Huntington Beach, California. Home to sand, surf, and sun. But it’s not all entirely play here. Surf City USA as the Orange County situated locale is affectionately known is also home base for action sports company DC Shoes.
We talked to DC’s design director Bryon Schroeder (pictured above in the button down shirt and black DC Shoes cap next to senior designer Dylan Petrenka) on the brand’s new Unilite Trainer platform — a footwear line that we’re told is the first action sports inspired and tuned training shoe…
CounterKicks: Tell us your background in design and what you do at DC.
Bryon Schroeder: I’m the Director of Design for DC Footwear.
My relationship with footwear started in Cincinnati, Ohio, and like a lot of other kids in the 90’s I grew up skateboarding. After a lot of deliberation and one failed attempt at choosing a career path, I enrolled at the University of Cincinnati in the DAAP program for Industrial Design because I thought furniture design was my future. I also worked retail at a local shop where I remember the impact DC had on skate. It was one of the first brands to incorporate a performance athletic brand approach into skate footwear. Through the UC-DAAP co-op program, I had a couple of amazing experiences working in the footwear industry. In the first month of my first co-op, I knew that footwear design was where I wanted to focus all of my energy. The thing I love about footwear is that it is so integrated to the function of the body, technical from an engineering perspective and fast paced like fashion. Since graduating, I have spent my career working for a diverse number of brands that all have unique identities and perspectives in the footwear market.
Since coming to DC in 2010, I have had the great privilege to work with an amazing design team that bleeds skateboarding, action sports and footwear creation. Really, I can’t express how important that is to me. Without them, none of this would be possible. The collaborative effort that goes into every shoe we design and build is a huge strength that not many brands have the benefit of. My personal product creation philosophy is to bring as many people into the conversation as possible because I believe that diversity allows us to look at challenges from many more different perspectives. And, this is how we are growing the DC footwear brand.
CK: The DC Unilite Trainer is said to be the first training shoe created from the insights of the action sports athlete. Where did this concept originate and what kind of research was done in the process?
Schroeder: Part of the DNA of the DC brand is progression and innovation, whether that be in the sports that we love or the products that we make. The Unilite Trainer came about from the DC product creation team discussing opportunities of how to better serve our athletes. A lot of people don’t know this, but athletes like Ken Block, Travis Pastrana and Lauri Heiskari need to train due to the impact placed on their bodies by their individual sports. Most of these athletes work with professional trainers and have routines that focus on key muscle groups. In the process of designing and developing the concept, we analyzed the competitive set in the market, spoke with our athletes about their individual needs and drove it through the lens of DC. In addition, we used the launch of the trainer to create a better product testing process that other models will benefit from.
CK: Breakdown what exactly is DC’s new “Unilite” technology?
Schroeder: DC’s Unilite technology is a proprietary foam compound that allows us to build shoes with less rubber and better cushioning than standard EVA.
CK: Tell us about the design and materials employed on the Unilite Trainer.
Schroeder: Dylan Petrenka, our Senior Designer was empowered to lead the team through the process of creating the Unilite Trainer, and that was one of the critical factors that made this shoe what it is. Since the approach on this project was more function driven than aesthetic driven, we let the needs drive the materials and construction. We needed the upper to provide support in all the right places but still be breathable and lightweight. With the modern advances in footwear construction across the industry, it made sense to use the no-sew process to simplify the production and reduce the amount of stitching near the foot. Knowing that we wanted a thin yet supportive external upper, we needed a supportive and comfortable internal structure to provide additional support. The best way to do that was with an internal bootie construction. Another part of DC’s DNA is to try new things and be bold, we used that as motivation to create the faceted midsole. The way that the midsole is designed, the facets enable the midsole to flex and be supportive in the necessary places.
CK: What kind of feedback from DC’s athletes and others have you received on the new training line?
Schroeder: The feedback we have received is mostly positive. Our athletes are training in them and we hope to use that to make even better shoes in the future.
CK: What can people expect from Unilite and DC Shoes’ Training category going forward?
Schroeder: The training category is a part of the future for DC. We will continue to support and invest in all of the categories we participate in, especially skate. In the end, its all about serving the needs of our athletes to help them be the best they can be.
One of the best things about this process has been working with the DC design, merchandising and development teams. Everyone was engaged in the process and our Senior Designer Dylan Petrenka, who also designs most of our core skate range, really did an amazing job on a project that was so unique for the brand. Another benefit from this experience has been the influence it had had on other products in the DC line. But that is for a future conversation.
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