Posts Tagged ‘Interview’

Cardi B Reveals The Sex Of Her Baby And 4 More Juicy Revelations From New Interview

Cardi B has always been candid about the pressures of fame, and now the “Be Careful” singer is opening up about potentially going to therapy.

“People used to be like, ‘maybe you should do therapy,’” Cardi stated. “And I used to be like, uh-uh, colored folks, we don’t need none of that. We just go to church, and we pray about it. And then it’s just like… I think it’s a little bit more than that. I don’t want people to think I’m not enjoying this moment, [but] it’s just a lot to handle.”


Interview // Designer Tony Hardman Details Paul George’s New Nike PG2

words // Nick DePaula:

For every footwear designer, being tasked with crafting a signature shoe from scratch is of course the ultimate goal. There’s no greater challenge, and when it comes to namesake debuts, Paul George’s PG1 immediately was placed amongst the greatest first models in hoops history by fans and players alike, in a tier alongside models like the Air Jordan 1, Reebok Question, Air Penny 1 and others.

As designer Tony Hardman tells us on the latest Nice Kicks podcast, following up the much-loved PG1 for Paul’s second shoe was a challenge, not just because the consumer expectation had started out so high, but also because of the $ 110 price point, and the new way in which they tried to bring energy to the launch of the shoe with George’s first collaboration.

Listen to the full episode with Tony Hardman on the latest Nice Kicks Cast below, and read ahead for insights into the process of designing Paul George’s new PG2 signature model. Be sure to subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes for more designer interviews and footwear industry analysis.

Defining A PG Design Language

Tony Hardman: “As we evolve the line, it’ll feel a little more Paul than it might’ve on the 1, stylistically. Functionally, we hit all of the things that Paul wanted on the 1, but I’m not sure that we defined his style yet. That will evolve. For him, he wanted that strap in the front for the 1, and that was key. We built on things that had worked for him in the past, and then drew inspiration from who he is as a guy on and off the court. The fishing thing was a big piece of inspiration for us last year, and some of that dictated the design of it. You’ll see some of his style come into it as we develop his line down the road.

When we started the 2, he hadn’t even worn the 1 yet. [laughs] That’s one of the weird things about the signature process. It’s hard to build on, ‘Hey, what did you like? What didn’t you like?’ I had to do more of an evolutionary thing, where there were some things we knew from early testing when he wore it only once or twice, but not really in a game yet. There were some things that he definitely asked for. One being, he said, ‘Hey, I don’t want a strap on the 2.’ That was one thing. We knew we wanted to continue his lineage in terms of having a Low, and having the consumer go back to that. The comfort was a big thing too for him, and maintaining some of that.

In terms of Swoosh placement, that’s kind of iterative, and we figure that out as we go. It’s not really a request from him, but there’s a always been a nod. With the 1, there’s a reverse and a forward Swoosh. That ties back to him being a two-way player, and is a nod back to that.”

Working With Paul

Tony Hardman: “Working on a signature line for Nike Basketball wasn’t something I took lightly. Basketball shoes are something I’ve wanted to design since I was in High School, so that was a great moment for me. To jump in on a new guy who was coming in fresh, was really cool. Me being a fan of Paul’s, who he is as a person and who he is as a player, it was a good fit. Paul is a really chill guy and super easy to work with. I knew this was also a dream come true for him, and he’s a super humble guy. He was excited to be part of the process, and I was the same way.

Paul is a family guy. He’ll bring people in and treat them that way. He’s super humble and easygoing. The first session we had, we just went out to his house in Indy. We spent the day digging through his closet, looking at his cars and we brought a bunch of shoes to get a feel for what he liked stylistically. What did he play in, and what did he like or didn’t like. We set the groundwork with that, which was really cool to get to know him and build on that.

Throughout the process, we’ll see him maybe four times a year. We’ll check in with him and bring new samples, and a lot of time his family is there. His mom and dad, and his sisters, and they’re giving their input. It’s cool, and it’s really Paul. You can see how close he is with his family, and that was a lot of what inspired the 2. It’s really about the people that made him, how he’s a family guy and how that keeps him grounded.”

Designing Signature At $ 110

Tony Hardman: “That’s the challenge. People expect a lot out of signature product. It’s a challenge to have lots of technology, and obviously, Zoom bags cost money, Flywire costs money, and anything that is considered an innovation. You have to be a little craftier with how you do the design and how you’re going to bring energy to it. On the 1, bringing some leather in brought some interest and some different character to it. On the 2, it’s the same thing.

The kid wants everything. They want the $ 110 shoe to be just like the [$ 185] LeBron shoe. The reality is, it’s not going to be. We had to make the best shoe we can. In terms of on-court performance, kids will really feel like the 2 is better than the 1 on-court. It’s been amazing. Some people didn’t feel the Zoom enough, so we increased it. In the 1, we had a 8mm bag that was bottom-loaded. For the 2, we’ve gone with 10, which basically means you’re standing right on top of that bag and it goes all the way to the rubber.

For now, the current plan is to keep him at that price point. We like having a shoe that’s accessible for kids, but they can still get that aspirational signature product, as long as we continue to push the design at that level. He’s been happy with the footwear, and it’s been super comfortable for him and hitting the mark in terms of what he’s looking for on court. As long as we’re doing that, for now, it looks like we’re going to stay in that zone.”

PG’s Love For PlayStation

Tony Hardman: “It was actually quite a challenge and a bit of a scramble. To work with a company like that, that knows how to execute things, the communication was great between our teams. I already had a light in the works, based on asking Paul once, ‘If you weren’t a basketball player, what would you do?’ He said something in electronics, because he loves TVs and he loves video games. I thought it would be cool to put something that could light up in his shoes, and I was already working on that on the side. But, I was getting a lot of eye rolls, and people saying, ‘Are we really going to do this?’ [laughs] People weren’t on it and hustling on it until the PlayStation collab came along. I just said, “Yo, this is the perfect place to implement this.”

I had already started, and then it was a matter of trying to finish it up and get it into the shoe. When it’s a performance shoe, it’s always a challenge to make sure that it’s still working and no weird things or discomfort come up. We took the Playstation controller as inspiration, and just brought it to life on the foot.

He’s a huge gamer. He loves 2K, obviously. He’s also big on Madden and Call of Duty, and loves to play online gaming too. I would say he’s one of the biggest gamers in the NBA. He’s all about it and he takes his PlayStation with him on the road. That’s why this PlayStation collab came together and felt so natural.”


Interview // Jalen Rose Talks College Recruiting, Fab 5 Retros & NBA Season

Running the point, standing 6’8 and walking to the beat to of his own Serato, Jalen Rose was a big guard like Magic Johnson, a style icon like Big L and a leader like Rakim Allah. These days? Well he’s just a damn good broadcaster that runs a free charter school.

Still outspoken, still outstanding, the fearless leader of the Fab 5 is two decades removed from Ann Arbor but not an inch more distant from Detroit. Breaking bread in Bristol as part of ESPN’s NBA Countdown crew and one-half of Jalen & Jacoby, #5 still packs a 313 phone number and has raised nearly $ 6 Million in scholarship funds in 2017 alone for graduates of his Motown-based charter school.

Fresh fade and fresh takes, we caught up with Jalen on the cusp of the NBA season to hear his Association sleepers, insight on the roles brands play in college recruiting and what music he plays when he DJs parties for his uncles.

Nice Kicks: Let’s start with style. Fashion wise on and off the court, who did you look to growing up?

Jalen Rose: Great question. Initially it was Don Cornelius on Soul Train, he was super clean. I used to like George Jefferson’s fashion because if you think about it he was a business owner, married and about family and entrepreneurship. I appreciated that. In sports, Clyde Frazier was somebody whose fashion I looked up to. Then Ron O’Neal with the zoot suits and the long coats! That was the Detroit thing. There’s also a different style we got from New York City with the PUMA suits and the Suedes with the thick shoe strings then later Run DMC with the leather bombers and adidas with no shoe strings. Boogie Down Productions had the bubble coats, then you had Slick Rick and Dana Dane with the suits and the Ballys. I put a gold cap on my tooth in high school to be like Slick Rick and Larry Johnson!

Nice Kicks: A lot’s made of the baggy shorts, shaved heads and black Nikes while at the Michigan. You always seemed like the leader swag wise of the Fab 5. What influenced those fashion choices and what was it like seeing peers imitate?

Jalen Rose: Initially it was all about camaraderie and I think that’s a thing that gets lost with the Fab 5. It was a one-for-all mentality. If we were going to the student union for a party, we’re all going. If something was going down at Eastern Michigan, we were all going. If one us was going down to Freaknik, we were all going!

Based on that, the style choices were a way to signify that it was a time to turn it up and get serious. While the world recognized that we had five special freshman, we still appreciated our veterans and teammates who allowed us to be who we are. That was just a sign of solidarity. It wasn’t that a couple of us were gonna shave our head bald or wear black socks, we were all gonna do it.

With the shaved heads, at that time it was looked at as a sense of rebellion like sagging pants. At that time, rocking a baldie was considered rebellious. Then it was considered super handsome and fashionable if you were Michael Jordan! [Laughs] But if you were Onyx it was considered the opposite. Being influenced by EPMD and Naughty by Nature, I was the kid who would walk around campus in the middle of winter with a piece of tissue in his nose like Redman.

Nice Kicks: Michigan became THE Nike school during your tenure. How much did brands play a part in picking your school then and what do you think of all the conversation regarding their roles now?

