David Mawdsley
The Footwear Composer

All posts by David Mawdsley

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.


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.