Dallas Stokes introduces us to Van Grack, personally.
This week I was talking to my boy X and he was totally blown away when I started really telling him the entire process of what it takes for a shoe to go from sketches to shelves. This July I will be launching my Van Grack line with Footaction and it has been a journey that took over three years. From sketches to getting back pullovers to dealing with retailers and trying to sell in products in such a sensitive market can be exhausting. I really wish you could see the whole process the way I do and not after it’s all said, done, and edited in an interview afterwards. Most companies feel that showing shoes too soon can have a negative effect because by the time the shoe hits it’s old news to the consumer. Others feel as if showing a shoe to soon gives others a chance to steal ideas or direction. I really wish I could show you guys…wait a minute…it’s my line…I can do what I want to do!!!
Ok, so with the new VG line hitting in July I have to get ready for the new delivery. Now I’m about a month in the process so lets get you up to speed. At this point I have got the call from our sales force and have been told that our friends at Footaction love the color and material story from the first group. With that in mind I take the feedback and put it into my thoughts for the next round. Normally I don’t sketch but for this entry I will work it out. Although there are multiple shoes I will go with my favorite for next season. It may not even make it but we will see. With this collection I kinda wanted to create a different look. Everything out there with the exception of some adidas stuff is either too technical looking or too casual. There is no merger of the two. I want something that works but also something you would want to rock off court. Since the first collection was all casual, I’m doing a signature collection in the brand with basketball shoes just so I don’t get bored. This collection is all about the style and materials telling a rich story. Today’s basketball shoes are very technical and I just miss the old days when you picked up a shoe and felt leather under your fingertips. When you actually wore a pair of shoes you liked and played in. This will be the philosophy for this segment of my line going forward.
I’ll start with the upper. It’s all about making it look and feel like a fine sports car but also having some of the details of fine Louie or Gucci shoes I like to rock. I just want the lines to be different than most basketball shoes and the details to be rich. I’m a huge fan of adidas SLVR, Y-3 and lines like Android Homme, and Gourmet. There’s enough conventional and boring stuff out there so from time to time I need something interesting in my closet. As I build the Van Grack line out I will have different tiers for when I want to go get a little crazy however this particular project will probably have to get scaled down in order to be a bit more retail friendly. I need a collection that I can take to a Footaction and be different enough to stand out against all the technical stuff that’s on the wall. Since you guys are a few weeks behind I will get you caught up with where we are on the upper. The renderings and Tech packs have been sent in and I have received what we call a pullover. With this pullover I can check pattern construction and heights as well as logo placement. The pattern will come in regular white factory leather so I can draw and make changes to it accordingly. This pattern will also be on a existing bottom because I have only have a wooden model of the bottom from the factory. At this point you are looking at the shoe in its rawest form so I have to really figure what direction I want to go. The collar padding came in pretty thick so I have to adjust that and fold all the edges of the leather. Logo placement is important but being that this is a richer shoe I don’t want to throw plastic logos all over the place so I need to think about the execution. A nice rich emboss could be cool and I like the subtlety.
Next up is the outsole and midsole corrections. You would be surprised how different the drawing and specs you send can come back from what you started. As I look at the blueprint I notice quite a bit has been changed but realize these changes were made to make the shoe easier to handle in production. I have to sacrifice certain things because I’m putting more money into the upper and certain details in the bottom can go away for that. I have received my wooden model and the tread pattern is not exactly what I wanted but realize my boy Uda who is my developer had to change it in order to make it easier during mass production. As designers we sometimes tend to draw wonderful pictures and have great ideas, then when it’s time to make them a reality that’s where the problem solving kicks in. With this outsole I was actually trying to be a bit artistic and me and my developer didn’t have to change things so much as solve some problems. Not every factory you work in has the ability or equipment to pull off the things you see at Nike or adidas. You have to know and have an understanding of not only what your limits are but what are the limits of your factory.
Finally at this stage I have to look at colors and materials. Things look great on my iMac but once you actually are holding them or seeing the materials in front of you, things can change. I’m beginning to notice that some of the materials I have tried in other parts of the brand are really cool and perhaps I should be using them here. Also the great thing about having a great developer is that for the last three years I have worked with him, he has started to understand not only what I like but what is cool. This makes the process so much fun when you have a developer who understands how to work with you and not against you. Everything I design in Van Grack has to be translated and watched over from drawing to confirmation sample. I’m lucky because not only do I have a young developer I have one that can design his own shoes so he doesn’t have to go getting design happy on my stuff. However he may do something as subtle as change materials or the lace color to a bright orange on a grey shoe and it takes the design to a whole other level. With that said, since he’s in China we talk a little bit about direction on Skype and I leave it up to him ’til it’s my turn to tag in.
So at this point we’re about a quarter of the way done with our shoe. This is now where you guys come in and get to have a voice in the direction of the shoe. We will be doing an online review where I will present this concept for you here on CounterKicks and you will critique it before I get on the road to retailers. Usually this is done earlier in the process but I have already begun this shoe so we will take a slight step back. Love it, hate it, let loose!!! Remember, you are a designer or marketing person and this is the flagship shoe of our casual/performance basketball line. I wanna hear it and be able to use this input to help steer the direction of the final product. Who knows perhaps your input could land you a gig getting yelled at by me all day and partying with the Van Grack crew all night!!! Hit me up on FACEBOOK:
Our next step will be getting the first round back, checking out all the input, and from there figuring out if we have a shoe good enough to put in front of a buyer or drop it cold.
Dallas Stokes is a 20-year footwear industry veteran. His current shoe design projects include BALL’N, Protege, Sean John, Rim Rocka, Van Grack, Militia Project, and The Dallas Stokes Collection. Read his interviews here and here.
Read up on the complete “Stokesworld With Dallas Stokes” archive.