Interview: Zenith Chance
CK: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Zenith Chance the Street Fighter of the people, the Call of Duty King, The Eating champion and The Chosen Dishwasher... since my girl does the cooking. I am a Chinese born Canadian born and raised. On the playground where I spent most of my days ;D When I was younger, I was really into Dragonball Z... I looked like the kid from "Up" and collected Dragon ball cards...As I could never buy them all, I would draw them myself. Later, I grew a passion for cars, basketball and well... Dragonball. There was one moment when I was looking at a pair of Hyperflights and it made me think of a Ducati bike. That is when i made the association with products and design and the seed was planted which would one day flourish. I studied at Humber College and worked at New York Fries hahaha... ahhh... I must of had crazy pimples ... and almost failed my first year. When I graduated, I worked briefly at Bata shoes soon to be let go afterwards. I then worked at a running store, Running Room, and learned more about products and customers and the retail side of things. It was fun... it was fun running with hot moms. During this time, I found this site called KicksGuide and that is really the turning point in my career. I made it a thing to participate in every month and to give consistent quality entries. Through that, I was seen by many people and later hired by Decathlon by my previous boss and one of my best friends, Pepijn Martens. I have been at Decathlon France since sharpening my skills as a Designer, calling football "soccer" and eating baguettes and cheese during breaks ... ( the last one is a lie). 0
CK: Who is your go-to character in 'Street Fighter'?
My dood in SF is Blanka. Hes got awesome moves ... electricity... the ball thingie...and just rocks. Otherwise the next guys on the list is Sagat and i guess Akuma. I don’t know if I love them more because of how they handle or the look that they have. Anyways I'm pretty confident with all characters in Street Fighter... The worst is when people get all bent when they keep on losing so you let them win a little so they have just enough motivation to stay... and you say " ohhhh... you got me there ... man.... you got me there.... " hahahah... ahhhh... I'm such a sad asian gamer... I love videogames man... if i weren't a product designer, I'd LOVE to be a game concept designer. When you see some of the art and concepts that those guys pump out, its truly amazing. 0
CK: What inspires you to design?
Just my passion for art and design drives me. So often you see something or you get and idea and you ask yourself "I wonder what it would look like if I did it like this" or " man, I'd like to put my spin on that". And with that attitude ( as cheesy as it is) all things are inspiring. Often I see cars that I'd like to " re-create" myself or old superheros that you want to put a modern twist to their costumes. In terms of footwear, its hard to put your finger on just a few things as so many things can be inspiring. I swear, sometimes i see delivery trucks drive by and i think " man, that' be an AWESOME colorway!!"... But the rush and satisfaction you have when your idea is properly communicated onto paper or even into reality is truly great. It's like a drug... its like crack... but safe crack. 0
CK: Coming from the Kicksguide days with a lot of great names (Pepijn Martens, Tony Hardman, Tom Rushbrook, Arsen Rock- Just to name a few) what was it like growing and learning with those guys?
Its honestly amazing. As I was very lucky to grow up with a very talented and successful group of friends, I was also able to grow up professionally with a very talented and successful group of people ( I can call a good handful of KG people good friends of mine ). When I look back at the names that passed through that site, I think a large majority of those people have gotten jobs in the industry and are very successful respectively. It's funny, you see these name online but when you meet them, there is an instant connection. You realize not only are these great designers, but great people as well and you have the instant feeling of camaraderie that is not always present when you're around competition. I am truly proud of all the people who participated in KG and very honored I can call myself one of them. 0
CK: One of the highlights from Kicksguide was the T-Mac 4 Competition with Adidas where you had the opportunity to meet the Adidas design team, tour the building (finding the Antoine Walker last is a certified classic), and meet with some guy called Tracy McGrady. Looking back what was the biggest thing you got from the experience?