Jalen Rose: Recruiting for me had a lot to do with familiarity because you wanted to see people that you knew who were where you were from have success around the country. Fortunately for me, I appreciate my time with the Fab 5 but it might not even be the best team I ever played on! When you go to Detroit Southwestern, it wasn’t about me being a McDonald’s All-American it was about the fact that Perry Watson had a successful program a decade before I even got there. I was able to see Anderson Hunt go to UNLV and win Final Four MVP. I never would’ve thought that when I was in the basement rockin’ my Michigan shorts to me knees as a high school senior watching UNLV lose to Duke in the Final Four that I’d be playing against them in the finals the next year. Then watching Derrick Coleman at Syracuse — he’s a Detroit native. So, those were my visits. They were Detroit players that I had love for and had success. Coincidentally at the time, just like Detroit Southwestern, they were all Nike schools.

The thing that gets overlooked for a young athlete is that you’re not only signing a letter of intent, you’re actually signing an endorsement deal with a shoe company — it’s just that you’re not getting paid. I don’t see it changing in the future. Do I think that NCAA, a 501c3, is going to share some money with their players? I don’t think that’s going to happen. Remember, the shoe contracts aren’t with the players, they’re with the schools. So I’m not just signing to go to the University of Michigan, I’m also signing to wear Brand Jordan. I can’t go to campus and say, ‘I’m going to wear adidas.’ The school isn’t going to pay for gear ever, especially if they’re getting millions of dollars, so that business model works great for them and they’ll fight tooth and nail to do anything they can not to change it. It’s no coincidence that the shoe companies have branched off into summer camps, the trainers that work out multiple players, the high schools that are sponsored by brands, it’s no coincidence that the player now goes to a college that represents that same brand and then wears that brand when they get to the pros.

Nice Kicks: When you were coming up, Nike had their own camp, Converse had Five Star and adidas had ABCD Camp. Were those camps influential to players picking schools at that time?

Jalen Rose: Of course. It creates a relationship but a funnel is what it becomes. I was fortunate enough to be influenced by the godfather of all this, Sonny Voccaro. As somebody that went to Nike Camp, I didn’t go to Five Star. I got the chance to play in the McDonald’s Game, but I also got to play in the Dapper Dan game in the final year because Sonny put it on.

Nice Kicks: Sonny Voccaro is someone I’ve always admired and I feel like with the current dialogue regarding brands, schools and recruiting he could be vilified with all that’s going on. To be clear, it seems like you still highly regard him and speak of him with reverence, correct?

Jalen Rose: No question! That’s why I call him the godfather. I’ve got nothing but respect for him, and his lovely wife, Pam.

Nice Kicks: As an unofficial endorser, you made the Air Force Max and the Flight Huarache famous. How does it feel to see them come back and how do you feel about new colorways?

Jalen Rose: Initially I felt bitter. I’m the founder of a tuition free charter high school and you would at least think I could get them to sponsor my school, ya know?

Here’s what happens, usually collegiate athletes aren’t fortunate enough to have the longevity that we’ve had. The documentary, Chris and I working in television, Juwan coaching for the Heat and Ray and Jimmy still coaching in high school. We’re still alive, breathing and active. Normally the system gets the chance to take advantage of that once, we’ve allowed the system to take advantage of it twice.

So, when I see Nike bringing back the Huarache and when I see the Brand Jordan Fab 5 shoe with the logo that we came up with in South Quad dorm on the back of the shoe, I’ve gotta get on my grown man and get on the phone with these people now. We’re not 19, 21 year old kids anymore. We want to be viewed as endorsers, we want to be used as partners. Send us some boxes, I don’t wanna see this stuff online!

Nice Kicks: In regards to the Fab 5 Jordans, were you sent a pair?

Jalen Rose: I’ve been in contact with them and I now have a relationship with someone there who hopes to work with us. If I would’ve had this conversation three months ago I would’ve been a lot more flagrant than I’m gonna be right now [laughs], but I will say it’s in motion. But again, think about what you said? One pair of shoes? It’s not a lot. I’m not a 19 year old college student in the dorms anymore, c’mon now! [Laughs]

Nice Kicks: So when celebs were getting the Fab 5 Jordans the actual Fab 5 was not?

Jalen Rose: Initially, correct.

Nice Kicks: That’s messed up but I’m glad it was rectified. Hopefully a free pair here and there leads to sponsorship of your school from a brand.

Jalen Rose: You know what I mean? Tuition free public charter high school. I entered that fingers crossed, but I did enter all that stuff with the Huarache remakes at the mall and the Fab 5 Jordan shoe with a level of frustration when you’re not treated like a partner or endorser. They get multiple bites of the apple and what allows them to do that is not only what we did 20 years ago, but that we’re still current right now.

Nice Kicks: Transitioning to the NBA, they just switched to a Nike deal and got new jerseys. Looking back at your pro career, was their a uniform that sticks out as the one you felt freshest in or conversely the most swagless?

Jalen Rose: Oh, pinstripe Pacers! Those were cold. The crazy thing for me is that my high school colors at Detroit Southwestern — blue and gold. Michigan — maize and blue. Pacers — blue and gold. So JRLA is blue and gold also.

Nice Kicks: I remember your Pacers team with Reggie Miller, Chris Mullin and Rik Smits rocking black shoes and black socks for the playoffs.

Jalen Rose: Yup! And bald heads, this stuff travels don’t it!

Nice Kicks: It’s hard to imagine in this day and age with all the swagged out haircuts and individual marketing that a team would ever shave their heads for a playoff run.

Jalen Rose: Right, and that’s a strong statement: I’m not able to give up me for we.

Nice Kicks: Much is made of the shoes you wore in college but not always when you were in the league. For example, you were one of the select players to rock Jay Z’s Reebok S. Carter BBall shoe on court. How did that come about?

Jalen Rose: Basically you go through different periods as a player. There was a period where I was adidas, a period where I was rocking Nike and a period where I was rocking Reeboks. Usually, whatever I was rocking was what was comfortable for me and what I thought was fly. Hov came out with that kick when I was with Reebok, I was a fan, and they looked good so it was only right. If I’m out here getting buckets it’s only right I do it in the S. Dots.

What a lot of people may or may not realize is that the NBA was truly the first league to embrace hip-hop. A lot of people don’t remember when it happened, but it truly happened with MC Hammer and “U Can’t Touch This” with the Pistons.

When the Pistons were winning championships in ’89 and ’90, MC Hammer was the #1 artist in the world. He did his “They Put Me in the Mix” video at Joe Louis arena in downtown Detroit. That created a kinship that Detroit and Oakland still have to this day, though it initially started in the ’60s and the ’70s with the Civil Rights Movement and a lot of outspoken inviduals that were passionate about change in our country that happened to be from Detroit and the Bay Area. So, when you transfer and remix that relationship to the ’90s, the tagline for the Pistons became ‘U Can’t Touch This’ and if you look back at those Bad Boy Pistons shirts that’s what they say.

Even back then when Too Short was saying Detroit was just like Oakland, that’s because we were out there at KKBT Summer Jam in the ’90s! Hanging out with him, Mark Curry, Spice-1, all of those cats. The great thing is I really got lucky because that was the hottest concert and I went back to back years and all my favorite artists — EPMD, Naughty by Nature, The D.O.C. — all were there.

Nice Kicks: Getting into broadcasting, you’re working now with Chauncey, Paul and previously T-Mac, who you all would’ve checked during your pro career. How’s it been working with them as teammates now and as a trash talker turned broadcaster whose on-court demeanor is the most different from their TV tone?

Jalen Rose: First off, wow, I’m the oldest one of all them, oh man! I consider all of them brothers. I’ve been working at ESPN now ten years and each of them have made a really nice transition to television and I’m really happy with all the progress they’ve made. One thing about the league is you have a kinship with all of them and you never know how it’s going to transform. When Paul got drafted, I was staying in LA and had a spot so we were working out everyday back when he got drafted to the Celtics so we’ve been homies for that long. With Chauncey, when I got drafted to the Nuggets he was in college at Colorado so we had friends and then he played for the Pistons. With T-Mac, he got drafted by Isiah and you know how I feel about him and he does a good job trying to keep everybody together. We were always connected.

I think each of them does a good job of resembling what they do on TV. Because as players, especially T Mac and Chauncey, they weren’t much of talkers they were more about business. I’m happy for T Mac because he got signed to be a special assistant for the Magic. Paul signed with ESPN and he’ll be not doing only Countdown but also The Jump. I think each of them have done a good job of staying true to who they are and to me that’s how they could have long careers in TV if they choose to.

Nice Kicks: In a sport like football, preseason or Week 1 doesn’t mean a thing but I feel like in basketball it can be a bit more telling. Who’s impressed you or surprised you so far?

Jalen Rose: I think a surprise to the casual fan will be Minnesota. People sleep on the fact that Karl Anthony Towns averaged 25 and 12 last year and they still have Wiggins who averaged over 20 and they brought in Jimmy Bulter. A real sleeper as a player is Nikola Jokic from Denver. He’s only 22 and a lot of people don’t realize that he was fourth in triple-doubles behind Russ, Harden and LeBron as a center!

I love seeing what OKC did this offseason, I like CP3 with James in Houston, I like Kryie and Gordon Hayward in Boston, I like the super teams in Cleveland and Golden State and the Greek Freak is gonna go off again this year.

Nice Kicks: You were about twenty years ahead of your time in regards to being a big guard/hybrid player and bringing your love of hip-hop to your style on the court. In an evolved game and a 360 marketing space, how do you think you’d fair in the game and the endorsement space today?

Jalen Rose: You look at all the major sports in America: there colors are red, white and blue. But the NFL is a flag, a shield, and the NBA is a player in Jerry West. The NBA has done a better job of marketing its players and individuals as the encouragement of building the game which has now allowed what you say has happened. The Forbes list is hoopers, the most followed on social media are, too. The new Madden commercial has James Harden and CP3 on it…no NFL players were available? We’re talking about storylines going into the NBA season and the breaking news for the NFL is the protest, Ezekiel Elliot and what happened to Cam recently.

