David Mawdsley
The Footwear Composer.

All posts by David Mawdsley

Father & Son Delta – No.One x DMTFC

A bespoke service like no other. No.One Cares…about Family.

When No.One approached me to cast my hand towards a bespoke Delta model, I instantly knew I had to get my Dad in on this awesome opportunity.

My Father is an engineer by trade. In jest, a self proclaimed “genius” at that, but with a level of humility and through evidence, one of the worlds best engineers in a past life (co-signed by the Queen might I add). From building planes, tools, homes in the UK and laying down foundations in Tanzania via roads and a major port for trading. He even rigged up a small device to help me learn how to tie shoe laces, but has never created an actual shoe (except more recently when he helped me bring a conceptual piece to life for Takashi Murakami).

   

I put a lot of my abilities and working methods in design down to my Dad. Having worked with him as a part time tradesman throughout my life, I’ve had a level of excellence & precision hammered into me. “Do it right the first time, so you don’t have to do it again”. I’m grateful for that kind of insight from a young age, I think it certainly instilled a strong work ethic in my younger brother and I.

 
 

There’s a few reasons I wanted to get my Father involved, bar him obviously being an engineering genius. He has an eye for the intriguing, with sometimes questionable taste (runs in the family) and that’s noted in his love of craft. Baring all that in mind, most of my life I’ve known he loves a good cupsole sneaker, especially something that reflects an 80s/90s style Cross-trainer, so why not get his mitts on the highest quality out there. Most importantly, he’s not been in the best of health for a year now and I selfishly wanted him to know the feeling of “designing” a shoe and seeing his vision become reality. 

The process was quick and simple. I presented him with a range of colours and materials available. I gave him free reign to do whatever he wanted, to go crazy within certain bounds. In shock, I expected him to go nuts, but the reality is he had no hesitation and knew what he wanted straight off the bat. Black Full-grain Veg Tan leather quarters, facings, tongues and mudguards with a vivid contrasting of Pistachio Mohawk Roughed suede for the underlying vamp and toe box. To finish it off with white leather tongue binding and natural leather lining.

   

I speak on behalf of us both, but the final product was way more impressive than we ever anticipated. No.One certainly know how to make a pair of sneakers. From the day we sent the specification off to Mark and the team, we had been itching to see them in the flesh.

The No.One team really delivered! We were speechless. The experience of opening the sealed packaging, seeing the custom labels with our names in the signature No.One font type was dazzling. I haven’t handled a package so preciously in years. Opening the magnetic lid to gain a hit of fresh glue, we removed the tissue paper to unveil a pristine pair of shoes. The finished product was beautiful. The level of craftsman and detailing is spectacular. I hadn’t seen that kind of childish grin on my Dad’s face for a while, he was like a kid on Christmas morning. His appreciation for the craft is undeniable and that’s evident in how he looks after the pair today. After any interaction with them, they go back into the box placed just as they arrived.

   

The first time we wore the shoes it was at the outdoor Tennis courts during our shoot. Originally our friend and photographer, Chris Ramsden wanted shoot them at a Royal Tennis Court in Manchester. He wanted to place them in a court that embodied the level of highness that the No.One oozes .

 
 

Alas, due to us being lowly peasants, we were denied access. However, Chris had a replacement nearby at Wythenshawe Park. It wasn’t as regal or pristine, but that wasn’t the point. In creating these shoes, my Father and I shared precious moments together and were able to reap the joy of wearing something we created jointly. It’s funny how something as simple as shoe can bring so much pleasure.

On behalf of my Father and I…Thank you to the whole No.One team for bringing us together and giving us the opportunity to share an experience that won’t ever be forgotten. 

Photography by Chris Ramsden @ceeramsden

Nubikk x DMTFC by David Mawdsley, The Footwear Composer

 

The process of a collaborative first . Nubikk x DMTFC. David Mawdsley, the Footwear Composer.

 

 

In late 2017, footwear purist Daan Baetan & owner of Dutch brand Nubikk, approached me with a vision of collaborating together in pushing his brand to new limits through product. Giving me free reign to create something that represented my design aesthetic & the brands vision of bringing contemporary luxury shoes to the masses. The goal was to create a set of products which we both felt embodied a nod to footwear heritage, sportswear, craft, innovation & conceptual thinking with a touch of class. 

The personal goal was to create 2 shoes that were manifestations of my visual tastes. That were an ode to the path i’ve walked since the start of my teenage years and a salute to the world that was formative to my early life.

The styles are the, “TANZA” bootie & “DAR” low. Both styles arriving in 2 colour ways. One in All black and the other, white with a touch of tan.

