How Nigel Langley Landed An Adidas Job To Become The Industry’s Youngest Sneaker Designer

words // Nick DePaula:

Decades ago, top designers polished their craft through years of design school or even university architecture programs, while not knowing they’d eventually end up designing sneakers. More recently, aspiring artists have honed their skils through footwear-specific programs like D’Wayne Edwards’ Pensole Academy. Nowadays, simply posting quality work and innovative concepts on a personal social media account can catch the attention of just the right person.


Adidas VP Marc Dolce’s initial Instagram direct message response to Nigel

For Nigel Langley Jr, that’s exactly how he landed a coveted role at the adidas Brooklyn Creator Farm last year, making him the youngest designer in the footwear industry at just 17 years-old. After making the hour-plus daily trek from his hometown of Bloomfield, New Jersey to the Brooklyn studio, he’s been working away at the brand’s esteemed innovation and design space on a flurry of top-secret projects.

The Farm is currently designing for initiatives slated to launch in 2019 and 2020.

“It all started out in the most modern of fashions,” smiles Nigel. “Actually, through Instagram.”

Thanks to a nudge from one of his classmates, Instagram became the showcase space for his raw talent.

“I was sketching in a driver’s ed class one day when a good friend of mine suggested that I post my work on Instagram,” he recalls. “Whenever I would post, I would tag the designers I admired and looked up to, like Marc Dolce, Denis Dekovic, Mark Miner and Scott Robertson. I just kept at it, reaching out to different designers and brands in an effort to start any dialog.”

In a first-person essay on the adidas blog, Langley recently described his passions, aspirations and design perspectives. As he outlines, it was through a series of initial direct message conversations with adidas design VP Marc Dolce way back in the fall of 2015, when he was just 16, that eventually led him down the path of the job offer.

After a back and forth of Instagram exchanges, Dolce invited Langley to meet with him after a class at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, where he was co-teaching a design course at his former school. While looking to simply impart some wisdom and advice for the emerging artist, Dolce came away inspired by Langley’s ambition and raw art talent.

• It was so great to meet the talented @_Nigel_Langley today at @PrattInstitute. I was so impressed with Nigel’s skills and his eagerness to learn about footwear design. He’s only 16, and his future is bright!

A post shared by Marc Dolce (@marcdolce) on

“I was so impressed with Nigel’s skills and his eagerness to learn about footwear design,” Dolce posted on Instagram right after their meeting. “He’s only 16, and his future is bright!”

“It was both an honor and a privilege to meet and converse with one of my favorite designers Marc Dolce today at Pratt Institute,” Langley captioned. “I learned so much from him today and I’ll definitely be applying that knowledge in the near future.”

The following year, the adidas Brooklyn Creator Farm opened its doors, and shortly after, Nigel was added to the team.

“He wanted me there,” beams Langley. “I’m not going to say no to Marc Dolce.”

After turning 18 just this past June 1st, Langley will continue working at the Farm, and also begin his university studies at the renowned New York-based Parsons School of Design. A member of the Class of 2021, the youngster knows he’ll have a long road ahead for his career. In the meantime, he’s looking to “soak everything up” at the Farm, learning everything from design skills, computer program techniques and construction methods from his more seasoned crew of co-workers.

“I don’t always feel like the youngest,” he says of the Farm. “There’s a lot of young, fresh and creative minds here.”

Early on in his art pursuits as he entered high school, Langley wanted to design cars and trains, and looked into transportation programs and online tutorials to refine his skills. He was endlessly sketching all the while, filling up notebooks with both messy thumbnails and detailed concepts alike.

Still, there was a certain element of freshness and innovation to sneakers that drew him in, along with the cultural impact that the industry affords by being seen on the feet of the world’s greatest athletes and entertainers. Footwear was also personal for Langley — his feet are nearly arch-less and “extremely flat,” as he described online. It’s an ongoing issue he’d learned to deal with, that also served as a point of inspiration.

“Even to this day, it is exceptionally hard for me to find shoes that look good on my feet or that I can comfortably wear,” he says. “This is the irony in me wanting to be a footwear designer. Not being able to wear the amazing silhouettes that I see now inspires me to create new equally amazing forms for the future.”

Ever since, Langley has relentlessly pursued a passion for sneaker design that’s allowed him to become one of the brightest prospects in the game.

While it might be a few years before we see Nigel’s work come to market, you can surely expect to be hearing his name for a long time to come.

Listen to Nigel Langley speak about his experience at the Brooklyn Creator Farm so far in the video below:


Info via: How Nigel Langley Landed An Adidas Job To Become The Industry’s Youngest Sneaker Designer

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