I hope, that as I talked about for years and I talked about it on First Take, that the game has evolved to positionless basketball. Positions were truly created so that a novice could follow the game. It use to be point guard, now it’s lead guard or as I say ‘primary ball handlers.’ These guys like John Wall, Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Isaiah Thomas are now giving you 25 points. Just because you’re a power forward doesn’t mean you’re a physical presence playing in the paint the entire game. That guy now is Draymond Green spreading the floor.

I would think that at my size, playing multiple positions but drafted as a point guard, I would hope to flourish. I’m happy to see big guards back in the game like Lonzo Ball.

Nice Kicks: When watching today’s game whether it’s swag or playing style, is there anybody particular you watch and say, Man, he reminds me of me?

Jalen Rose: I used to feel like that with players that played three positions. And by no means do I think I am a trendsetting player, but normally there aren’t guys that play point guard and also small forward. There are point forwards like Paul Pressey, Grant Hill or LeBron James and then there are tall point guards like Magic Johnson, Steve Smith and Penny Hardaway. But, it still in theory doesn’t exist today where a guy is running the 1 and guarding the 3. That again goes towards positionless basketball. I like that KD can play the 4 or the 5, Melo is gonna start at the 4, Kevin Love is gonna play the 5 and Porzingis might play the 5.

Nice Kicks: Sticking with the youth, you do a lot to help kids in Detroit with your school. Could you tell us about how that started  and what you and the kids have gotten out of it?

Jalen Rose: Anybody that’s followed my trek as an athlete or a public figure: I’m just like you. I wouldn’t have thought that I’d mature to the point where I’m the founder of a charter high school, I didn’t see that either. It wasn’t my goal, it wasn’t my plan, I didn’t need protesting in the NFL to happen or things to transpire for me to give back to my community. JRLA was really just a graduation of a mission to give scholarships to local kids through charitable donations. We were giving five students scholarships for about eight or nine years. I sat back from my seat and noticed that we were closing public schools but opening prisons. I wanted to do something more to motivate young people and truly give back and make change and I felt no better way was through education.

We’re open enrollment, we’re tuition free, we’re public charter and we’re a 9 through 16 model. So our goal is not only to graduate our young people from high school but also graduate them from college as well. This is our first year where we have both high school seniors and college seniors and I’m really proud of it. We’re looking to bridge the education gap and make our students successful in college and the workplace and make their dreams come true. As an adult you don’t get as far with a high school diploma as you used to so we have a board that monitors our students and makes sure they’re going to schools that are not just high school but four-year universities, trade school and the military, just putting themselves in the position to have a secondary opportunity after high school.

And we get zero state funding for our facilities, how about that? Please go to for more information about what we’re doing. These are the type of outcomes that are really game changing in our community and I’m really proud of our parents, our students, our staff, our deans and our board. Now for us to have the progress from being an expansion team in 2011 to now a contending team in 2017, I’m really proud of that progress.

Nice Kicks: Moving to music, we know back in ’92 it was EPMD, Naughty by Nature and others blowing up your headphones. What’s in heavy rotation for you today?

Jalen Rose: One of my hobbies in my spare time is DJing. I could go with my favorite break beats…man lemme hit my Google Play. I could go old school with Mantronix, Sam Cooke, Kraftwerk… Then I could go to R&B Soul with Rod Stewart “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy,” people sleep on that! I’ve got my Bill Withers, I’ve got my Kano “I’m Ready,” then we could fast forward to KRS-One, Rakim, Public Enemy, NWA, that whole era, Outkast… then you could graduate even further to of course my Detroit homies! Marshall, Nickel Nine, Sean Don, my guy Tee Grizzley, and then obviously I’m a huge fan of bars so Kendrick, J Cole, Pusha T, I could go a lot of different ways from R&B to pop. That’s one thing being from the Midwest as you know: we weren’t married to one sound. So I got exposed to everything from P-Funk to Hall & Oates to MoTown. I didn’t get a strong techno influence being from Detroit, but it was more just the songs like “Egyptian Lover” or “Tour de France.”

I’ve done DJing as a job and for fun. When you’re a DJ you play what the audience wants to hear. If I’m playing for my uncles I’m gonna play Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye, if I’m playing for a more universal crowd I’ll play Michael Jackson and Prince. It all depends on the audience really. As for records at the moment, I like Cardi B.

Nice Kicks: Just the same, it was black Nikes on the feet back then. To close it out, which kicks get the most burn from you in 2017?

Jalen Rose: On my feet, man it’s hard to find some PUMAs in a size 15! For me, as I got older I wanted to buy a lot of things that I couldn’t afford growing up. I catch myself wearing Gucci Lace Ups, Cartiers, Cazals, adidas Top Tens and Forums… the motivation!

Catch Jalen on ESPN all NBA season and for more on Jalen’s charter school visit


Interview // Kyle Ng On Being Inspired By Tactical Art to Design the Future of Air with Nike

photos, interview & words // Ray P.:

Whether you’re a straight up sneakerhead or use sneakers as a form of artistic expression, it’s deeper than just rubber soles and laces. Kyle NG, artist and Nike Revolutionair, is a perfect example of the latter. From Nike using waffles to design shoes to having guys on the team named The Architect, it’s evident that inspiration for what you wear on your feet extends beyond the simple concept of footwear.

The Swoosh invited 12 chosen ones to reimagine Nike Air Max styles as part of their “Revolutionairs” campaign. Using Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, as their playground these artists, designers, DJs, and retailers were tasked with reimagining the most iconic cushioning to ever hit the pavement.  The Revolutionair’s shoe with the most votes in their favor will actually have his or her Nike Air model released in 2018 on Air Max Day.

Read ahead for a discussion with Kyle NG on the deeper level meaning of his shoe design, what artists inspire him daily, and more in the interview below:

Ray P: High key, when I wore the Air Max 1 Flyknit Ultra last Spring, it was the best feeling Air Max that ever graced my feet. So, when I saw your Revolutionair design, I immediately knew you knew what’s up. You picked a great base shoe that I think a lot of people are sleeping on. What made you choose that specific version of the AM1?

Kyle Ng: I come from a design background and art community rather than the sneaker world. I love the idea of Flyknit and the artisanal idea of mechanized craft. The rich idea of weaving techniques really drew me to the shoe. A lot of my design is about California art and tactile art, the touch and quality of craftsmanship. If you go to Palm Springs you’ll see a lot of art and my design is representative of that, too. The colors give off a real organic feel. The polka dots you see along the uppers represents artist Sister Corita Kent and all the amazing political activism as well as art she put effort into.

The Air Max 1 itself has a rich heritage in art and design coupled with great story with Tinker Hatfield and his background in Architectural design.

RP: If you could choose one model or celebrity to style in your shoe for a lookbook, who would you bring on board to represent the future of Air with you?

KN: I love the artist David Hockney. He has the illest style in the world.

RP: I just googled the guy, you weren’t lying, ha! Dude’s style is sick.

Earlier, I interviewed fellow Nike Revolutionair Sean Wotherspoon and asked him the same question, how has sneakers changed your life?

KN: I wouldn’t consider myself a super sneakerhead kid, but I love sneakers as a design object. I have a lot of shoes, but I wear everything. I don’t keep anything on ice. I started with Nike SB because I skated all the time. I love the idea of shoes having more of a story than just a normal thing. Sneakers are the one design object you wear every single day. I think it’s important to have the thing you use most in your life to be of super quality, you know? And to me, Nike has always been that brand that go-to brand. The Air Max line incorporates the stuff I love like design ethos and puts it into a shoe itself. SB’s and Air Max’s changed the way I looked at shoes.

Really it’s about the idea that you’re using the foot as an action to make movements. And not just a physical movement, but a political movement or any kind of movement artistically and creatively

RP: I love your perspective. Nike SB did that for me as well.

Before we go head into the SNEAKEASY  Pop-up, It’s the last day people can vote for you… what do you want the people to know?

KN: The shoe is about inspiring the idea of creativity. It’s more of a social message. The words on the back of the shoe “Give a damn” is based off the artist I mentioned earlier Sister Corita, it’s a nod to a pin that she used in one of her prints that I own.

Really it’s about the idea that you’re using the foot as an action to make movements. And not just a physical movement, but a political movement or any kind of movement artistically and creatively. That’s what I wanted to show, a shoe that goes beyond something you work out in, train in or skate in, it’s more about a spiritual, next level idea of what shoes should be.

Sneakers are a vessel to create more ethos. I tend to pick shoes that inspire me to do something bigger.

RP: I always tell people sneakers are the most powerful statements you can make without ever saying one word. So I appreciate your time and you definitely took sneakers to a deeper level of thinking than most would anticipate. You’re dope.

KN: Man, thank you. That’s what it’s all about. Peace.



Interview // Willie Esco Talks COOGI x PUMA Clyde Collab & What Biggie Would Be Wearing in 2017

Product photography by Ray Polanco

Willie Esco has been in this game for years. Working on lines for the likes of 2Pac and Nas, the New Jersey native is back at the helm with COOGI and collaborating with his favorite brand, PUMA, on none other than the Clyde.

A fitting tribute to the Notorious BIG, we caught up with Esco on the anniversary of Big’s death and the drop date for this limited edition collab to hear about not only the sweater sneakers but also what Big would be rocking if he were alive today.

Nice Kicks: To start, tell us a little bit about your history with Coogi and roots in the hip-hop fashion world.

Willie Esco: My history with Coogi is a long one. In 2004, I was put in charge of reviving the brand. Around that time I was ending the relationship with Nas and the Willie Esco brand was coming to a close. I also acquired the global licensing rights to Makaveli — 2Pac’s namesake brand that I created. Creatively I wanted to do more. Being the face of Willie Esco on the Latin side and Nas being the face of the brand on the hip-hop/celebrity side sort of took some wear and tear on me. Coogi was unique as well because I could just design clothes and revive a brand that had some legs. The ironic thing was that I was with Coogi and it had the association with Biggie and then I was working with the 2Pac estate! Both were sort of the East Coast version of Elvis and the West Coast version of Elvis in the hip-hop world.