 

TANZA

“TANZA” is titled after the country I was raised in until 8 years of age, Tanzania. The black trainer bootie and outer is constructed from Italian materials & utility inspired components for pure quality, comfort and user-friendly wearability. Utilising crafted edge treatments upon a contemporary format to merge the world or heritage and sportswear. A pure hybrid.

 

 

The shoe unashamedly gains inspiration from 2 specific shoes that have been a major influence on me. This was justified as I wanted to provide the end consumer with a form of familiarity, to ensure that there would be no fear to indulge into something alternative & considerably unfamiliar.

 

DAR

“DAR” is named after the city I was raised in during my time in Tanzania. Dar Es Salaam.

 

   

 

A low top trainer that merges formal aesthetics with organic sneaker informalities. An asymmetric design, utilising making techniques that are familiar but never seen before. The toe is inspired by moccasin constructions, as an apron overlaid separate to the vamp. With displaced patterns to complement the asymmetric lacing system. A freestyle designed piece with the intent to create visual obscurity within a formal setting. Indirectly inspired by the first shoes I ever drew as a kid.

 

The Sole

The ‘in house designed’ EVA sole compliments the uppers beautifully, with comfort, stability, and visually impactful proportions. This distinctive EVA sole is very lightweight and consists out of three ‘blown up’ parts which allow an even weight distribution for ultimate comfort. Combining the sporty sole with high-quality materials and Nubikk elements make the trainers perfect for most of life’s occasions.

 

 

One of the main reasons this collaboration had taken so long to develop is due to the sole. To be frank, as you can probably tell, the final sole used holds similarities to certain proportions already on the market. The original design took hours of development for a unique pre-fabricated sole, made from layered EVA board & veg tan leather. Due to many factors such as being extremely heavy, hard (causing a lack of comfort) & not cost effective, the sole originally developed was unattainable for mass production. A fantastic innovation, but never the less the final product is just as visually impactful and compliments the upper designs spectacularly .

 

Inspiration

Phase 1 of design for me starts with inspiration. It can come from other footwear, products or random imagery that evoke the emotion you want the final designs to convey. This time around showcasing the “taste” I wanted to emulate before putting pencil to paper. Giving insight to the environments I wanted the shoes to exist in, also gaining an understanding of colour & texture.

 

       

Sketch Ideation

Phase 2 is always to sketch. Beautiful, well thought out ideas are great and sometimes a luxury, because you can move on an idea straight away. However for this project ideas were loose. Literally starting from the ground up, focusing on the sole, which will later inform upper ideation.

 

       

Sole Design

Phase 3. Building on sketches, I typically use Adobe Illustrator to hatch out the line work. Utilising the initial last shape as a guide. Experimenting with panel placements, tread profiles and midsole thickness’. Churning out a plethora of ideas, more than shown below. As the process moves on, I figure out what works best visually and all whilst consulting with Daan at Nubikk to see where his preferences lay.

 

   

 

What you see below is the final 3D render of the “in house” Nubikk sole which was used on the final product. Developed by Forever PT.

 

   

 

Upper Design

Usually in Phase 3 I design the upper as well as the sole, however this time round I opted to sketch upper concepts onto thumbnails of the last & sole. The sole tends to act as a guide to inform the placement of upper panels. Moving onto more line-work in Illustrator, where I constantly tweak proportions. Finally creating multiple view CAD’s for development & presentation purposes.

 

   

 

Sampling

Finally, it goes to sampling. What you see below are the 1st uppers on the 1st sole samples. Further down are the 3rd phase of development, but not the final ones. You may see subtle differences in these images vs the final product as they were wear test samples, used to fine tune the shoes before hitting the manufacturing phase.

1st Samples.

 

   

2nd Samples.

   

 

3rd Samples.

 

     

The TANZA and DAR are available at https://www.nubikk.com/en-gb/nubikk-x-dmtfc

Photography by @ceeramsden + @thefootwearcomposer

Every Little Helps – Designing Consciously

“Sustainabilty starts with how you design your shoes.” – @footwearists

What you see pictured is an automated cutting machine. Typically patterns are loaded onto an application that coincides with the machinery to decipher the best way to place said patterns for maximum material yield and minimum waste (this could also have human interference if necessary).

As designers, we get kicks from creating new product without boundaries, sometimes with disregard to production processes.

In an ever growing conscious world, it’s imperative that we consider the marriage of design and production more frequently, utilising our skills / imagination to pursue a zero waste, maximum yield world.

Ultimately, footwear designed whilst considering cutting efficiency would create design limitations and in-turn force new aesthetics that are irregular versus today’s consumer norms. 

