Q: What do you think about the skate footwear industry today?
A: The skateboard footwear industry is trying to find itself again after the domination from Nike, Converse and other majors. It has shifted to being this underground baby to being swallowed by giants. The result of that combined with an economic crisis left a lot of skateboard footwear companies dead or hanging by a thread. I think change is unavoidable, everything changes, everything evolves, I don’t think it is necessary a bad thing, designers and business owners have to get creative in face of change and I think that the natural selection that occurs made the ones left stronger and more innovative in order to survive. As far as riders, there is lots of young kids that are really ripping and this is good to see. I like watching Sage Elsesser and Louis Lopez skateboarding.
Q: How does a shoe design contract work?
A: it depends. In my case, companies are coming to me to design entire collections or a few styles. Then I work with them achieving their demand until tech specs are delivered. Sometime a client would send me to his factory as well to work with their team and provide support at the factory. Sometime, people are contracting me just for one shoe. My fees are based on my hourly fee and I provide different formulas for different scenarios depending of what the client wants. In general, the ideal contract is a retainer contract when you negotiate a yearly fee that is paid out to you every month, a great way to become part of this company and work more efficiently towards the release of a collection, but those have been hard to come by. I also get work through some design agencies but it is very competitive. It has been tough these past years because of the economy and the fact that there was less footwear design jobs and more Footwear designers looking for some, mostly footwear designers that have been laid off during the big purge of 2010 - 2011….most of the jobs I had the past years are referrals which is good, but unfortunately, in my case not enough, I lost my house to foreclosure in 2013….
Q: Do you get a percentage of units sold?
A: Nope, and that is a dream scenario. Unless you have some kind of stakes in the company, this will not happen to an independent contractor, unless someone tell me over wise but then that would mean that I am really not a businessman….
Q: Do you have any stats on some classics? k3s (production numbers)
I heard there might have been 10 to 15 k pairs sold when it came out but don’t take my word for it.
Q: A member would like to know if you have any idea on how many k3s were actually produced.
A: see reply to previous question.
Q: Who was your favorite rider to work with? Any great stories similar to the Tom Penny Columbia boot?
A: I really liked to work with E.Koston, he always had a clear vision, a professionalism, he was great to work with. When we were ready to design his Koston 2, Eric came up with a few drawings and we made one first sample that in my opinion was terrific. We had it made but it didn’t make the cut, we went for the the K2 that you all know, Here is a picture of the K2 number A. You can see there what influenced the design of the K3…
Here is the Koston 2 design by Eric on top and what it became after our team work….
Andrew Reynolds was always very demanding and knew what he wanted in a shoe, I think I have the original sketch by Andrew Reynolds for his pro model on Emerica, here it is….
Q: Has being a father changed your outlook?
A:I was already a father when I joined Sole Tech in 1997, Theo was born in 1994 in France and when I took the job at Sole, my wife and young son moved with me from France. I probably was the only guy with a kid at Sole the early years. Sometime I felt that yes, my priorities where a bit different from the rest of the company’s crew at the time. My week-ends were sacred as my wife and kid were trying to adapt to a new country and language. I had to be there for them. The first two years, I worked really hard to make dead lines, design collections for all the brands at Sole and I worked very late most of the time, so I wasn’t really going out much like the rest of the crew….Being a father changes everything. You just have to know what are your priorities and juggle between work, your passions or hobbies and family life and it is all good. The good thing is that I took Theo my son at every event that Sole tech was putting up, like games of skate, trade shows, skate contests and demos, so Theo developed to be a naturally gifted skateboarder, snowboarder and surfer. He grew up in it fully like all his friends. Theo is now a talented young designer that is trying to get his brand: “MODERN CANVAS” off the ground with the same friends he has since middle school. As for me, I don’t skateboard much as, when I get hurt, It takes so long to heal. I need my hands to work and my body to function so I can feed my fam, If I get hurt, I am fucked, so I surf, snowboard, sail, stand-up paddle, mountain bike and that is good. I take my younger son Matisse to the skatepark though and I cruise around, skateboarding is still in my blood anyway, and always will.
