After a authorized battle with Nike, Tex Motons Arlington streetwear model YUMS is planning a candy comeback
It was almost inevitable that Tex Moton would become an artist.
“It’s just like that when the art is in the genes,” he said.
Born in Pleasant Grove to artist parents, Moton pioneered the city’s graffiti scene early in the 1990s, before working on projects with brands like LIDS, Playboy, and the Dallas Mavericks.
What was less likely was that the Dallaser native would stand before the US Supreme Court against one of the most powerful brands in the world – and tell the story.
Moton is the founder and designer of YUMS, an Arlington-based streetwear brand that first launched in 2007. YUMS – an acronym for You Understand My Style – recently got its signature hat and shoe combinations after an eight-year recovery from a lawsuit with Nike that went as far as the highest court in the country and nearly broke the brand.
From graffiti to sneakers
Growing up as a teenager in Pleasant Grove in the early 1990s, Moton was drawn to graffiti art and the community of other young artists working in Dallas. The pre-internet age meant Moton and his fellow artist didn’t have many references or resources, which resulted in the development of a style different from the tags that adorned New York subway cars or walls in Los Angeles – it was one style Moton describes Dallas as unique.
“We were just smart kids,” said Moton. “We found our way and we ended up doing pretty well.”
Soon the art was good enough to turn the kids’ weekend entertainment into a series of more serious projects that resulted in the creation of Infinity Crew, one of the first graffiti crews in Dallas. Combining clean lines and bright colors, the art of Tex and the rest of the Infinity Crew became known both in the Dallas street art community and beyond.
In his work with Infinity Crew, Moton has always reinvented what graffiti could be. Why not do the same for shoes?
A self-proclaimed foodie, Moton remembers Dallas institutions like Gonzales Tex-Mex in Pleasant Grove and Elaine’s Jamaican Kitchen in South Dallas, who put a smile on his face with their delicious food. Moton wanted to combine the initial excitement of getting a new pair of trainers with the thrill of opening a favorite snack or watching a delicious meal come to the table.
Instead of focusing on traditional colorways, Moton’s line focused on different flavors and combined fashion and food to offer fans a new way to identify with sneakers.
In 2007 Moton launched YUMS with its Sweet Series collection, which quickly became a hit in the streetwear world. Each YUMS taste has the brand’s signature clear sole, which features Tex-designed graffiti-inspired art that celebrates the inspiration of the taste.
How does a taste get from the pantry to the sole of a YUMS sneaker? Moton breaks down and reassembles all of the elements of a snack – including taste, texture, and color – and ponders how the elements of food translate into the elements of a shoe.
“It really embodies what we are expressing in the moment, from rainbow sorbet to a classic cupcake to a mixed berry cake – all of that is really represented in the shoe itself,” said Moton.
Moton reaches for the brand’s unpublished chicken and waffle flavor and shows a red and white pattern on the shoe sole that is reminiscent of classic checkered tablecloths in chicken booths. On the top of the shoe, yellow stands for a crispy butter waffle and light brown suede is reminiscent of the texture of crispy fried chicken. (Moton’s Dallas go-to for chicken and waffles – Jonathon’s in Oak Cliff.)
Moton took the connection between fashion and food for granted. “I’ve just always found joy, happiness, and comfort in certain foods, and I think a lot of people really relate to and relate to food,” he said.
The latest collection of YUMS sneakers is on display in the Already Design Co. offices in Arlington. The popular mid-2000s streetwear brand is rebooting after recovering from a legal battle with Nike.(Tom Fox / employee photographer)
Despite YUMS ‘early success, it wasn’t always cute for the brand.
In July 2009, Nike already sued LLC, the parent company of YUMS, alleging that the silhouette of the YUMS shoes infringed the brand for Nike’s popular Air Force 1 sneaker. A counterclaim was filed against Nike later that year, arguing that Nike’s brand had negatively impacted YUMS ‘ability to sell its shoes and attract investors. The counterclaim was aimed at invalidating Nike’s trademark on the shoe and putting the trademark on the Air Force 1 in the public domain.
