Affiliation: Mr Bailey Founder of ConceptKicks, Co-Founder of lūp Footwear, Founder of FTWRDSGN
What Got You Into Sneakers?
When I was a little kid growing up in England, all the 'cool' kids at my school rocked the latest Air Max or Js, so of course I wanted them too. I remember one time the star basketball player brought a pair of Jordan XIIIs to a game and everyone just lost their minds. There's just always been something special about sneakers. Growing up playing basketball, sneakers were always a huge part of me and my friends lives, and when I wasn't playing ball I was at home sketching something. I started sketching my own shoes one day and really enjoyed it, also the reaction I got from everyone around me was great, so I just kept going. Over the years my passion for it just seemed to constantly grow and now I can proudly say I design sneakers for a living.
Over the years my passion for it just seemed to constantly grow and now I can proudly say I design sneakers for a living.
Where Did You Go To School?
Funny thing is, I actually never paid for my last semester of college (they screwed me over on some extra Art History course I apparently didn't take), so I don't technically have a bachelor's degree. If I did actually decide to take that last class (not likely), i'd have a bachelor's degree in Industrial Design from Montclair State University. I do however have an associates degree in graphic design. Having strong graphic design skills is incredibly important for sneaker designers and product designers in general, though I feel like it's importance isn't stressed enough in school.
How Have You Applied Your Learning To Sneakers?
I just tried during my school years (and still do to this day) to be involved in as many varying areas of design and art as possible. From hard and soft 3D modelling, sketching, rendering, animation, life drawing, technical drawing, photography and everything else, I feel like every different skill I can add to my arsenal makes me more of a creative and effective sneaker designer. I think perhaps the biggest thing i've learned and applied to sneakers though is a mind state; to remain curious, constantly questioning and most importantly, to continue to learn and try new things. Every experience can be a source of inspiration.
What Is Your Past Experience And How Did Your Past Lead You To A Career In Sneakers?
I've really lead quite a nomadic lifestyle, growing up in a bunch of different countries, I've moved over 30 times in my life, mainly because I was an army brat, but also partly because sometimes I get kicked out of countries (long story). One of those moves was going to America to play basketball. I was studying Graphic Design at the time but switched to Industrial Design when I found out that I couldn't get a shoe design internship studying that. Luckily the school I was attending had just started an I.D. program, honestly a lot of it really has just been being in the right place at the right time and making my situation work best for what I needed at that time. Since graduating i've been fortunate enough to collaborate with a lot of globally recognised companies, but I really enjoy working with smaller, more independent brands. When you work with smaller brands you're involved in a lot more of the process, developing footwear from initial sketches, all the way up to production and commercialization. With bigger brands it's easy to get pigeon holed into one particular thing, which is a big reason why I now have my own independent design agency, as it lets me get involved in a wider capacity.
What Was The Sneaker Or Moment That Made You Want To Have A Career Involving Sneakers?
I don't know if I can say there was just one single moment I can remember that made me want to design sneakers. Partly because I have a terrible memory after an unfortunate quad biking incident in South Carolina where I ended up in a tree and was airlifted to hospital (another long story). At first when I started designing at college I flipped between designing vehicle concepts and various other random products, but I always came back to sneakers. There's just always been a love for them. However, as much as I love them, I think it's good to have a varied range of work, I have to be able to design other products every now and then to keep me inspired. Whether it's a jetski concept, sunglasses, quad bikes, anything, I think if I just designed sneakers all day every day I might lose a little bit of the excitement I have for them.
What's The Favorite Part Of Your Job?
My favourite part, apart from being able to do what I love, is seeing my ideas come to life, watching them evolve and grow to become a finalized, tangible, working product. Also, free shoes.
Did You Ever Think Sneakers Would Take You This Far?
Though i've been designing professionally for years, i'm still in my 20s and feel like i'm only just beginning to see where this sneaker design journey will take me. I don't really know if I have too many expectations, I go with the flow, stay curious and keep my eyes and mind open to new and interesting projects. Being a designer in this industry means you don't work normal hours, you're never not working, this is a lifestyle choice, not just a job...which can make it quite dangerous because work no long feels like work so it can be hard to shut off, take a step back and relax... but I like it like that. Saying that, being able to balance that hard work and not let it bury you so you have ability to maintain a creative & open vision is extremely important.
Where Are Sneakers Going To Take You Next?
Not knowing where sneakers will take me next is part of the fun. I love taking on exciting new projects that I believe in and can collaborate alongside other passionate individuals & entrepreneurs. One of my passions is giving back to the design community, and being a resource to up and coming young designers...one of the ways I do this is through my website ConceptKicks.com. On CK we have design competitions where designers can win anything from a handmade sample of their shoes to Pensole Scholarships, we feature interviews with todays leading footwear designers alongside offering an avenue for talented young designers to have their work showcased on a wider forum, and provide a host of resources around footwear development. So as far what's next for CK, I just plan on letting the community grow and trying to offer as many aspects and insights into the footwear design industry as possible. I also have a lot of other very cool sneaker projects coming out, from my own MrBailey shoes where i'm learning about the handmaking shoe process, to lūp, a shoe brand my friends and I have thats coming out this year. There's also other more daring and different sneaker related projects that I can't wait to unveil when the time is right.
What's The Best Piece Of Advice You Could Offer Someone Trying To Make A Career In Sneakers?
One thing that I think is extremely important for anyone trying to get into the small, tightknit world of sneaker design, is to try and break into it as early as possible through internships. Internships are a huge way for you to open the door and meet the right people. So get as many of them in while you can, and do them in a variety of different companies, from big to small. Oh and check out conceptkicks.com everyday :)