With Biggie, the sweaters were not as popular in ’04 so the connection just wasn’t there yet like it is now. I left my partners in Coogi in ’06 and they took the brand to about $ 80 Million or maybe $ 100 Million and then around 2012-13 they told me to come back in to help with Etonic. I didn’t know footwear as well as my son does, but I told them I’d only come on if they allowed me to also work with Coogi.

I saw Coogi as the premier, luxury streetwear brand. They sort of kept their position because everything is sort of frozen in time because of Biggie. I knew the collaborations would come. We started with Rag & Bone and then my goal was to go for the top three — adidas, Nike and PUMA. Selfishly I wanted to attack those brands because my son is heavy into footwear and the collaboration process allowed him to see how to solicit the big brands. I worked with Dwayne Edwards in mentoring my son and a former colleague of mine was at PUMA. We started talking, I hooked him up with Dwyane and I knew 2017 would be a big year. His timing was perfect. I think they understood timing and footwear cycles and being able to capitalize off this space and let me translate it into a shoe. The PUMA Clyde program was originally going to be focused just on Brooklyn, but as we started talking it morphed into a bigger thing because of how celebrated Big is. The one thing that I was super specific on was that every pair had to be different — the left and the right — so that every pair is unique. They ultimately used it in the marketing and every pair is different which is a hard thing to do in footwear these days.

Nice Kicks: When you look at the collab, the Clyde represents NY in the ’70s and the COOGI represents Biggie in the ’90s. How does this shoe appeal to the modern day New Yorker?

Willie Esco: I think the two speak for the two times and I sort of fill the gap. I’m the ’80s and I don’t think the PUMA people believe me, but my favorite shoe actually is the Clyde. Every year around Final Four time I get a pair of all-white Clydes for my birthday to watch the Championship Game. That’s total ’80s to me. Growing up, I didn’t want to be the guy wearing adidas because that was Queens. In turn, let me claim PUMA for Jersey as a breakdancer which was a hard thing to do.

So when working on the shoe, I looked at the experimentation from Missoni and Converse was doing, which nothing was mismatched, so I wanted to bring uniqueness because the footwear game is in a place where it’s really hard to get excited about shoes. So, understanding what was being done with the he Missoni x Converse collab which is brilliant, us doing it at the street level brought a new twist. The millennial wants to be taken back to the ’90s and somebody wants to indirectly channel Biggie. This is a cool way to do that just like buying a pair of Jordans makes you think you can jump higher or putting on a Coogi makes you think you’re from Brooklyn or you can rap. I think we achieved that and I think PUMA did an excellent job of that. Now Diddy is posting about it and it’s a really great day.

Nice Kicks: When looking back at Biggie, what made him the fashion guy we still love and respect today?

Willie Esco: At that time, there were not too many brands servicing the urban consumer and going up to 3x and 4x in apparel. Designers that were ready to do that had success with their own brands. The savviness of Biggie to be aspirational and go into the store and go, “What makes this sweater expensive?” Simply, labor and knitting time. The boldness of a designer putting it out there and saying it’s not a mistake is brilliant. So Coogi putting it out there and Biggie finding a brand that fits his colorful nature and his size? It’s pretty unique in that if you wear a Coogi sweater people know you spent money on that thing. It’s similar to what Dapper Dan was doing, but Coogi was unique in that you could see who was wearing it from a mile away. Coogi was unique and I think Biggie picked up on that.

The gifted nature of his ability to rap made him standout as well and be able to be depreciating about himself and make that a positive. Rap has always accepted being chubby and then you had a rapper that was bigger, fatter and not scared to talk about it and explain how he liked to splurge on himself in the most expensive of things like Versace, Coogi and Moet. Those things still have to be attainable by the culture and not everything was attainable at that time.

Nice Kicks: We’re both mourning and celebrating Biggie’s life as he passed 20 years ago today. If Biggie was still around today, what do you think he’d be wearing?

Willie Esco: I think he’d age gracefully. The closest thing we have to Biggie today is Jay-Z. They both influenced each other, so if you look at what Jay’s wearing and what Jay’s wearing I think that’s what Big would be wearing and doing. I think he’d get on a health kick like Rick Ross and slim down. So a lot of the elements of the guys that are doing it big now, you take those pieces and that’s what Big would do. If he got to that point, I think he’d be a little more conscious about his health, he’d probably be looking at brands and art and developing his empire. As you get older you naturally gravitate to more classic things — it’s just the nature of the beast. He wouldn’t being wearing leggings, he wouldn’t be wearing tight stuff and I don’t think he’d be wearing Yeezys. I think he’d have a deal with Timberland, he’d have collaboration deals and he’d be celebrating 20 years of his Life After Death album. I think luxury brands would have a ball with him and he may be spearheading the resurgence of Coogi or Iceberg. I definitely believe Brooklyn Mint would’ve been a big brand, too. They would’ve gone away and then they would’ve had a resurgence. I think ultimately he’d be a billionaire and growing his empire in the way Jay is.

Nice Kicks: Every weekend a ton of sneakers drop and collaborations are more frequent than they’ve ever been. What makes the Coogi x PUMA Clyde a piece of history and a fashion statement today and here on out?

Willie Esco: The patience and timing that went into this project. The intimateness of who we rolled it out to and how selective we were about who got it and why they got it. They’re very limited because at Coogi we can only rollout X amount of product over X amount of time. I had to warn PUMA about how careful we had to be to make this happen. I want the consumer to know how much that went into planning this thing to make it come out on the day that it came out.

I’m a very lucky designer because I’m a designer that has worked indirectly with Biggie and Pac on their collections and collaborations. I think the consumer needs to appreciate why I did this, the connection to Brooklyn and the storytelling. That’s one important thing in collaboration and storytelling is that we’re losing what’s taken for granted. Collaborations just aren’t special anymore but this one is special because my son is involved in the project and we’re digging deep with pushing the concept of Biggie and a Coogi shoe. Knowing that knit shoes are being done nowadays, but this is a throwback to the ’90s with bulky sweater material on a shoe. It’s not an easy thing and one bad move and we could’ve missed the whole thing. It’s really exciting for me because I just had the idea and it went to my favorite brand and that’s what makes it special for me. When it’s special for the designer it comes out that way to the consumer.

The COOGi x Puma Clyde launched today at select retailers such as at PUMA Lab powered by Foot Locker, KITH, Jimmy Jazz, Barneys and Nice Kicks LA. Keep up with Willie on IG.


Interview // A Detailed Look At Adidas Originals’ Full “Turbo Red” EQT 2017 Collection

words, interview & images // Nick DePaula:

Diving back into the 1990s has been a commonly seen shift of late in the apparel world, and for adidas, it was a time of great change, marked by a new era of design language and new takes on branding. For starters, the company moved away from its iconic trefoil logo, launching the awards podium-inspired “mountain” reinterpretation of Three Stripes, in a sharp hue of green no less.

adidas Creative Director Peter Moore’s original 1990 logo update overview.

The peaking stripes aimed to represent an athlete’s journey to the top — “sporting excellence” — adding aspiration to the otherwise static trio of parallel bars. In turn, the brand was also launching a new outlook on performance footwear and apparel altogether: adidas Equipment. Or, EQT for short.

In recent years, adidas has looked to not only deepen its product storytelling, but also offer up a more cohesive range of silhouettes all highlighting one common trait or theme. That brings us to today’s newest collection, a reimagined and modernized take on the brand’s earliest EQT styles.

While still embodying the brand’s initial EQT mantra of “Everything that is essential. Nothing that is not,” the 2017 take on the era-defining EQT Support silhouette keeps those principles intact, ushering in new materials, updated cushioning and a sleekened stance for today’s style.

The full collection of Men’s and Women’s footwear, which can be seen below, ditches the original green in favor of polar opposite accents of Turbo Red, all atop more muted black and white backdrop base colors. Each model  features varying overlays and panels called out in color, allowing the collection to share a theme in different and individualized executions.

Just last month, adidas invited a group of select media to view their newest assortment of sneakers from a private venue space coinciding with Miami’s weeklong celebration of culture that is Art Basel. The setting was fitting for a footwear series that’s shifted from pure performance in the 1990s to on-foot art over two decades later. Longtime EQT collaborator Pusha T was also on hand to help to share his love for the model.

To hear all about the new “Turbo Red” lineup of models, as well as discuss the brand’s approach to marketing and its recent run of influencer success, Nice Kicks caught up with both Torben Schumacher, VP Product and Alegra O’Hare, VP of Global Brand Communications.

Nick DePaula: To start off, how would you describe the original design language of the EQT series, and how did you guys look to reimagine that for today’s era with this expanded collection?

Torben Shumacher, VP Product, adidas Originals and Core

Torben Shumacher: EQT is one of the most interesting and iconic stories of our archives from the 90s. Going back to looking at the adidas brand and how we restarted the brand in many ways, Rob Strasser had come in and had a new view on how shoes should look and what the brand is all about. They stripped everything down to the minimum, and did it in a very pure, daring and simple way.

We were really dancing around with the idea of bringing it back, and it’s right for now. It really tells a story from the classics, all the way to the modern and contemporary way that shoes look today. We really like both ends of it. The classic footwear is still something we stand for, and then you can see the journey of bringing in Boost, Primeknit and more modern materials.

They still very much speak to the idea of EQT from back in the day. That same minimalistic approach, and you don’t need a brand mark to spot an EQT. That’s what I love about the entire collection — EQT is a perfect representation of those two worlds and how they come together.

NDP: From a planning standpoint, when you’re looking to bring something back like EQT, do you always look to also re-envision it with new technology and constructions?