“It’s hard,” Moton said of the lawsuit. “Nike is a giant in this industry.”
Moton was a fan of Nike’s classic styles growing up, but said the lawsuit was a devastating blow to him, as it did to Schon and YUMS. “It sucks to be attacked and told to burn all of their shoes by someone you admire so much,” he said.
Fortunately, Nike gave in. While the lawsuit was pending, Nike sent a letter to Already in March 2010 promising not to file a lawsuit, which means Nike would not attempt any further trademark claims against YUMS for any of its products. Nike moved to dismiss both its original lawsuit and Already counterclaims, but has already appealed to the U.S. District Court of Appeals and continued to press for the Nike brand to be dismissed.
Both the District Court and the Court of Appeal held the counterclaim to be invalid, as there were no more “material controversies” as Nike had promised not to assert any further claims against already and YUMS under the injunction.
In January 2013, the Supreme Court upheld the judgments of the lower courts, ruling unanimously in Nike’s favor and ruling that the case was devoid of purpose. According to the court, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that it was unlikely that YUMS could produce designs that infringe Nike’s trademarks and are not already protected under the contract.
“If there is such a shoe, the parties have not indicated, there is no evidence that has already dreamed about it and we cannot imagine,” wrote Roberts. “As far as we can tell, it’s on a shelf between Dorothy’s ruby red slippers and Perseus’ winged sandals.”
Although the verdict was in Nike’s favor, Moton and the YUMS team do not see the result as a loss.
“We’re just happy to be able to make our shoes again without being threatened by Nike,” said Moton.
YUMS isn’t the first streetwear brand caught in Nike’s crosshairs. In March of this year, Nike sued Brooklyn-based MSCHF over its “Satan Shoes,” modified Nike Air Max 97s that featured a drop of human blood and a pentagram charm and were promoted by rapper Lil Nas X. As part of a settlement agreement with Nike, MSCHF agreed to offer refunds and accept returns of the 666 pairs of limited edition shoes that sold out online less than a minute after their launch.
Tex Moton (right), founder and designer of the streetwear brand YUMS, and Juelz look at a collection of sneakers and hats in their new offices in Arlington.(Tom Fox / employee photographer)
I’m looking forward to
While the extensive litigation resulted in YUMS taking time to recover financially, Moton never stopped creating. In the years between the court’s ruling and the relaunch of YUMS, Moton continued his work as Chief Creative Officer of Arlington-based Always Design Co., which designs clothing, accessories and digital media for high profile clients such as LIDS, Playboy, Gas Monkey Garage and Discovery Channel. Moton remained involved in the Dallas graffiti scene, working on projects with local institutions such as the Dallas Love Field and the Dallas Mavericks.
Moton designed the Mavs 2019-20 City Edition jersey, celebrating Deep Ellum and the artistic culture that originally fueled his talent. While graffiti isn’t typically associated with Dallas, Moton says it’s a special recognition for those who were part of the city’s street art culture.
“It’s so rich for people who are here and growing up to see it and be a part of it,” he said.
As the YUMS relaunch continues, Moton is looking forward to a delicious – and hopefully lucrative – Christmas season with new flavors inspired by the well-known home cooking of Thanksgiving and Christmas. He attributes the survival of YUMS to the perseverance and commitment of his team members. Although he sees himself as an outsider, Moton’s innovation life has prepared him well to hold out in difficult times.
“It’s great to still be standing after a few hits,” he said. “If you stay in something long enough and believe in it with all your heart and just keep pushing, you will see the other side of things.”
Where can I find YUMS
YUMS products can be purchased from the brand’s website at yumslife.com. Shoes from YUMS Collection 1 are $ 125 and hats are $ 30.
Tex Moton uses a sharpie to create a new design.(Tom Fox / employee photographer)