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When Dwyane Wade inked a “lifetime” endorsement deal with Li-Ning this year, it was certainly a substantial change. While many would look to familiar comforts, especially in the endorsement arena, Wade has always been cut from a different cloth.
As one of the NBA’s most stylish dressers, Wade is also looking to do something different within his own newly created WADE brand under Li-Ning. He tapped footwear and accessory designer Alejandro Ingelmo to be Creative Consultant on Special Projects for the WADE brand as his first outside hire.
Alejandro, or “AI” as he likes to be called, tells us in this interview how the Miami bred, Cuban heritage influenced, and current Manhattan based designer is looking to exert his role in Wade’s new venture. No stranger to awards, AI was a CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund Top Ten recipient in 2008 and was nominated for the Swarovski Award for Accessory Design in both 2009 and 2011. With the tools of traditional crafting and a modern look, AI is set to debut the first lifestyle basketball shoe for the WADE brand next year during New York Fashion Week with retail product expected to come in spring 2013…
CounterKicks: Give us an overview of your fashion and style work.
Alejandro Ingelmo: I’m the fourth generation of shoemakers in my family so there’s a lot of history. I’m based out of New York, so there’s a very downtown and modern but also traditional way and aesthetic that I have in designing and crafting the shoes.
CK: How did you connect with Dwyane Wade originally? How far does this relationship go back?
Ingelmo: The relationship basically started because he was a consumer of mine. I didn’t make his size so the stylist requested and made a special order, and so that’s where it started. He had approached me to see if I would be Creative Director for this project. I felt like it was a great opportunity, it was something that really hasn’t been done. I’ve known about him for about two years.
CK: This first Way of Wade signature shoe for on court, did you have any input in the design?
Ingelmo: There was a little bit. They asked me a little about it, but it was definitely more of a shoe that was for court, so it had more of a technical aspect to it.
CK: Was there anything on that shoe where they asked for a fashion or style input on it that they added because of your suggestion?
Ingelmo: In meeting [Wade], I felt like he’s very involved in what he does in anything he puts his hand on and in the design of the shoe. One of the things if you notice if you look at the top of the shoe it spells out a “W” in the lacing system and that was something where I felt like, ‘Ok, how can you know this shoe is Wade’s shoe without having to put his name on it or where it’s integrated into the design of the shoe?’ What I do in my brand is I don’t put logos anywhere. I believe that you should experience something not by seeing a logo on it. It’s more about the design and the beauty of the material and that’s kind of how you experience what the brand is, you know?
CK: That’s a great thought. You see most sports sneakers and you’ve got huge logos on it which often takes away from the design.
Ingelmo: That was my first reaction to really studying the design process when I was looking to see what was out there. I felt like, ‘Whoa man, this has gotten out of hand, let me take it back, what is this really about?’ I think when you think that way and you build something and think about all the elements and ask how true they are. If it’s leather, it’s like one good leather and let that material or that design speak for itself. That was kind of the whole thought process behind this.
CK: What exactly are you tasked with in your role as Creative Consultant for the new WADE brand under Li-Ning? Are you contributing to both footwear and apparel?
Ingelmo: We’re going to start off with the shoes and see how that goes. It’s a special project, so we’re just going to see where it goes from there.
CK: What’s your favorite or most representative footwear style that you’ve done in your career so far?
Ingelmo: Wow, that’s a hard question man. That’s like asking a parent which is their favorite kid. I would definitely say the Tron has become something that people have come to know me for. I guess I have the most love for that one because it really came from something personal. Growing up I was a Tron freak. I loved the video game and everything. And this was before even the remake of the movie. In terms of my design aesthetic I think of things with balance, and geometry plays an important part in what I do. So yeah, I think it’s the Tron sneaker.
CK: The first shoe that you fully designed for the WADE brand is coming Spring 2013. You’re going to debut that Fashion Week in February?
Ingelmo: Yeah, we’re going to debut during New York Fashion Week — if we can get the shoes, I’m hoping. We’re still in the process of it, but the launch date is for New York Fashion Week.
CK: What exactly can we expect from this shoe?
Ingelmo: It’s definitely geared more towards lifestyle. You can definitely play on court in the shoe if you wanted to. But the idea was you could take it off court and go even further than just wearing jeans with these sneakers. A lot of shoes out there you can get away with wearing them with jeans or shorts, but then it’s like you can’t go further than that. I felt like I wanted to dress it up a little bit more. If you look at Wade’s style and sensibility, that’s one of the important things to me. This is the way he dresses and he should be able to wear this shoe in any type of occasion.
CK: Is Wade expected to wear this shoe on court at any point?
Ingelmo: That I don’t know. I definitely want to make sure he can wear it with a suit.
CK: How long has this shoe been in development for? When did you start designing it?
Ingelmo: For a couple months now. We’re still working on it right now, we’re still in the process of doing it.
CK: What’s your relationship with Li-Ning’s basketball footwear Design Director Eric Miller, who designed the signature Way of Wade shoe?
Ingelmo: It’s been great. I’ve learned some technical aspects of athletic shoes which I didn’t know about before. So it’s been great.
CK: Is there a name for the sneaker that’s coming out in February?
Ingelmo: I don’t think we have a name for it yet — it’s a surprise. [Laughs]
CK: We’ve heard your coming lifestyle shoe leverages the Way of Wade shoe. So your design is based off of that design?
Ingelmo: Yeah, there’s some design aesthetic that comes from there, in terms of keeping the same construction. We’re using different materials. I don’t want to say too much. [Laughs]
CK: How many times have you met up with Wade in person so far?
Ingelmo: Twice. And I’m going to see him down in Miami soon and spend some time.
CK: Is there anything in particular that you really want to push for the WADE brand with your influence or maybe something you really want to try on a shoe that hasn’t been done?
Ingelmo: Yeah. The idea is just about the beauty of things, of design, the simplicity of things. I feel like it’s going to be interesting because on basketball shoes there’s so many things on them now. Does that make sense? It’s like over-designed. So it’s going to be interesting just taking it back and rethinking things. I’m looking forward to doing this because I’ve never designed a basketball shoe before so I think this collaboration is going to be cool, what Wade can bring, what I can bring. I just felt like this is a great opportunity. It’s like, let’s work together, let’s do this and let’s create something amazing and then figure out all the rest of this stuff. The most important thing for me is to just make something really cool that people are going to like and understand. Whenever I put my name behind something I really work hard to make sure it’s good.
CK: Any final thoughts you’d like to get out to our readers?
Ingelmo: I’m looking forward to creating something amazing and that’s really well made. That’s the most important thing to me. To make sure it’s well crafted.