You know, I never met T-Mac ( though I would have loved to since I love him as a player). It was Ryan Holler the true victor of the Tmac 4 competition and Tmac meet and greet. I was just lucky enough to be invited for the ride and can't thank Adidas enough for the opportunity. It was truly a dream come true. I guess a " Disneyland" for Sportswear design. To meet the names and faces behind the products and see how it all works and to see the level of professionalism was really exciting. It was GREAT meeting Ryan and I hope we will cross paths again one day soon. Again, a guy I didn't know too well and as soon as we met I think we had a sketching session that night. Kinda like a slumber party... but for... footwear designers. Meeting the Adidas team was great. Everyone was helpful and patient. My fondest memories was hanging out with Cheng Kue and him showing me around. That guy is one talented designer. At the end of the trip, I knew I was close to my true goal. I could taste it. 0
CK: How important was what you did on Kicksguide to you finally landing a job?
KG was ESSENTIAL. It was through this site that I began to create, think and enjoy CONSISTENTLY footwear design. It was through this site that I was discovered by many different brands and got my big break. I don't know if there is still a site like this (or maybe there is, and I'm just out of the loop) or if there are still people who would love to draw signature shoes out there every month... but its a real shame its not going on anymore. 0
CK: What has it been like working for Decathlon?
Decathlon has been wonderful to me. They have supported me through my early years where I made mistakes to this point where I feel I'm well accomplished and competent. What attracted me to Decathlon or Kipsta specifically was the opportunity to grow. They were looking for someone to make a change and there were so many opportunities to make a significant impact. I have grown from simple footwear designer to a product designer creating the language for the entire range of products. It's really exciting when you can create a coherent language through a range of products that speaks to the customer. Though Kipsta grows slowly, there is no doubt that it grows. We have big ambitions and the means to achieve it and that is a very exciting feeling. 0
CK: What is one of your favorite designs you have put out and why?
My favorite product to reach store shelves is the Backcourt 3 released this Fall/Winter 2012. For us it has been a huge success and one of the very few if not only higher priced Kipsta shoes embraced by the customer. The shoe itself is a relatively sober design but it is the story behind it that makes me love this shoe even more. For me, i am convinced that the customer will see a product and make their own assessment of price / value / desirability. If the perceived value of your product is high and the desirability is strong, the price will become a smaller factor in the sale. With this shoe, we were able to sell a passionate feeling which will always be greater than a practical feeling. It is only through risks and innovation that we could take our common shoe and turn it into an amazing shoe. 0
CK: What advice/portfolio tips would you give to somebody looking to break into the industry?
As the industry gets more and more popular, its harder and harder to shine brightly. I feel during KG times, the idea of footwear designer is not as celebrated as it is now. However if you're good, someone will make room for you.
- Try not to depend so much on a logo. Try to sell a design and not the brand of the product.
- Making that dream shoe is easy, but can you make that 20 dollar shoe look good too !?!
- Show diversity in your work, try to avoid being pigeon-holed as a designer
- Show the process as it is super interesting as to how you got there.
- The most basic advice: when you design something make sure the proportions are correct
- The most cheesy advice: have fun !
Other things that are essential to know if you don't know by now:
- Be prepared to take advice. Often you may create something, but people will suggest modifications. Do not grow so close to your designs that you take advice negatively but take it as an opportunity to improve.
- Learn to work in a team. As the saying goes, a chain is as strong as the weakest link. Do not be that weak link, but learn to work with different personalities, cultures, people etc etc...as not every job has the opportunity to unify others as we do.
- Do not ponder too much on failures but see them as stepping stones. It is natural to make mistakes however it is up to us to learn from them and not make them again.
- Work hard but play harder.
CK: What advice would you give the younger crowd looking to choose a college?
Choose the right school for you. There are more technical schools as there are more creative schools out there. I personally believe that in the end if you are passionate about your profession it will shine through your portfolio. It was not until after my studies that I participated in KG and sharpened my skills.
CK: Any last thoughts you would like to add?
Work efficiently. work intelligently and regret nothing.
Philippians 4:13 - I can do all this through him who gives me strength.