Torben: We want to go back to what the core idea was, and then find creative ways to reinterpret it. They totally can just be a 1-to-1 Retro, and there’s obviously a huge community that can appreciate that and loves to see those. In many ways though, we find it interesting to look at things in a new way, and we think that adds to the overall story.

NDP: We’re here in Miami at Art Basel, which is known for pastels like teal, pink and yellow. How did you guys decide to choose one color that would live through the whole lineup? 

Torben: It was a really bold move back in the day, for them to pick one key color and put it across the entire line. The green became so iconic for EQT originally. That led us to pick a new color in Turbo Red, that was vibrant and strong, and stands for 2017. Rather than looking at how the shoes used to look, we wanted to look at how the shoes could look today.

NDP: From a brand standpoint, what’s the thinking been in building some of these launches and events around a cultural moment or weeklong event in style – like Art Basel and Fashion Week?

Alegra O’Hare: What we try to do is take inspiration from the product, and with the EQT, it’s about the history and how it cut through the clutter back then. We wanted to go to Miami, where there’s a huge art community, and how can we bring the essence of that product to life at Art Basel, which is arguably one of the most intense cultural moments in the US especially.

From a strategic point of view, we want to understand which cultural moments we really want to tap into the community and create that kind of cultural clash, where we’re bringing together all types of people and can really express something new about the brand.

adidas EQT Support 93/17

NDP: The first thing I noticed, that I was really excited about, was the Boost midsole sculpting on the 93/17 pair. What inspired looking at executing the Boost in a new way?

Torben: So far, Boost has been used in a very simplistic way, and it’s been great. We’ve been celebrating that. When we looked at EQT, we really wanted to bring in and not compromise on today’s technologies with fit and comfort. Boost and Primeknit were two natural materials to utilize.

EQT is known for its iconic midsole design and the structure of the stripes with the molding, so we were really thinking about how we can take that iconic design language and marry it with Boost. It’s really the first time that you’re seeing such a treatment to the material, and we’re really excited about it.

NDP: In our world, we’ve seen such a shift in the last year and a half or so with people really gravitating towards adidas models in particular. What do you guys look for in someone that might be deemed an influencer, and what about the brand do you think has drawn people in?

Torben: I think it’s really just the mindset. We look at ourselves as creators, and we want to find creators that share the same mindset. People that can help us to create a strong point of view. Dare to find your own path and write your own story, and not follow any rulebook.

Alegra: I think it also goes to the ethos of our brand — challenging. Challenging the status quo, and once we really embraced that is when we started to see a massive shift. That’s when everything started to begin, and I think NMD is a great example of that. Nobody really expected that from us, both the product and the way we launched it. The whole mix was a great thing that came together and was unexpected.

Alegra O’Hare, VP, adidas Global Brand Communications

NDP: We had the first collab of the NMD, and at the time we were all loving the model, but I still don’t think we even saw it blowing up the way it did. On a similar note, what are some of the factors that can take someone from being a collaborator, to having their own capsule, like we’ve seen with Rick Owens, Raf, Alexander Wang, Stella and so many others that you’ve partnered with?

Torben: There’s no rules. We have this idea of “open source,” and so we want to invite likeminded creators in and really have a conversation. Rather than come in with a predetermined set of rules that we want to apply to a partner. Those conversations then lead to a creative process and ideation. That might lead to one singular product, or it could lead to something bigger. Most of the projects have grown over time, and we’ve all been happy about how that has come together and been true to both our brands and our partners.

NDP: How would you compare styles between US and European consumers? Since we’re now in such a digital age, it feels like those styles are really blending together more and more.

Torben: I think the key is that it’s become a digital conversation, and information availability has really allowed us to see a drastic alignment of global trends between North America and Western Europe. There’s hardly any differentiation at any time between trends in London versus New York. That’s been great for us. It’s really helped us to get one global message across.

NDP: In terms of influencers and seeing your products being worn by trendsetters, I think it’s fair to say adidas has been in the lead of that segment in our world as of late. Does being in the lead for some of those coveted products change the way you guys approach things going forward? 

Alegra: When you lead, there are people following you. You have to keep on pushing yourself to move ahead. I think the important thing is to not repeat, and to change. To keep on changing, while always being true to yourself as a brand. It’s easy to get into a comfort zone and think that everything we’re doing is perfect, but I think that’s part of the culture of us as a brand. We need to keep on challenging ourselves. We’re always trying to express ourselves in a new way. When you look at leadership, we approach it as there’s no one in front, and we have to be even more clear about where we’re going.

Torben: We don’t want to follow along with what we’ve done. There’s no rulebook or one recipe that is the magic one. I think keeping that same curiosity in the process and that same creativity and mindset of trying to change conventions, and finding different ways of approaching things, through collaborations and partners, is the reason why we’re here. We really want to keep that honest and clear perspective on what we’re doing.

Alegra: If you look at our Alexander Wang launch, just the fact that we turned the logo upside down, we’re continually looking at how we can challenge things. Whether that’s how we view our brand, or how we keep on engaging with people.

adidas EQT “Turbo Red” Collection

adidas EQT Support RF

adidas EQT Support RF

adidas EQT Support RF

adidas EQT Support RF

adidas EQT Support Ultra

adidas EQT Support ADV

adidas EQT Racing 91 W

adidas EQT Racing 91/16 W

adidas EQT Support ADV PK

adidas EQT Support ADV

adidas EQT Support 93/17


Interview // Breaking Down LeBron’s Nike Zoom Soldier 10

words & interview // Nick DePaula:

Today, LeBron James is expected to debut his latest namesake sneaker during a marquee game against the Golden State Warriors. Of course, that wouldn’t be a first, as the Ohio native looked to reverse course last season after falling behind 0-2 to the Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, laced strapped up his newest edition of his Soldier series and debuted them in Cleveland on a whim. They won by 30 points.

As literally every Instagram commenter loves to remind you — from there, the Warriors then blew a 3-1 lead. Throughout his four-wins-in-five-games stretch to close the series, LeBron was transcendent on both sides of the ball, all while putting up an insane Finals statline of 35.3 points, 13.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists in those wins.

That Finals platform gave the Soldier series new life, and brought more eyes and energy to the newest model than we’d seen in years past. LeBron has worn it all throughout preseason and Cleveland’s 22-6 start, opting to unveil his newest signature sneaker later into the season.

To hear all about the tenth edition of the Soldier series — LeBron is the first player to have two sneaker series hit 10 models — Nice Kicks recently caught up with Kevin Dodson, Nike Basketball’s Senior Footwear Product Director. Read ahead as Dodson breaks down all of the details that went into designer Jason Petrie’s latest model, what it was like to “witness history” as LeBron carried his Cavs to their first ever franchise championship, and how the recent Ohio State cleated edition of the Soldier came to be.

Zoom 20.5.5

Nick DePaula: What has the Soldier line stood for over the years, and what was the initial concept around the Soldier 10 design? 

Kevin Dodson: It’s an amazing journey for the shoe and has really come full circle. It started out around this insight around the 20.5.5, which we call the Soldier 0 from time to time amongst ourselves. [laughs] It was the idea around the second season, and giving LeBron a product to wear during that time of the year that was a lighter and super-responsive version of his game shoe that he was wearing at the time. You’re in a race to win 16 games when you’re in the playoffs, so giving him something that was a faster version of his game shoe was always the insight there. It became about a sprint to 16 wins instead of a marathon.

Over time, because we introduced the Elite series and some other products during the course of that ten years, the Soldier sort of became a shoe for all of the guys around him. He had even posted on social media at the time about how, “This shoe is for all of my Soldiers to go to battle.” It became a go-to LeBron team shoe for athletes in the NBA, colleges and high schools. It was something that was a little bit more stripped down, had a lot of great lockdown, support and responsiveness. Those were always the core tenets that have carried through the years.

Especially over the last few years, we’ve gotten really keyed in on this focus around having something that could give you all of the lockdown and support that you need, but in a light and responsive package. That’s been the goal. A couple of years ago, we had been working with LeBron and talking about where we wanted to take the Soldier from here. He had been giving us some great insights, and then we were out speaking with some college players. One of the kids send, “My perfect shoe would be an Elite sock with an outsole and some straps. Nothing else.”

Jason Petrie and the team brought that back, and that’s where the north star concept of the laceless shoe came from for the Soldier 10. LeBron had talked to us about doing something really special for the tenth Soldier already. He even said to us, “I just can’t believe that I have multiple shoe series that have gone on ten year-plus runs.” He really wanted to do something special, and so we really wanted to deliver on that laceless proposition and target.

We got kind of close on the Soldier 9, and had half laces and half straps. Then, we went all out for the Soldier 10. It was a pretty awesome journey through the last few years, and we believed that there was a benefit to it. If you’re a basketball player, you’re always lacing and trying to adjust. To just jump into a shoe with a snug, sock-like fit and lock those straps in quickly was something that we wanted to be able to do.

A detailed look at several elements from past Soldier models incorporated into the 10.

NDP: Are there any elements on the Soldier 10 that draw from past Soldier models?

KD: LeBron really kept pushing us on that. The first time we presented the shoe to him, he said, “Oh my god, no shoe strings!” He started laughing and was saying, “This is what we’ve got to get to guys.” He just loved the idea. When he was challenging us to do something special for the tenth year, JP did a great job of going back through the archive. A lot of the inspiration for the strap placements came from the 20.5.5. Once we started keying in on that, J started pulling elements from each of the prior nine Soldiers and the 20.5.5 and incorporated them into the 10.

NDP: Through the outsole there’s a series of words within the texture. What are some of the key terms & phrases layered into the tooling?

KD: Around the toe, there’s a pattern in roman numerals that has each prior shoe. If you go to the bottom, there’s always a lot of storytelling from the early years, and there’s phrases that define him too, like “Heart,” “Unstoppable,” and a lot of other things that help to inspire him. Really there was ten years leading up to this, because I’d include the 20.5.5 in this too. There’s a “330” for Akron in there, and a lot of discovery elements.

