In an era soaked in street wear designers and labels, one brand has always managed to keep youth all over the world on its toes with its innovative designs and left field thinking. D'Wayne Edwards, Footwear Design Director of Brand Jordan has probably the most enviable job in the world, working closely to make sure that the designs that bear the trademark of the world's greatest basketball star, Michael Jordan continue to be a dominating force in the footwear game. To keep their ideas fresh and to make sure the legacy of Brand Jordan thrives for generations to come, Future Sole are proud to present the competition of a lifetime where one lucky 14 to 19 year old can become part of the design team of the world's leading sneaker brand. We were fortunate to catch up with D'Wayne to discuss how sneakers have surpassed the music industry and where exactly he would be if it weren't for designing for Brand Jordan.
Hey D'Wayne, this seems to be the competition to beat all competitions, what was the thinking behind creating this and how do you see Future Sole evolving over the next few years?
The concept was simple. We just wanted to show our consumers that we cared about them and their future. From time to time we would get emails or comments from kids asking 'how can I become a designer and what do I need to do?" Or, "I have a shoe idea would you mind looking at it and tell me what I need to work on?" With these request increasing every year, we decided what better way to find new design talent than to reach out to our consumers by providing them an opportunity to not only showcase their skills, but also potentially get some feedback and mentoring from our staff.
This year’s competition is kinda underground and done on a grassroots level, but next year we will have more marketing and advertising so more people can know about it and hopefully enter. So, anyone reading this please let anybody you know who has skills, know about the competition so they can enter.
What is the importance of nurturing “young blood” for want of a better word, to come on board at Nike to influence design?
I know this is a commonly used phrase but “the youth are our future” and honestly that is very true. Our target consumers are young, so who better should design for that consumer than someone more in that age range? Now, that might put me out of a job... but seriously I think it is important for older designers to reach out to the youth of today and mentor them, so they in turn can become those older designers one day and hopefully they will do the same. If that is done, we will always have a consistent cycle of fresh young designers and not only Nike, but the whole industry will be much better because of this type of giving back.
What will set design entries apart in this competition?
Number one I would say the use of the tools we provided to them on the site to use as a guide. We provide you examples of our work so you can see how we design product and we even included templates to use as a tracing guide. Secondly, creativity and lastly Talent.
Which leads me to; What specifics will NIKE designers be making judging decisions on?
This is listed on the site but we will be looking for shoes that have the correct Proportions(the shape compared to our examples that are on the site) Creativity and Originality. Today’s kids have so many things out there that they can use as inspiration and we are just looking to see what they are thinking... It is going to be fun and we are all excited to see what the future looks like.
It seems the younger generation are focusing on design & clothing more so than music & sport compared to our generation. It’s becoming more exciting for kids today to get into 'design' and wanting to start their own labels etc rather than dreaming of being music artists or basketball players like the generation before did - In short, Future Sole in 1985 wouldn't have made sense, however in 2008 it makes perfect sense, why is that and why do you think the attention has shifted?
I am glad you feel that way because we do too and that is another reason why we are doing this competition. Everyone can’t be the next Melo, Le Bron, Kobe, Jay-Z, 50-Cent but they might be able to design their shoes. If, they can’t design maybe they can do Marketing, Sales or be an Accountant. We feel this competition provides kids an “opportunity” to become the next Tinker Hatfiled, Wilson Smith or Eric Avar and that makes us happy because we just want kids to see that they have that opportunity. It is just exciting to see kids out there wanting to do other things besides the typical athlete, rapper, actor.....not that there is anything wrong with those things, but I like the fact that they are thinking more out of the box and wanting to be different and make an impact at the same time.
How did your passion for Footwear Design come about?
Man, I designed or should I say drew my first sneaker when I was 11 waaaay back in 1980 on 3 x 5 index card in 7th grade. (None of these kids who can enter this competition were even a thought, let alone born!) Man, I am old... After that first one I was hooked, then I saw a commercial in 1986 with this guy wearing these all Black and Red sneakers with a white outsole that was flying to the hoop and I became an addict instantly. I drew my first Jordan’s that night. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that some 16 years later I would design a shoe for him. Sounds crazy right, yeah it still does to me too. I can’t believe I get paid to do design Jordan’s. But that is the beauty of the Future Sole competition. Any kid that enters could be me in a few years...
Your quote from Carmelo Anthony “If I was not playing basketball, I would want to be a footwear designer” will no doubt inspire kids all over to pay attention to what goes into making a great pair of sneakers - What would you be doing if you weren’t a footwear designer?
Lol, I wish I could say sitt’n on the Nuggets bench as a player that needs to retire watching Melo play... I went to school for Business(not design) so I am sure I would have my own business of some kind, some how connected to sneakers and sports. Those are my 2 passions.. Great question, no one has ever asked me that. The funny thing about that quote from Melo is that I had to interview him and that was one of the questions I asked him. After he said that I asked him if he wanted to trade pay checks......Well, since I am talking to you, clearly I did not get that trade!
What can the finalists look forward to while working with Nike, and what are the aspirations in mentoring them to becoming an important, influential part of the brand?
To be honest with you in my opinion being mentored by Nike Designers is worth more than the actual prize. You will be able to get valuable information and knowledge that you can’t pay for. Man, I wish I had this opportunity when I was their age, I would have been eat’n this up.
Our goal is to try to identify young talent early, mentor them so that can become good enough to go to college to further pursue a career in this industry and hopefully ultimately work here. But, all of this is up to those that enter. They need to have passion for this, they have to be willing to put in the work to not only to be a great Designer, but get that college education so we can recruit them. If you are good we will find you, but this competition will allow us to know who you are early on and we will monitor your progress if we see you putting in the work..
Finally - What is the likelihood that the winning design sees the light of day and finds its way into production?
You never know... That is not in our plans, but if it is HOT then I am sure we will consider it...
Sneaker Freaker, I just would like to say THANK YOU very much for helping us spread the word of the Future Sole competition to your readers, I really appreciate this. For all of you folks out there, I emailed Sneaker Freaker just asking them to do me a favor and mention this competition on the site and they said yes without hesitation, which really means a lot to me. Thank you again, Sneaker Freaker...
To register hit up www.futuresole.com