Q: I remember being so inspired by your designs, I would constantly be sketching your shoes and modifying them slightly. How did you start designing footwear?
A: I started designing footwear after I met Pierre-Andre Senizergues in Costa Mesa while I was in vacation in California. We knew each other a little from reputation back in France. I used to be the Art Director for Etnies when it was a French company, he was the US distributor for them. While I was in California, i called him out of the blue and we had lunch on a Friday. I asked him if he had any need for an Art Director at Sole, he replied to me that he needed a shoe designer. - “can you design shoes” he asked, I replied: -“ I never did but I can try!” So I went back to my hotel and bought a sketch pad on my way. I locked myself in over the week-end and filled up a sketch pad of footwear designs and ideas. I went back to Sole the following Monday.
Pierre introduced me to Alex Wise and both of them looked at my sketches, then they looked at me and asked when I could start. The rest is history, I drove 15 hours straight back to Santa Fe, NM where I left a bunch of things during my trip at a friends house. Legend has it that during the 15 hours ride, i never put any music on,…My mind was running full speed as I was envisioning a new life for me and my fam on a new continent. I arrived in Santa Fe exhausted, sold the car I bought, gather my things, got a plane ticket to John Wayne Airport for the following day. I started immediately to work on the Chad Muska pro shoe. This was the first shoe I designed ever. Many more would follow. At this early time, the ideas were there, but my sketch were completely out of proportion and I had to learn all the lingo. So Alex Wise and Yogi Proctor were very influential to get me up to speed. Thanks to you bros! Also Pierre was very, very helpful for everything I needed for that new start and he has been an angel over the shoulders of my family, I thank him as well!
I still have that sketch pad with the original designs that got me hired…
Q: Do you have any storage and care tips for any of these older shoes? Synthetic nubuck seems to dry out and crack as well as the EVA foam. I have had some luck with baby oil.
A:I am not a sneaker freak, I love to create, I never took special care of my sneakers. I wear them and I throw them away when they are done but I appreciate when people are digging those babies out and try to rejuvenate them, it is a skill.
Q: If they could reissue one of your designs, what would it be?
A: I don’t think they should and if they would, it would be the Vireo or the tribo as they are the only shoes I design of that time that Eric Koston skated with besides his pro models. I also think the Vireo is my best design, completely asymmetrical, low outsole, super comfy, It was always my favorite and the one that represent best the years 1999 - 2000 tech skate shoe revolution and innovation movement that ES launch….
Q: Have you ever thought about creating a slimmed down version of the Scheme or trying to redeem that Eclipse?
A: If I had to design a shoe for ES now, I would do exactly what I did back in the days: I would not bring back something from the past or copy something else. Designing a slim-down version of the scheme would be an interesting challenge but I believe Es footwear did it poorly in 2008 with the Sirio….I am not going to play that losing game, I would design something new from scratch with new ideas, aesthetic, and new tech, with the team riders.
Q: Were you ever friends with any other skate footwear designers?
A: Not much outside Sole Technology. Although I know now some of the players that designed shoes for other companies back in the day. I met them later….I still would like to meet Alphonso Rawls, he did really good work for all the companies he designed for.
Q: What were some of your favorite skate shoes you did not design?
A: ES accel, ES koston 1, ES Sal 23, ES Stylus designed by Alex Wise in white /snake…I always liked the shoe that Alphonso Rawls designed for fallen, the one with the rising sun…. Simple but efficient…My taste in shoes evolved to be this mix of old school and new school athletic and lifestyle. I like to cross pollinate influences and genre. This is what I always did and still do for my clients, I try to take them where they didn’t thought about going, it’s like I show them what they want and then I show them where it could go and I see their eyes opening wider,….that’s what I like to do.