Soldier 1-9

NDP: Soldier started out as a playoff shoe that LeBron wore in his very first trip to the Finals. What did it mean to the Nike Basketball team for the 10th anniversary version to be worn again on the Finals stage during LeBron’s iconic hometown Finals win?

KD: The shoe really took on a life of its own once LeBron chose to wear it in the Finals and had the performance that he did. Honestly, that was all driven by LeBron. We had a couple different product options for him, and typically this shoe comes out later in the Fall and maybe he’ll wear it during the preseason. We worked really closely with him on this design during the process, so he had been testing it for some time. They were in the course of the Finals, and things weren’t going the way that he wanted them to go. I think from his standpoint, he just wanted something that could change it up. He really liked the Soldier in practice, and really decided right before Game 3 to put ’em on and go.

Nike Zoom Soldier 1, worn in the 2007 NBA Finals

It was a bit of a controversy for us, because the shoe was all blacked out and looked like a weartest shoe, but that was the authenticity of it too. It was just an athlete, in probably one of the biggest moments of his career, who wanted to play in something a little different and needed to jumpstart things.

We met with him this summer, and he told us, “I looked down at my feet, and I just felt different. They look sleek and I felt like I had a bounce in my step when I put them on.” We were lucky we were able to adjust, and a lot of people on this team do an unbelievable job of trying to get everything ready for our athletes. I won’t lie, we had to hustle to get a couple more pairs to him to finish out the series.

It was an awesome moment. I had gotten a text before the game from Ted Kerby, who leads our LeBron Sports Marketing side, to give me a heads up. The performance spoke for itself, and game after game, he and Kyrie did amazing things. To be honest, a lot of people were unsure about a high cut with no laces, and they asked us some pretty tough questions internally. “Are you guys serious with this? Will it work?” LeBron, from the beginning, kept telling us to push, do thing different and change it up. To watch him then follow through by wearing it and performing at such a high level during the course of the Finals, was just amazing.

Being apart of the Nike Basketball family, but also just as a kid who grew up obsessing basketball, watching every Finals and watching what the players were wearing – just like you – to have a part in that now in what will probably go down as one of the greatest NBA Finals series ever, I just felt very blessed to be apart of that. I was at a bar by myself by house, and I think I’m never welcome at that bar again based on how loud I was screaming. [laughs]

LeBron in the Soldier X during Game 3.

NDP: More recently, Ohio State had their own Soldier 10 cleats – will that be a platform we see you guys look to utilize going forward?

KD: The relationship LeBron has with Ohio State is pretty deep. He’s real tight with the athletic department and specifically has a good relationship with Urban Meyer. As that game started to come up on the calendar, everyone at Nike was circling that game and thinking it could be a pretty special game.

With Michigan and Ohio State being the quality of programs that they are, we knew that could be an opportunity for us. Coach Meyer started asking us for the last couple of years, “How can we get access to some of the LeBron product?” With Michigan being a Jordan school, they’ve looked awesome on the field and have had great product. There’s obviously a rivalry there, so I think Coach Meyer was always interested in finding something special for Ohio State too.

LeBron has deep roots in football dating back to high school, and there’s always been this question around, “What could LeBron do on a football field?” We’ve also always had some chatter around here about what LeBron product could look like for the gridiron.

That conversation had been going on for awhile, and then the Nike Cleated team came to us and said, “What do you think about identifying a Basketball product to put on the field for Ohio State?” The Soldier was the one that came to all of our minds, only because we felt that the silhouette and the attributes of the product would work really well in football.

The team started working on building a sample of what that could look like, and it was a cool collaboration between the Cleated and Basketball team. When we approached LeBron with the idea to really do it, he said, “Hey, it’s about time. Lets go!” [laughs] It came to life and the Cleated team did an awesome job of developing it, testing it and getting it right for football. They showed up to Ohio State a couple weeks before the game so players could get used to them, and then they broke them out for a really big moment.

Things just lined up beautifully, and it was an epic game. Michigan looked amazing in all of their cleats and uniforms, and then Ohio State came out in the Soldier cleats. The whole Cavs team being on the sideline to cheer them on made it a pretty epic moment for that shoe.

LeBron felt pretty excited that they were wearing his shoes on the field for the first time, and going forward, that’ll definitely be an opportunity to continue to plan for that. There’s definitely some things to keep an eye out for, and if you asked LeBron where we should focus for his product product showing up in football, Ohio State is definitely near and dear to his heart.

NDP: I also loved that color toe pop you did on those, which we’ve also seen on Eric Bledsoe’s Black and Orange PEs that he’s been wearing. That accenting has worked really well.

KD: Yeah, and that’s been a real cool look for the shoe. Tim Day is our PLM who heads up the LeBron business and works really well with J [Petrie.] That was just those guys, to their credit, being so confident in the model early on. They had gotten some amazing feedback when they showed it to kids early in the process, and then they just wanted to do something that could keep the shoe new and fresh as we got into the second half of the shoe’s life span. They came up with that suede toe color block, and that’s one of my favorites as well. It’s a good learning for us that if we continue to keep things fresh and switch the style up, kids can continue to look for it.


Interview // Inside The Adidas & Parley For The Oceans Partnership

words, interview & images // Nick DePaula:

As adidas looks to continue to affirm itself as a brand for creators, naturally, we’ve seen that take form in many different ways over the last couple of years. There’ve been full capsules with the likes of Kanye West and Rick Owens, to smaller scale launches and initiatives rooted in pushing the speed of manufacturing and process of design. The brand’s latest effort goes beyond just another tandem collaboration, as its partnership with Parley For The Oceans looks to create awareness for a bigger purpose ahead.

adidas-parley-for-the-oceans-2The New York-based Parley organization has since 2013 looked to bring together creatives and environmental leaders in conference settings to discuss new and innovative ways to reduce harmful plastics littering oceans around the globe. In teaming up with adidas, the two have set out to not only create footwear utilizing recycled plastic and other damaging materials, but have also created the first-ever soccer kits made 100% from recycled ocean materials.

“At this point, it’s no longer just about raising awareness. It’s about taking action and implementing strategies that can end the cycle of plastic pollution for good,” says Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley For The Oceans.

While today’s launch of the adidas Uncaged UltraBoost Parley will be limited to just 7,000 pairs, the plan ahead in the next year will be much more robust, with more impact to be felt across the oceans.

“This represents another step on the journey of adidas and Parley For The Oceans,” declares Eric Liedtke, adidas Director of Global Brands. “We will make one million pairs of shoes using Parley Ocean Plastic in 2017 – and our ultimate ambition is to eliminate virgin plastic from our supply chain.”

This first commercial launch marks a strong pursuit of sustainability, as the Uncaged UltraBoost Parley is made up of 95% recycled ocean plastic and 5% recycled polyester. In addition to the million pairs of sneakers created with similarly recycled ocean plastics on deck for next year, adidas also plans to retrieve and repurpose “at least 11 million plastic bottles into elite performance sportswear.”

To hear all about the brand’s new strategy around high-level collaborations and its approach to creating footwear and apparel out of new knitting processes with Parley, Nice Kicks recently caught up with James Carnes, adidas VP of Brand Strategy Creation. The shoes go on sale at 7 AM PST on

The initial adidas x Parley For The Oceans sneaker, limited to just 50 pairs.

Nick DePaula: The Parley partnership represents a bit of a different approach by the brand. How has your role in the company shifted and how has that influenced some of the projects we’re seeing come to life?

James Carnes

James Carnes: I actually was in the design department for twenty years almost, and about 21 months ago, we reorganized and started a new strategy department. The cool thing about it, was prior to that, strategy meant logistics and planning – something that I would’ve had no interest in. [laughs] The new team is a brand strategy team, so we’re focused on creativity and the future of planning five, ten and fifteen years out. That sounded really interesting.

One of the first things that I worked on was our SBP, which is our Strategic Brand Plan. A couple of the key choices that we would make that would really change the brand for the future. We ended up with three things, and one of them was how we would localize ourselves in cities. We found that the growth of cities would really be how we could become more territorial.

The second one was how we would get closer to consumers with production and the idea of speed. How do you talk to people, collaborate with them and get their ideas and turn product around quickly with our SpeedFactory? The third one was how do we do all of that through this idea of Open Source? How do we actually collaborate with people, designers, creatives, athletes and partners.

What was cool, was a lot of the work that we had been doing for years was dabbling in that territory, but didn’t have a home. What came out of that was we had a different strategy for how we could launch that stuff. Paul Gaudio, who is our Creative Director for the brand, worked with the team and created this vision around what it means to be creating the future. How do we take all of these collaborations and co-creation opportunities that we have and how do we define them.

The biggest thing is that we want to be open. Sometimes you see a collaboration and it’s Brand #1 x Brand #2. A lot of it can be really static. Who are we, who are you, and then we put that together. What was cool about this was we approached it by going to people and saying, “This is what we have and what we do, what would you do with it?”

It was a totally different thing, where we would bring the ingredients and a list of things, and then put that in front of people. It’s more about co-creating instead of what collaborations have been.

An early woven filament prototype

NDP: How did the opportunity with Parley For The Oceans come about then?

JC: We get stuff sent to us all of the time. Sometimes that’s a 7 year-old kid who says he wants to design shoes, and how do you tell them no? Or sometimes it’s a supplier that says, “I have a special shoe lace!” We made a shoe last year at the United Nations, because ocean sustainability was one of the items being discussed at the summit. Cyrill Gutsch is the founder of Parley, and he’s a passionate dude that changed his entire life to be preserving the oceans.

