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Why We Do What We Do: Conversations With Sneaker Industry Insiders

Brett Golliff

Affiliation: Designer, Blogger, Footwear Extraordinaire brettgolliff.com, Complex

What Got You Into Sneakers?
100 percent Michael Jordan. Nothing else, and to an extent to this day, influenced my sneaker life more than Michael Jordan.

Where Did You Go To School?
I went to the College for Creative Studies (better known as CCS) in sunny Detroit, MI, where I received my bachelor in Fine Arts specializing in Industrial Design. It's a long degree title but basically I learned how to be a shoe designer.

How Have You Applied Your Learning To Sneakers?
Before I came to CCS, I just knew how to draw incredibly well but I didn't know how to design. They are two very different things. So CCS taught me how to apply critical thinking to what I was creating. Which grew into me analyzing how products are made and marketed. Which has now grown into me creating opportunities and products that never existed in the market place.
 

 

Nothing else, and to an extent to this day; influenced my sneaker life more than Michael Jordan.

 


What Is Your Past Experience And How Did Your Past Lead You To A Career In Sneakers?
I have always been a big believer that your future is culmination of everything you have done before it. The reason why my future is sneakers is because everything I have done before it has been about sneakers. I am confident that I am one of the few people on the planet that convinced their third grade art teacher to let them design a shoe for their class project and that convincing has never stopped. I did it in high school almost every semester all the way through college where I always turned every project into a footwear design project. The only difference between the third grade and now is that I have experienced many other things along the way to help me grow. From traveling to people, and I think most importantly failing at some projects. I have managed to refine my skills to high level where I can pursue new avenues with every project I partake in.

What Was The Sneaker Or Moment That Made You Want To Have A Career Involving Sneakers?
There are two defining moments. One is that I grew up watching Michael Jordan and everything of him that I saw reflected into my life. All I did was play basketball and talk about Michael Jordan but on the side I also drew. When I was cut from my seventh grade basketball team and put on the B squad I realized that I would not be Mike on the court, so I made sure I was the Mike of the art room. The second actually happened the following year in eighth grade when I read an interview with Tinker Hatfield about the Air Jordan XIII. That article seriously changed my life is lit a fire inside me that has never went out. I still go back and read that article when I am looking for motivation as it always pushes me to push further.

What's The Favorite Part Of Your Job?
The favorite part of my job is challenging myself to pursue new avenues and find a way to create something that has never been created before. I love creating products that are raw and purposeful but incredibly impactful and then seeing the reaction it creates. Once it creates that reaction I love to have open conversation with people to see how they interpret the product. Those conversations help me to think further and reenergize myself to create the next product. It is always fun to create something that people or myself would never have thought could exist. There is an element of discovery in every project and it really captivates me to find a way to visualize what that element is.

Did You Ever Think Sneakers Would Take You This Far?
Not one single bit. It amazes me to this day the impact I have had just by drawing some shoes. I never thought it would take me to other cities, let alone other countries. That it would give me the chance to interact with the greatest athletes in the world and be able to make friendships with my heroes. I never, ever would have thought that my obsession would lead me to become who I am today. It sounds odd to thank sneakers, but I can't thank them enough because they have made so much of my career so fulfilling.

Where Are Sneakers Going To Take You Next?
I honestly have no idea. Every time I have a plan God comes in and alters it. So I stopped planning so far out. Next in line for me is to create my son's first shoe to wear when he is born in December, maybe that will turn into something dope. At the same time a good friend of mine and I are laying down the ground work for our own footwear brand. It has always been a dream of mine to be able to say "No." Which basically means I want creative control and right now my path is to set that up come one way or the other. So I don't exactly know where footwear is going to take me but I do know that it is going to be magnificent once I get there.

What's The Best Piece Of Advice You Could Offer Someone Trying To Make A Career In Sneakers?
No lie, on average I receive 5-7 emails a week asking how to become a shoe designer (feel free to email me by the way). I always do my best to answer everyone in a timely manner and with as much depth as possible. In a gist though, I tell them all the same thing. Just practice. I am a firm believer of the 10,000 hour rule. You spend 10,000 hours doing any one thing and you will be a master of it. Don't ever think that success is going to come over night or without work. If you truly want it find a way to make it happen. Don't ever give up. Things will get in your way only if you allow them to. The best part about art and design is that there is no one right answer, so create your answers.

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