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Interview

Mad Dog Jones on making F1's coolest collab with the help of Lewis Hamilton

Peek inside the head of the artist who smashed together his own "hyper-metropolitan" style, speeding liveries, and Sir Lewis' ideas into a streetwear collab that stands out in a sea of F1 merch.

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On a Formula 1 track, collisions are always bad. Off-track, we’re seeing the worlds of fashion and racing collide more often than ever, and reaping the benefits. Nearly every driver has his own merch line, the world’s most coveted watch brands are developing rare F1-inspired pieces, and teams are realizing that the collaborations that elevated streetwear into a global phenomenon are there for the taking. Which explains how Michah Dowbak, better known as artist Mad Dog Jones, came to design a special collection with Puma and Mercedes AMG. 

For the Mad Dog Jones x Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 x Puma collection, the Canadian-born Dowbak brought his "hyper-metropolitan" pop-art sensibility to a whole range of Puma pieces, from hats and slides to woven jackets and (of course) sneakers. It’s a riot of heat-map swirls and Miami-inflected pastels (which makes sense, since the collection debuted for that race), with Dowbak’s “MDJ” logo owning the spotlight. Some pieces have direct influence from Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, and you can see where their personal styles mixed with Dowbak’s. Overall, it’s a collection that pushes the average F1-inspired merch drop another step forward. 

Dowbak talked to Motorsport about the inspiration of liveries flying by at F1 speeds, what it’s like collaborating with Lewis Hamilton, and making hats for 40 years from now.

How did you get into Motorsports?

Dowbak: I grew up in a small town in the country in Canada, so we never had cable TV—we always just had the bunny ears. Whatever you could get on the antennas was what we would watch. We could watch some of the old Jacques Villeneuve races. And then, of course, the old Schumacher days, in awe of the raw talent. When you're growing up, the danger level is really cool and exciting. 

And for me, the aesthetics of the car design has always been so cool. As I grew up, I continued following [Formula 1]...and really just became really interested in livery design and logo design as I moved into my art career more. It has this really kinetic feel to it—the speed and the movement. It brings so much to a design perspective, because everything's constantly in motion. You get all these cool angles and all these cool combinations. As cars pass each other, you're like, oh, that livery next to the other livery looks cool. There's all these really interesting frameworks that really just makes it exciting.

Are there any liveries that you love?

You know, all the Mercedes ones over the years have just been so iconic. Really, one of the coolest things for me was getting to design with the Mercedes logo, because that star just has so much gravitas and bravado. I don't think there's a cooler car on track than the Mercedes with that star on the hood. When they went through the all-black [livery] a couple of years ago, I was like, Okay, we're locked init's game time. I love an all-black design. 

Mad Dog Jones x Mercedes AMG F1 x Puma Woven Jacket

Mad Dog Jones x Mercedes AMG F1 x Puma Woven Jacket

Mad Dog Jones x Mercedes AMG F1 x Puma Graphic Tee

Mad Dog Jones x Mercedes AMG F1 x Puma Graphic Tee

Where else are you drawing from for your art? 

For me, a lot of my kind of key inspiration comes from nature and natural environments. I live right alongside a river with some rapids. There's the kinetic energy of moving water—and how the cars drive around the track like they're flowing. Nature is infinite compositions, and there's infinite inspiration you can draw from it. When you see something like a sunset, or like you know, the sun rays scattering through the morning dew in a forest, it's so easy to recognize the beauty in that. So many of our design choices come from those base archetypes of beauty [that] humans have been appreciating for thousands of years. 

At the Puma launch event you mentioned that Lewis Hamilton has inspired you. What do you admire about him?

There's the obvious parts of Lewis—you know, dedication, hard work, and all that stuff. But for me, what most inspires me about Lewis is the way he moves through the motorsport world with kindness, seeing how he treats his teammates. It's never me first, it's always team first. Sometimes when I have an art project, your ego gets a bit inflated. But I love to shout-out all the people that I work with. And on that note, Kenan Kozlowski, who I worked with really closely on this project, he helps me with a lot of logo design. 

We are all our own little teams, and when you’re lucky enough to build a team that works well—that’s what makes us great. We're the sum of our parts, of our family, of our community. And [Hamilton’s] approach to success is what I use the most in my day-to-day.