While working on that project together, we ended up with 72 kilometers of abandoned poacher’s net that was retrieved by Sea Shepherd, which is a group of about 80 people that spends ten months going around and protecting the ocean. For about 24 days straight, the entire crew went through shifts to pull these 72 kilometers of nets onboard.

05_all_640x640_tcm66-106815These fishing nets are super high grade nylon, to the point that when you’re recycling it, you’re getting something that’s a higher grade than what you get from many injected parts. We made that United Nations sample in less than six days as an experiment, and it’s not built for performance, but we wanted to see if we could be the first to make a shoe out of recycled nylon and other recycled content. The upper is 100% recycled ocean plastic, and then we brought in materials people and other designers to all work on different parts of the shoe at once.

The first time I met with Cyrill, we had these 72 kilometers of nets, and we were also looking at using different knitting machines. We had new machines that could go from knitting fine yarns, to even thicker cables through the upper. We had done all kinds of samples with exaggerated cables too, like electric cables, fiber glass and even carbon fiber, just to see if it could be done. I took all of that and I said to Cyrill, “You know, I think we have a process that can take all of this stuff.” So we actually broke down the nets, broke it down into a spool of filaments and then made a yarn from that.

NDP: The Parley project started out small with only 50 pairs available through a giveaway, but then grew to be more mass. How has that partnership evolved together?

JC: It’s really about the power of what happens when you put all of these people together that have an expertise. I was a designer for years, and you want to feel like you’re somehow the genius that has an inspirational idea, but it’s so much more satisfying when all you are is the head collaborator that can pull all of this stuff together and make something new.

There were a lot of questions around, “Well, why can’t you make more?” And where we started, there was a machine literally downstairs and it was the only machine that could do this. We had it set up to do exactly what we wanted to do, and there wasn’t one in Asia anywhere. We made those uppers here in Germany and then it gets sent to another factory for the final shoe to be assembled.

The plan was to scale it up. There’s two paths for that. We could take the yarn and put it in a more commercial version, [which we’re doing now]. The other path is to develop the technology, and do more with the tailored fibre, filaments and yarns that we could put into the product in a totally different way. We’ve really started to co-create materials and yarns with Parley that can help us to create the product in a unique way going forward that’s different from what we normally do in our factories.



Interview // Nike Honors Iconic ’96 US Women’s Team With New Hyperdunk 2016 Low

words & interview // Nick DePaula:

For girls that grew up playing the sport, the 1996 Women’s Olympic team was every bit as impactful as the Men’s Dream Team was for a generation of boys just four years prior. Headlined by legendary stars like Sheryl Swoopes, Teresa Edwards, Jennifer Azzi and Lisa Leslie, the team played the game at a different gear, and introduced the world to a new era of women’s basketball just as the WNBA was launching its inaugural season.

As the current 2016 Women’s Olympic team of modern stars looks to capture a sixth consecutive Gold Medal this month in Rio De Janeiro, they’ll be doing so in a new red-based colorway of the Hyperdunk 2016 that pays tribute to the women that paved the way before them. Styled by graphic artist Allison “Hueman” Torneros, the shoe takes on red and soft blue hues, drafting off of the ’96 team’s iconic star-laden uniforms with a detailed graphic throughout the tongue and heel.

For Torneros, a hoops fan that has also worked on projects for Nike’s Kobe series, the Hyperdunk brief was exciting from the start. “I was floored!” beams Allison. “Not only would I be designing a shoe, which has been a bucket list item of mine, but it would be an Olympic shoe inspired by our incredible 1996 USA Women’s Basketball team. It’s such a special opportunity that I’m proud to have a part in.”

96 16 2Known for her flowing and bold artwork, Torneros outlines that “freedom, color, and movement are the core tenets” of her work. To hear all about the details and inspiration that helped to influence the new tribute-laden Hyperdunk 2016, Nice Kicks caught up with Cecily O’Rielly, Nike Basketball’s Global Footwear Product Line Manager and the lead on the shoe.

Read ahead for a detailed interview about the shoe’s inspiration, the impact of the ’96 US Women’s team on a generation that’d follow, and how Nike will look to bring energy to the WNBA next summer when they take over to outfit the entire league’s uniforms and apparel.

The commemorative Hyperdunk 2016 Low is out now at and select Nike retailers.

Nick DePaula: When did the idea first come about to look at celebrating the 20th anniversary of the 1996 Women’s Olympic team?

Cecily O’Rielly: In looking ahead at the Rio Games, and knowing that they’ll be going for their sixth Gold Medal and it could be Tamika Catchings’ last Olympics, we wanted to do something special. With it being the 20th anniversary of the 1996 team, and the legendary status of how there’s a direct and clear link between that team and the 2016 team, we really wanted to infuse some inspiration.

Knowing that this is a monumental time as they’re going for their sixth Gold, we felt like there needed to be a footwear story for this time. It wasn’t initially in the plan, and when you look at how the men have a bunch of USA drops, we really wanted to do something for women. This is a really strong story here, to talk about the connection with the ’96 team as well as the 20th anniversary of the WNBA.

Tamika Catchings is such a legend in the sport, and we felt like we needed to do something special with this being her last year. This year’s team really wants to honor and celebrate that ’96 team, and also live up to the expectations that they set before them. That’s really when women’s basketball came to the main stage, and it set the bar for what they’re doing today.

96 USA Team

The 1996 USA Women’s Olympic Basketball team

NDP: In the modern era, the Hyperdunk has really been the statement level team shoe for Nike, and it launched at the Olympics in 2008. How was that model chosen for this project, and what has it meant to the category through the years?

CO: It’s Nike’s signature shoe. We of course have signature athletes with their own shoe, and this is also really the Nike Basketball signature franchise shoe. It stands for innovation and if Nike was to create a signature shoe for the category, it would be the Hyperdunk. It’s a very versatile shoe and very positionless, and we can cover from the point guard on up to a center.

Hyperdunk Artwork

Allison Torneros’ Hyperdunk star artwork

It’s a catch-all shoe, and it stands for innovation and greatness. If we were going to pick one shoe, we were going to take our franchise shoe. Knowing that it’s been worn in the Olympics a ton, it just made perfect sense to have it be our Olympic shoe this year. It’s what Nike Basketball stands for, and when you think of the category, you think of the Hyperdunk.

NDP: What were some of the early starting points of inspiration that the artist Allison Torneros was working with?

CO: Myself and Erick Goto, our Senior Energy Designer and graphic lead at the time, we were looking for an artist that could work for this project, and more specifically, what women’s artist? We thought of Allison initially, because she does have a link with Nike already with doing some Kobe work and also projects for Women’s Training, but we also really liked that she’s a notable female artist in a male dominated street art industry.

We loved the fact that she exemplified power and being a notable woman in a men’s industry. She just brought some grit, similar to how women bring that to the game of basketball. She has that energy and we felt like she was the perfect artist, based on her style and the type of work that she does. She starts by putting a little bit of paint on the canvas, and then she makes an amazing creation from there. She offered that really interesting artist inspiration that we thought would be a cool element of the shoe.

96 16 6

NDP: I actually still have a red Rebecca Lobo USA jersey from that ’96 team, and the stars along the sides and then the wave pattern through the collar were so unique and distinct parts of the design. How did that help to influence the graphic that Allison came up with here?

CO: The stars on the jersey were definitely a huge point of inspiration, and we felt like that was a really dominant factor of the uniform. The stars really resembled sharp, multifaceted cuts of a diamond, signifying that every player has a role in the unit.

We really liked the multifaceted style that she brought into her graphic and that diamond juxtaposition was really unique. Then, she added that freestyle and flowing look to the star, and we loved it.

Swoopes_96 OlympicsNDP: Going back to that ’96 team — you played basketball growing up and later on in college, and that team was so impactful at the time for young girls playing. Who were some of your favorite players as you were looking up to that team?

CO: I loved Jennifer Azzi. She was the point guard and the floor general of the team. She wasn’t necessarily the star, but I just really liked her grit. She was always super in shape and a leader on the court that was setting up all of these amazing players like Sheryl Swoopes and Lisa Leslie.

I just really liked that Azzi was the player that didn’t get the shine, but she was so critical to who they were as a team. Of course, I also loved Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes, but I was just really drawn to Jennifer and her importance to the team.

NDP: I like that pick, and I was always a big Dawn Staley fan too. I’ve always just loved creative point guards that were a little flashy, and I’ve been trying to find a pair of the Zoom S5 in a women’s 14.5 for like fifteen years now. [laughs] Cynthia [Cooper] wasn’t on that team, but her, along with Sheryl, Lisa and Dawn all had their own Nike signature shoe in the 90s. Which one of the women’s signatures do you remember liking the most at the time?

CO: The first Swoopes for sure, with the velcro strap. That one stuck out for me, and I definitely had that shoe. I remember going to watch them at the University of Washington for an exhibition, and it was probably one of my first women’s games I ever went to as a child. I just remember seeing Sheryl in her shoe, and going, “Oh my god, that’s amazing! She’s like the women’s Jordan, she has her own shoe.”

I just thought that was so cool, and I had to go get them. I just remember the effect that that team had, and waiting after the game to get their signatures. It was amazing, and I loved her shoe, because she was like the women’s Jordan. I wore #23 as a kid and always wanted to be like Jordan, but as soon as I went to that game, I wanted to be like Sheryl from then on.

96 16 Tongue 2NDP: What kind of an impact do you think that ’96 team had on this 2016 squad?

96 16 3CO: They all have watched that ’96 team play, and they all have been super inspired by them. They wanted to play, and they also knew that they could go to college and then go beyond college to a professional rank, because of them. They definitely want to honor this team, and that’s why we added the stars to the back of the tongue on this Hyperdunk.

That’ll be the last thing they see before they pop the shoe on and lace up, and it’ll help to inspire the idea that, “We’re doing it for them and want to continue their legendary status.” The girls have a special place in their heart for the 1996 team, and this shoe honors that. They love that tie to honor such an amazing team, and now they’re looking forward to hopefully winning that sixth Gold.

