for the Adidas Tools Basketball sneakers with the interchangeable, different-colored socks,” he mentioned.
Different addictions adopted. He began consuming at 11, usually moving into after-school brawls till he sobered up a decade later.
At 18, he headed to Los Angeles to check dance at Loyola Marymount College, and signed with an agent. However dance gigs had been few and much between, so he spent most of his 20s as a nightclub promoter, working alongside his brother at Hollywood scorching spots like Emerson Theater and Hyde, the place he would celebration with a younger Publish Malone and future designers like Matthew M. Williams of Givenchy.
In 2011, the choreographer Fatima Robinson, who he met at Eden, a Hollywood nightclub, inspired him to cease dancing and give attention to poetry and design as an alternative. “This lady actually saved my life,” he mentioned.
He stop auditioning and busied himself with writing poetry and daydreaming about avenue put on. He regarded inside his sneaker closet and started experimenting with Frankenstein mixtures. One of many first designs cobbled collectively was a white Nike Air Pressure One with a black rubber creeper sole. “I all the time puzzled what a creeper would appear to be with sure outdated sneakers from my childhood,” he mentioned.
He wore his customized sneakers to the golf equipment, which might get seen by rising V.I.P.s like Virgil Abloh and Travis Scott. In 2014, with seed cash from fellow celebration promoters, he and a pal began a avenue put on label known as Mr. Utterly, which reimagined traditional sneakers together with Adidas Sambas and Stan Smiths.
To advertise the model, he held a celebration at Fourtwofour on Fairfax and invited everybody he knew. Amongst them was the stylist Jahleel Weaver, who ordered a number of pairs for his consumer Rihanna. That turned out to be a propitious sale. A number of months later, Rihanna invited Mr. Walsh to design her debut assortment with Puma (which went on to win the Footwear Information “Shoe of the 12 months” two years later).
Sneakers opened different doorways. One in all them led to Illangelo, a veteran Canadian producer, who turned a confidant and his surprising entree into music writing. As soon as once more, it began at a nightclub. The 2 had been clubbing on the Sundown Strip in 2014 when Illangelo talked about that he wanted a brand new songwriter. Seizing the second, Mr. Walsh shared a brief poem from his iPhone Notes app.
Illangelo was so impressed that he introduced Mr. Walsh into studio periods with Alicia Keys and he ended up getting his first mainstream writing credit score on the tune, “In Frequent.” Illangelo additionally launched Mr. Walsh to the Weeknd, who at first was solely thinking about working with him as a stylist. (The 2 shared an appreciation for navy bomber jackets.) However as Mr. Walsh’s repute as a songwriter started to rise, the Weeknd started bringing him into the studio.
These periods resulted in three tracks from the 2016 album “Starboy,” together with “True Colours” and “Die for You,” which peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Scorching 100 this month, seven years after it was first launched, due to going viral on TikTok.
Mr. Walsh has since gone on to put in writing greater than 100 songs for artists as different because the Child Laroi (“With out You”), pop powerhouses like Mr. Malone and Ms. Lipa, and rock royalty like Ozzy Osbourne (“Bizarre Man”). His publishing catalog has racked up a mixed 20 billion streams. Final November, “Sunflower” went 17 occasions platinum, changing into the highest-certified single of all time.
His hovering music profession hasn’t stopped him from different artistic pursuits. In 2016, he began Donavan’s Yard, a nightlife collective in Los Angeles with the D.J.s Drew Byrd and Sean G that hosts events in Tokyo and a streaming live performance collection on Amazon Music Reside. Branded merch is bought at Dover Road Market,
In October, he began a conceptual avenue put on label known as Iswas with Keith Richardson, his artistic associate at Mr. Utterly. The label presently sells one merchandise: a pair of painter’s pants made out of Japanese selvage denim that prices $450.
Sporting many hats, Mr. Walsh mentioned, affords him artistic freedom. “If Abel is aware of I’m successful an award with Dua and doing my very own clothes line, he respects that I’m doing OK for myself,” he mentioned, referring to the Weeknd by his given title. “Nobody feels such as you’re too dependent.”
Again at Dover Road, Mr. Walsh went from ground to ground, analyzing the clothes racks like an archaeologist at a recent dig. On the shoe ground, he picked up a pair of cloven-toed “tabi” boots by Martin Margiela. “I admire what this man does,” he mentioned of the designer, who, like himself, shuns the limelight in favor of letting his work converse for itself.
After about two hours, he reached the Rose Bakery on the bottom ground, took a seat and ordered an Earl Gray tea. As ambient music performed overhead, he mirrored on his uncommon journey. “My success comes from artists recognizing that I see the artistic course of as sacred, considerably secret,” he mentioned. “I’m by no means the principle focus, simply accurately.”