What was your role at Nike?
I worked at Nike from 1991 to late 1995 in the Advanced Project Engineering Group, or APE. APE was made up of a handful of engineers and designers. Our charge was to upset the status quo. I am sure my bosses thought I was a huge pain in the rear end, but I didn’t care as I was going to pursue what I wanted. Man, I was a pain! It was brilliant because I did not care!
How exactly did the Footscape project come about? I read it involved scanning thousands of people’s feet to create a new shape for running shoes. Can you elaborate on that?
When I first joined APE we were given dopey, almost-engineering projects, but, like I said, I hadn’t just moved across the country to determine what the best adhesive was or how many perfs you need to put into a basketball shoe upper. I created vehicles or shoe ‘showcars’ to demonstrate the innovations. I think Nike recognised I could identify opportunities so I remember they let us propose projects. I knew that Birkenstocks were coming back into fashion and I also understood that the last (the thing shoes are built on) is part-anatomy and part-art. I proposed doing a real Footform running shoe. Later, the higher-ups announced this was a project I could pursue. We did cast many men’s and women’s feet, not quite in the thousands, but a scientific journal respectable number. I also had been a X-country runner in high school and I ran in Nike LDVs and raced in Nike Elites. I loved the Elite and how it was just a simple nylon pack cloth upper. I also loved the imagery that Nike used during my X-country years. Do you remember the Nike LDV poster of the athletic hippies sitting at the foot of a mountain peak?
I had just come from GE Plastics and we strived to make products with as few parts as possible. Nike was almost the opposite, so I was keen on making the Footform shoe simple like the old Nike Elite. I wanted to make it visually less complex than the mess many athletic shoes are. Contextually, I wanted it to visually jump off the shoe wall. I was aware of the burgeoning outdoor market and wanted the materials to reference those materials, simple pack cloth (I have a prototype!). I am not so in love with the commodity/factory mesh, although its breathability is awesome. I got trumped!
Check out our next feature: STAPLE x NB 575 PIGEON