As we move forward, I personally feel that all designers have a responsibility to think in a more efficient manner. It’s fun to design wacky, out of this world conceptual products and it shouldn’t stop. However, if you want to produce in mass, the sustainable option should ALWAYS be at the top of the list.

#everylittlehelps👟

Side note…

Recently Nike produced a public document on Circularity – “Guiding the Future of Design”. If you aren’t fully familiar with the world of sustainability and want to quickly learn a little more, I suggest you take a quick look at this link https://www.nikecirculardesign.com

If you want to look deeper into this world, I recommend digging into past ConceptKicks posts. I would also take some time to visit https://ma-tt-er.org/news/ for some deeply interesting material insights.

SAMPLE UNBOXING – The Experience Consumers Don’t Get.

 

Receiving Samples

by David Mawdsley

 

One thing that excites every designer at one stage or another is receiving samples. This is something which is comparable to a sneaker head opening a box of shoes for the first time, but on the most testosterone filled steroids known to man!
Recently I received a box of samples that felt like a defining moment in my career, so it felt necessary to explore this subject & gain others perspective of it.

For me, there have been different circumstances regarding this subject that I trust most other footwear designers & designers of any product can relate to.
It’s one thing to be the first person to get a fresh pair of shoes that were released on mass, or gain “1 of 20” pairs, but it’s a whole entirely different scenario to receive a box filled with samples from a factory , of something that you poured a percentage of your soul into. It can be one of the most exhilarating feelings you’ll ever get, or equally the most painful.

From my perspective there are levels & unwritten rules to this. However there certainly levels & rules I have yet to have, or never will experience. Here’s a few of my experiences & guidelines to set the tone…

 

 
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Sample Receiving Defining Moment No.1

 

One of the most exciting times for me, which arguably set the standards for receiving samples was at my first job & simultaneously the first time I ever received a “commercial” sample(s).
What I mean by commercial, is that it was a design I was forced to put together for a private label company, for a brand we were contracted to at the time. It wasn’t something I conceptualised using my “creative genius”. It was something for the masses, but never the less, I was like a 6 year old on Christmas Eve.
The box was handed to me by my Senior at the time. I remember he had a smirk on his face, like a proud father or as if to say, “Here you go little buddy, you earned this” kinda attitude.

I was surprised, in shock even. I had been waiting for this moment for weeks. Everyday asking my boss “when are the samples due?”, “are the samples on their way?”, “has the factory sent the samples?”, “do you have the tracking number for the samples?”.
I didn’t charge into the box though when I got it. I savoured the moment. I knew this was the only time I would every get to open my first samples.
I opened the box and there they were…beautiful. So fresh you could smell the glue from the factory. Not glue like in a Nike box that came off the line months before, glue like they had literally JUST left the factory 1 day before.

 
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I don’t know if I was high off the glue, but I looked at them in my hands like I was holding a large gem for the first time. A moment of silence, of self achievement, both filled with pride & humbled at the same time. It was seriously emotional & understandably so. I had drawn shoes from the age of 11/12, studied Footwear Design at University for 3 years & finally, at my first job at the age of 20. I had seen my first ever sample of a shoe designed with my own hands. For a whole week, I had those shoes lined up on my desk. Whenever someone touched them I would be possessive, I wouldn’t say anything, but my muscles would tense up & eyes would intensify.

Now don’t get me wrong, they were beautiful, but only to me. I learned from there on out that they weren’t perfect. My boss dropped the bomb…”they had ways to go before they were acceptable for production”. But that’s were more education came…sample corrections commenced. Drawing on the samples with silver pen to correct panelling, extending tongues, shortening vamps etc etc. Back in a box they went, off to India to be remade correctly for the customer & another 2 weeks until I got to open ANOTHER box of samples.

 

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As time has gone by i’ve seen many samples. There have been painful moments, where it’s taken rounds, upon rounds, upon rounds of sampling & corrections to gain a range for trade shows that in the end just looked shit!
Times where pantones and materials are incorrect, where soles have been attached to the wrong uppers, or even the sole has been too small for the last. There is no end to the potential for things to go wrong with a sample. But in the mistakes, sometimes there are the moments where the faults actually end up better than the requested specifications.

 

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So to finnish it off, here are some of my personal “Rules of Receiving Samples or Sampling”.

