'Make Your Own Way': Dwyane Wade Discusses Way of Wade's 10th Anniversary
It's been 10 years since Dwyane Wade and Li-Ning first joined forces to start the Way of Wade brand in 2012, and although Wade retired from the league in 2019, his brand's legacy is stronger than ever before. Thanks to D-Wade's steady hand (and surefire NBA Hall of Fame induction in 2023) plus a new generation of hoopers like Minnesota Timberwolves guard D'Angelo Russell and Wade's son Zaire carrying the torch, Way of Wade is poised for an eventful second decade on the market.
To celebrate the recent release of the Way of Wade 10, we caught up with D-Wade himself to talk about his brand's unique balance of looks and performance, how his perspective on sneakers has changed since he retired and what about the next 10 years excites him the most.
You’ve been a part of the Li-Ning family for 10 years. That’s a long time! How do you view the brand's legacy as you look back over the last decade?
This anniversary is one of those milestone moments in your life where you're like 'where did the time go?' [laughs]. When we started the partnership, we were excited about venturing into the unknown and building something our own way. Over the years we've had a lot of evolution, a lot of peaks and a few valleys, but we're still pushing forward because our fans keep asking for more! I'm so excited about where we're at currently, and it feels like we're uncovering the DNA of the next phase of what Way of Wade will be too.
You mentioned the 'unknown' at the beginning of your partnership – now that a decade has gone by, is there any 'unknown' left?
I think the only 'unknown' that's still around is how quickly tastes change. You have to be nimble to make sure your fanbase keeps following you! Over the last two years, we've really elevated from a sneaker standpoint and an apparel standpoint, so we just want to ensure we continue to give our fans what they're asking for.
Performance is a key piece of Way of Wade products, but there aren’t many performance products that look like a Way of Wade sneaker. Can you tell us more about how you’ve established that signature fashion-meets-function aesthetic over the past 10 years?
The easiest way to look at it is to see the differences between the Way of Wade 1 and the Way of Wade 10. When we first started, the sneakers we were making were leather. Nobody makes leather performance sneakers anymore [laughs]. At the time, that's what we wanted though! We were aiming to make a shoe that could be our version of the Air Force 1 or the Air Jordan 1.
Now, if you look at the Way of Wade 10, it uses the same lightweight synthetic materials you'd see on a high-tech jacket. Our signature over the years has been our ability – and willingness – to play with textiles, colours and patterns. I love that because I love to mix and match. I don't mind pinstripes and polka dots together [laughs]. We'll always be experimenting and trying out new materials.
Now that your time isn’t filled up with winning games, dunking on hapless rivals and jumping onto the scorer’s table, you’ve been spending time on business ventures, attending fashion shows and your ‘Wade World Tour’ with your wife. With that lifestyle shift, do you feel like you look at your line from a different perspective than you did when you were playing?
For sure. It all comes back to storytelling for me, sharing my journey with the Way of Wade fans. Jordan Brand have been around for decades after ,Michael Jordan's retirement because they've always had a story to tell, and there are still so many chapters of my life to share. We always include special things like written details that are personal to me on Way of Wade shoes so the audience can feel a connection to me. On the Way of Wade 10, for example, the left shoe's heel has a list of instructions that show you how to make your own way, or during my last season, one of my shoes had David Stern's words from when I was drafted back in 2003. That way we can tell a real, personal story by saying 'hey, this is what making your own way means to Dwyane.'
It's so important to provide that type of connection – someone who purchases the shoes isn't just buying into the brand, they're buying into you and your story!
One hundred per cent. They wear the shoes because of the story. I'm lucky enough to have had people follow my career since I was a freshman at Marquette 20 years ago. Even in retirement, I'm going to make sure my shoes have more stories about my journey that people can identify with.
The last time we talked, you mentioned how excited you were about your son Zaire carrying on the Way of Wade legacy as he embarked on his own pro basketball journey. What are your thoughts on his career and its parallels to Way of Wade's future growth?
Way of Wade's motto is 'make your own way' and Zaire is trying to do just that with his basketball career. Outside of that, my son is Way of Wade. He is the brand – it's a family brand and a full-on lifestyle. I'm excited to see him become more integrated into Way of Wade's design and storytelling and help shape what the brand is to people – no matter if they play basketball or not.
Circling back to the first question – you mentioned what you were the proudest of but what about the next 10 years excites you the most?
What we've been doing over the last decade is building our own stories through footwear and apparel – stories about my career. Now, with my son's own professional career underway, we can tell another story too. I'm looking forward to seeing how we can evolve the brand and stay on the cutting edge!
The Way of Wade 10 'Blossom' and 'Sunrise' are available on the Way of Wade webstore now. Each pair is priced at $240.