Art by Mad Dog Jones

Art by Mad Dog Jones

What has your experience been like doing a collaboration with Lewis Hamilton?

The main project I worked with him the closest on was when I designed his helmet for Silverstone in 2021, and it [ended up being] his 99th win. Getting to do the helmet for that race was just so cool. And that was also in collaboration with Mission44, which is one of Lewis’s organizations. We had all kinds of requests on the helmet to incorporate symbols, ideas, Easter eggs. Lewis can work with any artist in the world, and he chose little old me. It's something that I'll never be able to pay back, and I will always be eternally grateful. That's what makes him so cool—he finds people and he lifts up the community around him. I want to move through the world like that. His leading by example is absolutely infectious.

Did Lewis Hamilton have a lot of input in the design process?

It wasn't a lot of input as in, “I don't like that—do this.” But there were a lot of ideas and, “These are the colors I like, these are the ideas I want to incorporate.” Active, for sure, but not overbearing. Which is just perfect for me as an artist, because I wanted to represent the driver. I want it to feel like it's their thing. But I also want it to feel like a creation of mine. Finding that balance is really key.

What does the launch of the collection mean to you?

I brought my father and my brother, who also worked [on the collection] with me, to the race in Miami, and getting to see them there—and seeing people wearing the gear…that's when it really settles in, and you really feel grateful for the opportunity. I think why I resonate with Lewis so much is that we both built what we have—we weren't handed it. I grinded for an art career. I'm lucky enough to have a family who's very artistic, and encouraged me along that path. I see that with Lewis, too. Having a family that encourages you—that gets you to the track, that gets you those violin lessons, that teaches you how to paint from a young age…those are all really important. You work so hard to get to this position, and see [your work] in the world, and see it well received. And then, boom, you're having an interview with the top motorsport publication in the world.

Lewis Hamilton in the collection's Woven Jacket

Lewis Hamilton in the collection's Woven Jacket

How do you view this current landscape with motorsport-based fashion and art, particularly in F1? 

I very much just like to keep myself open for cool opportunities. I never want to work with anybody I don't want to have dinner with. I've gotten to know the Mercedes team—they're just such a pleasure to build with. In our previous projects, they really let me take the creative reins. It's always: do what you think is cool. For me, having a collaborator that trusts in my vision is what's most important, because I don't want to be a watered down version of myself for millions of people to see. 

Puma, I think they're the hottest brand in motorsport right now. All their collaborations with other artists, like with A$AP Rocky, Rihanna… The KidSuper collection is just absolutely mind-blowing. For me, KidSuper is an inspiration and an icon in the fashion world. Being in the same orbit as him while he has a drop with Puma has been so exciting for me. The whole collection was so much bigger and more dynamic than I ever thought I would get the opportunity to make. The key to any kind of project you're doing no matter the scale, is working with people that want you for you. 

Mad Dog Jones x Mercedes AMG F1 x Puma Spirex sneaker

Mad Dog Jones x Mercedes AMG F1 x Puma Spirex sneaker

Mad Dog Jones x Mercedes Benz AMG x Puma Tee

Mad Dog Jones x Mercedes Benz AMG x Puma Tee

Do you have a favorite piece in the collection? 

The Spirex shoe has been the online hit. I kind of made it really crazy. I was like, good luck with this Puma. And then they sent me the first shoe. I literally had no notes—I was like, “This rules.” The colors pop, the fade is so good. I didn't think that it would be possible to actually execute my vision this accurately. What they brought to the table—with the different textures and the different materials, giving it a bit more dynamism—was really awesome. The team had the big pink “MDJ” right in there that I love. Being able to incorporate the Mercedes teal in there, on all the pieces, is really cool.  

Mercedes were great because they were like, “We don't want cheap T-shirts.” And for me, and I know for Lewis and a lot of people now, I want an article of clothing to be able to be worn for a long time. We did this hat—the "fishing hat," I call it. I've been wearing this one since I got the first mock-up, and it fades just how I wanted it to. I want it to be like a hat you find in your grandpa's closet—his old summer fishing hat that's all squished. And then you rock it and you bring new life into it. Hopefully, in 40 years, some grandkid is going to be in their grandpa's closet and [ask], “Can I steal this?” That's my dream.



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