 

  1. Do not open someone else’s samples. If they are not by you, or not for you, you have ZERO right to open, assess or even handle the samples first. It’s disrespectful to the designer who made it.
  2. Always make sure that a junior designer, or intern sees their first sample before you do, let them savour that experience. It means so much.
  3. Expect the unexpected. The first sample 9 times out of 10 will never be perfect. The second or even third might not be perfect either.
  4. Be diligent with your specification sheets. Leave no stone unturned & make sure every single minuet bit of detail is highlighted. Make sure there is no excuse for samples to be wrong. That way you might more often than not get that 1 sample out of 10 that is perfect the first time.
  5. Always savour the unboxing. Through out your career you will unbox 100’s of samples & make 1000’s of corrections. So that it doesn’t get stale, try to enjoy every single one even if it does turn out like a potato

 
potato lace

 

From here on out I’ll be asking a few other designers & developers to share their experiences, along with whatever rules they feel are necessary to be conscious of. Keep an eye out for what I hope to be more personal experiences from some very interesting people.
 

“SPACES OF INSPIRATION” – c/o VIRGIL ABLOH

It’s been nearly 2 weeks since Virgil…Abloh (need his surname be mentioned?) graced London with his presence, along with a hand picked posse of celebrity creatives to promote his latest collaborative project with Nike in the form of, “Off-Campus”.

As someone who has strong feelings towards the teachings of creative output within footwear, of whom is actively working with others in creating a platform for those who are less exposed to this industry or craft, I have a serious gratitude towards Virgil for using his influence to “give back” to the community.

As one of many footwear creatives who applied to various workshop options offered by Nike, “Off-Campus” seemed to be an illusive opportunity. After reflection, the slight frustration I held after finding out that I could not get into the workshops, subsided. My own selfishness of wanting to create within an exclusive space was washed away by learning that others who did not have the same experiences I have had, now had the opportunity to gain their own. If anything, the window of exposure to the event provided by others has only added kindling to an already blazing fire to create.

Having read a lot of articles about the workshop & talking to people who took part, I feel it is not my full responsibility to discuss what happened & how it has effected, or will affect the climate for Footwear Designers, Makers & DIY-ers going forward. For first hand reference you can head to SSENSE for an article by Adam Wray about the occasions intentions & outcome.

However, myself & Mr.Bailey were given then opportunity by the good people at NikeLab 1948 to physically see the fantastic product & a complimentary curated retail space. Although the space was limited in size, creating a celebration of a product within a confined area was achieved by the talented folks of Rosie Lee. A space where each product within, “The Ten” could tell it’s own story, whilst being supported by the other product spaces.

The first room was informative and impactful, providing the experiencer the opportunity to learn about the process & story in which “OFF-WHITE” / VA wished to convey. A frame-work of scaffolding & layered elements such as glass and concrete that represented the rawness of the products within the space such as the Presto, Air Jordan 1, Blazer High, Vapormax & Airmax 90. The second room however was, to me, the icing on the cake. The entrance came from the first room partitioned by a vail of rubberised curtains. As you entered the space the atmosphere went from in your face, to calming & seemingly philosophical. With your eyes pulled to the quotation, “GHOSTING” taped to a black rubber floor in-front of you, to then averting upwards seeing a red flashing board with Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon record time of 2:00:25 presenting the Vaporfly model. Veering your vision to the left you could see yet another, larger, more transparent vail of rubber where the lucky participants of the workshops had an exclusive experience of purchasing their much anticipated new sneaker acquisitions. Within the space was the rest of the range was exposed. Prior to the event I was not a huge fan of this “GHOSTING” capsule, but after spending some time with the product & presentation, I quickly converted my preference in taste.

Overall, I feel that on the rare occasion an event like this is composed, that it creates a wake of design ideas, trends & insights. I honestly hope that in this instance the range & the stated intent really provides a positive outcome. Evoking enthusiasm, inspiration & the need to “give back” from an already established industry and to a generation of budding designers/ creatives not yet on the ladder.

Take a look at the photos I took below. Hopefully you find something which evokes some excitement within you.

Alexander Taylor – A Brief Encounter

Within the last 10 years Footwear has evolved from an engineering standpoint drastically, but gracefully. Notably a major aspect that has elegantly reformed how shoes are made & ultimately designed comes from the pioneering of knit being utilised for shoe manufacturing.

Alexander Taylor & his team of innovative industrial designers, spawned arguably one of the most impactful manufacturing techniques utilised in performance and fashion through a combination of creativity & a visionary engineering prowess.

With an invitation from adidas, 2008 marked the year Alexander Taylor started a project aimed for the 2012 Olympic Games. PrimeKnit was then born from being challenged to create something innovative & sustainable in terms of footwear construction. To this day, AT and their collaborative efforts with adidas have managed to make some of the most innovative products from the brand for the athletic & stylish masses.

Alexander continues to work alongside the “3 Stripes” to boldly further innovative design to create new technologies that marry the worlds of performance and style. With a growing audience of whom stand to salute Alexander Taylor, we can only maintain an excitement for more ingenious problem solving that will impact not only our abilities to produce, but also the climates of culture formed around the end consumers.

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