NDP: Nike has had such an imprint on the US team in recent years, and next summer in 2017, the brand will also begin to outfit the entire WNBA. How much will that allow the category to tell more stories and really celebrate moments from the league’s history and so many of the great women’s players that’ve worn Nike through the years?

CO: Nike overall wants to start celebrating women’s stories more, and a point of emphasis within Nike Basketball is really the idea of telling authentic stories “for her.”

We’ll continue to build on the great storytelling around women, and a lot of those stories can also appeal to men too. We really want to highlight and empower women, and with the WNBA partnership, we’ll have a chance to kind of script a little more, from the uniforms to the socks to the shoes.

Below, check out a commemorative video featuring the 1996 Women’s Olympic team, reminiscing on their summer together in Atlanta. The ’96 honoring Hyperdunk Low is out now in stores at Nike retailers.

96 16 1 B96 16 796 16 8


Interview // Designer Leo Chang Details the Nike KD9

words & interview// Nick DePaula
portraits // Jacques Slade aka @Kustoo

Through the years, Kevin Durant has had specific requests for his signature footwear.

KD Flyknit Racer 1There was the stretch of years where he’d randomly decide to alternate between having a strap or no strap. There were the times he’d beg his Nike team for Foamposite on his shoes, first resulting in a glossy copper KD IV for Christmas that was a bit of a compromise, and later on an actual Posite-based collar on the KD7. He’s always been a Zoom Air guy, even pushing for larger volume units and more cushioning and his career evolved.

More recently, Durant was asking for Flyknit, Nike’s more modern fully knitted upper fabric. He first wore it casually when he was strolling around London in the Flyknit Racer in 2012 during the last Summer Olympics, and he’s since grown to love the basic softness and comfort that the material affords.

When he saw it first introduced in hoops atop the Kobe IX, he began pushing for Flyknit to be incorporated into his own signature sneaker.

“That’s when Flyknit first jumped on the scene,” recalls Durant in a detailed interview discussing his new shoe. “I was telling my guys, ‘Man, I would love to have that on my shoe.’ It looked so nice, first of all, but I didn’t know how it played. To see Kobe in it, I was a little jealous.”

So, here we are.

The KD9 features yet another highly sculpted, highly explosive full-length Zoom Air unit, and it also introduces Flyknit to the Durant series, offering up that softness and flexibility, as requested by the athlete himself.

To hear all about the newest KD model to be launched by Nike Basketball, Nice Kicks recently caught up with Leo Chang, the category’s Design Director and the only designer to have penned a Durant signature shoe.

Read ahead for our in-depth interview with designer Leo Chang, detailing Kevin Durant’s 9th edition of his KD signature series with Nike.

1200 Leo INT

above: Ian Stonebrook, Nick DePaula & Leo Chang

Nick DePaula: I always ask you the same question first. [laughs] Coming off of the 8, as you guys were going through the process of getting feedback from KD and other players, what were some of the big picture bullet points that you wanted to improve on and incorporate into the 9?

Leo Chang: One thing is we knew that we definitely wanted to stay with the full-length Zoom bag, but we looked at how we could make it better and more responsive. Then, we wanted to push the engineered textile idea, going from Flyweave to Flyknit. It was going to feel different and look different, and there are things you can do with knit that you can’t do with the weave. Really, it became about pushing those two things.

NDP: With the knit process, what were some of the biggest differences, in terms of how it’s designed and also the stretch?
LC: The feel of it, really. You can get this material to be softer and also more zonal. The possibilities are definitely a lot more targeted. The weave is a little bit more consistent throughout. You can tune it, and get it to have stretch zones and other things, but we wanted to go for more of a lockdown feel here, and I think we got that.

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above: The Kobe IX’s Flyknit pattern

The benefit of knit is it’s a really comfortable material to start with, and it’s softer by hand just because of the nature of it. Starting with that as the base, that was something that Kevin talked about, to have it already feel broken in. That was something he said at the beginning.

He’s really superstitious about what he wears and sometimes wears a shoe until it breaks down, so that really drove that idea. He’s also been bugging me about wanting knit since he wore the Flyknit Racer in 2012 at the London Olympics. He fell in love with that shoe, and said, “I want that for a basketball shoe.”

NDP: I loved playing in the 8 and thought it felt great. What were some of the things that you modified for the 9’s Zoom Air unit here? I see that it’s got more rubber wraps in certain spots and also some radiused edges.
LC: The bag here is thicker than the 8’s. There’s a 16 mm size unit in the heel, and that tapers to 10 mm in the forefoot. You really get that natural taper that most shoes have from front to back. Visually, you see a lot of midsole, but there’s actually not. There’s a whole section of the midsole that’s cored out under your foot, so you’re standing right on top of the bag. The foam is there along the side to help smoothen out the transition of the bag.

If you love Zoom, and you love where the KD6 Elite or LeBron X bag was, but you didn’t like the way it was a little slappier, didn’t bend and was a little clunkier, those are the things that KD himself experienced. On the KD6 Elite, he loved that Zoom sensation, but he just said it felt like he was swimming in mud a little bit, because it was way too stiff and clunky. That’s something I learned a ton from, and I said, “Ok, I love that you hated it. I can make that better for you.” We tried to do that.

Even things like his pressure map and where he plays on his feet, for most players, you’ll see the heel flare up on the pressure map, the forefoot and then the toe. In the midfoot, where he broke his bone and had the metatarsal Jones fracture, he actually has a lot of pressure there. We shifted the silhouette of the outsole so that it accounts for that. A lot of running shoes will sculpt away on the outter side of the midfoot, but if you sculpt away from from there, you’re not giving him enough cushioning or support. We shifted that on the lateral side to help give him more cushioning.

1200 KD HeelNDP: People that played in the shoe really liked it, but the 8 also struggled at retail at that $ 180 price point. How much did the 8’s up and down sales at that price point influence you guys coming down on the price to $ 150 for the 9?
LC: For sure, I think it did. To say it didn’t, would be weird. [laughs] It was just a reality check for us, to make sure we brought innovation to an accessible price point. I think once you get into that $ 180 to $ 200 price zone, it becomes hard for people to want to play in them too. People are afraid to mess them up, and if you can’t get another pair, then it’s tough. We want people to play in the shoe, wear it and love it. We definitely want to be competitive with it.

KD PhotographerNDP: With the 2, 3 and 4, they all had the Wanda Pratt stamp and so many additional personal touches and call outs for his family members and different things in his life. Here, you guys stripped everything away. Why was that the case?LC: You know what, I asked him, “Hey, what do you want on here?” And he said, “I want it clean.” So a lot of that stuff has been removed, but it’s not a reflection of his mom and his brother having a fight or something. [laughs]

They love eachother of course, and get along even better than ever before. They’re all at every game, so there’s no beef in the family or anything. [laughs] It’s just about him growing up, and standing out on his own a little bit more. He doesn’t need to be loud and scream, “I love my mom! I love my brother! I love my dad!”[laughs] He doesn’t really need that anymore, and that’s all known.

NDP: So the only hits are really his signature on the toe, the “Kevin Durant” across the tongue tab and then the “35” and “9” on the tongue tab underside?
LC: Yeah, and there’s some subliminal things too. If you look at the texture on the heel, it’s actually inspired by the texture on a handgrip from a camera, because he’s gotten really into photography.

NDP: That’s right, he’s an official Player’s Tribune staff photographer now. [laughs]
LC: Exactly! So there’s some subtle things like that, that no one probably cares about, that I just put in there because I thought it could be a cool way to texture it.

Mic Drop 9NDP: As you guys got into planning out the themes and colorways, obviously the free agency dynamic was potentially a huge curveball in there. How did you map everything out, and did you have contingency plans ready for different scenarios?
LC: For sure, we were keeping our color palettes a little more open in case there are changes. And honestly, we never know. We don’t have any kind of inside scoop along the way or anything. He hadn’t made up his mind yet either, I don’t think, but we’re always fast to react of course.

9 ForefootFor him, we didn’t want to overrev on the narrative stories this time. It was more about the performance and style, rather than the narrative. I think with the KD6, we went hard on the stories. It’s equally important that from a style standpoint that the silhouette and the colors are big part of it, but we didn’t overrev, and there’s a balance.

NDP: Were there any particular themes or colors he wanted to see? In the past, we’ve seen everything from some watch inspirations to Mumbo sauce and all kinds of things.
LC: It was more about keeping it clean this time around. You’ll see some sport and athletic team type colors, done in a new fresh way. And you’ll see some stuff like the “Mic Drop” that maybe has a little more crossover appeal and can be worn more off-court as well.

NDP: In the playoffs, he was writing phrases like “Have Fun” and “Smile” on the toes. Did you talk to him about that at all?
LC: I think it’s just one of those things where he’s going to find ways to motivate himself. During the game, he’ll pull on his shorts and look down pretty often, so it’s a cool reminder for himself. He used to write “Stay Focused” on his shoes before and other things like that, so it’s been cool to see him evolve and have things that still motivate him.

Ian Stonebrook: In previous years with different KD models, we’ve seen them take shape over the course of the season with different materials. Can we expect to see that here?
LC: The knit took a long time for it to be functional, so you won’t see that change from a yarn perspective too much. You’ll see the color blocking change. We built in different ways to block the shoe through the knit, so you can get some cool 50/50 reads and you’ll see how that look can evolve over time. Then, you saw a really clean all-white knit on the USA one. You’ll see some other stuff that’s really different too, where we call out different zones on the knit more than others. You’ll also see us switch out materials in the collar. It’s a mesh for now that we can change out and evolve.

1200 Final Sketch KD9_Sketch_by_Leo_Chang_original_originalLeo KD 9


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