Earlier in the year, we caught wind that a new start-up was in the process of launching a platform where designers and consumers from around the world could have the opportunity to design and create their very own sneakers for production and distribution. We brushed it off as another pipe dream, but shortly after we were introduced to San Francisco-based company Rooy which is planning to do exactly that. With a deep connection to South Korean footwear manufacturing, Rooy was planning to offer their established network of Asian supplies, factories, researchers and distribution systems for anyone who thought they had what it takes to design a sneaker.
To launch this new crowdsourcing platform, Rooy has enlisted three of the most respected sneaker customisers in the industry to go one step further and design their very own silhouettes. We sat down with Sekure D, El Cappy and Shoe Surgeon to dissect what this project actually is, and what we can expect from this world-first collaborative project.
To the uninitiated, could you explain how Rooy works?
Sekure D: Rooy is a multi-faceted sneaker company that provides a platform for up-and-coming artists and designers to submit their work to potentially be selected for actual production, which is an amazing opportunity! Our partnership is a little different in the sense that it’s more of a collaborative effort. Myself, the Shoe Surgeon and El Cappy were invited to be a part of a design campaign and to create our dream production shoe.
Shoe Surgeon: They have access to top-notch sneaker factories overseas that are used by some of the biggest footwear brands, and Rooy gives their access to this network of R&D, fabrics and manufacturing at our disposal to make own very own shoe. We’re actually going to be able to go to the factory and have a field day in a sense, where we kind of get to see stuff being made and choose fabrics and materials.
So did you guys have any experience in footwear design outside of your sneaker customization careers?
El Cappy: I have been painting and designing shoes for the last ten years of my life, but I have always had my hand in shoe design. I have always sketched shoes in notebooks and had ideas about how existing sneakers should have been or what could have been improved. I feel like I have an eye for what sneakers should look like so designing one from scratch was not anything new.
SD: No, I have a Commerce degree and like graffiti. I just liked to draw but was always encouraged to study instead, I started to get involved in graffiti when I was about 16, which actually made me feel way more balanced but eventually that evolved into customizing sneakers.
SS: I don't have a background in footwear design, but I'm self-taught. I did shoe repair. I did customization. I built prototypes and samples from scratch, but I was never trained in design. I learned how to use Adobe Illustrator the whole time I was fixing and customising shoes, and I'm always designing in my head. Not on what I'm doing, but what I would be doing in the future. So, it's something that's been in the works since I was young. It's good to actually have a platform where they believe in three “customisers”, that’s our title, that can design some great shoes from scratch and sell it.
What made you decide to make the jump from customising to making your own footwear designs?
SD: They reached out to me via email, I read it but didn’t reply right away truthfully, the offer sounded too good to be true. You can imagine all the promises I read in emails every day from all kinds of companies or agencies. Rarely are these kinds of things ever fair on the artist or remotely viable but this was different. We connected on Skype right away and started talking about the project. The opportunity was way too good to turn down; it’s the ultimate collaboration in a sense, not just a colourway, but a whole new shoe. It always blew me away that Nike allowed Marc Newson to design and release the Zvedochka, things like that just didn’t happen back then. Adidas have run with the idea now, giving designers creative freedom, but when Rooy reached out to me I was all over it.
Shoe Surgeon, you have already ventured out on your own to release your own range of boots. Can you tell us a bit about that?
SS: I make my own boots from scratch. I also design my own prototypes and samples. I haven't even designed a sole unit though before, the Rooy project is gonna be the first time I’ve venture into that territory.
Do you think it’s natural progression for customisers like yourselves to evolve from working with existing shoes to evolve to creating your very own models?
EC: I think this is a natural progression for customisers with a bigger overall plan. Sneaker customising gives you a better eye for this because you are making and designing a shoe first hand, it all makes sense.
SS: It's more of your own, you know what I mean? If you create something from nothing instead of re-creating…I guess you could say there’s more fulfillment for me. I feel like it's just evolving into the artist that you are really supposed to be. The customising of the shoes was just the starting platform and to see who can actually design, get to that next level and sell a product.
How have you guys approached this Rooy project differently to your current customisation projects?
SD: It’s not even close to the same thing; so much comes into play from construction to materials, to comfort and durability. I am designing a shoe that is very different to my customs, a shoe I could wear with almost any outfit. My customs are typically very bright and bold, this shoe will be more refined and stylish, more of a high-end boutique sneaker.
EC: All the projects that I take on give me free range. This project is no different, but even more limitless. My mind can run free and make footwear of the future.
SS: For me, since I already know how to build samples and prototypes, I'm gonna build the shoe exactly how I want it and then send it to them so I can have it exactly right the first time and to try to match my materials very close.
I know the final designs are still not ready to be announced yet, but can you tell me a bit about your designs?
SD: Yeah dude, I’m nearly 30 years old now, been customising for close to eleven years and full time for about six or seven of those, and my preferred aesthetic has matured over that time. I am designing a higher-end sneaker than people might not be expecting but it will still have the style, flair and flow that my customs have. Stylistically this shoe will be more at home in a higher-end boutique than a Foot Locker but that’s more me these days so I have to stay true to my interests.
EC: We are in the design process right now and also sourcing materials. You know that I'll be looking out for my Detroit players [laughs]! I have been wearing previous models from Rooy and they are all comfortable, high quality, high-end sneakers.
SS: I don't know exactly what I wanna do. I have so many things on the back burner, ideas that I've always had, drawings, designs on the computer. Like anything else, my creativity is just spur of the moment. At certain times, it just comes naturally. Not forced or not rushed. I don't want to just design a shoe that is already on the market. But also in the end, it boils down to design a product that is gonna sell and still looks good on the shelf, but still stays true to me as an artist.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the de-centralisation and democratisation of design and manufacturing over the last year thanks to 3D printers and the ever-increasing amount of consumer-customisable products available. Do you think the Rooy business model is a sign of things to come?
SD: Wow what a question! Sure why not, sneakers aren’t only for the big boys that have been making them for 40+ years. I welcome the creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and balls to get after it and make something, if we see more of this I will be stoked.
SS: Yeah, it's the first of its kind and it's an open trade. I think the world is changing so quickly, anything from even being able to open up a platform where people could design the shoes and have it produced is possible! Who knows what it's gonna do to the market? Even the whole customising world, I don't know man…it's actually such a new concept that I have no idea.
Do you think companies like Rooy would be disruptive of the existing sneaker industry in the future?
SD: Who knows, if the wider market realises that there are companies that will actually make your shoe as well as those of artists that you know, the potential is there for companies like Rooy to catch fire. There are so many sneaker brands now that it’s hard to be truly disruptive in a marketplace where we have a near infinite amount of choice, but their mechanism for production and ability to turn products around quick has the potential to turn heads for sure.
Rooy will be unveiling their collaboration sneakers with these customiser later on in 2015, stay tuned to Sneaker Freaker for all Rooy updates. For the meantime, head to the Rooy website here to find more information. To follow El Cappy’s project and receive a promo code, go to here. To follow Sekure D’s project and receive a promo code, go to here. To follow The Shoe Surgeon’s project and receive a promo code, go to here.