2010 Future Sole Melo Winner Allen Largin

2010 Future Sole Melo Winner Allen Largin

2010 Future Sole Design Competition Melo M7 High School Grand Prize Winner.

words_Allen Largin

My Future Sole experience was, and still is, life-changing. I say that because winning has opened so many doors and inspired me to continue footwear design.

When I entered my original design at the beginning of the contest, I was confident, but wasn’t getting my hopes up. I thought I had a good chance, but never thought that I would end up getting the most votes for my category. I was actually at Notre Dame University on a church retreat when OSD (Obsessive Sneaker Disorder) announced the finalists for each category, so I was back and forth on the phone with my dad and best friend up until the moment the results were announced. I was shocked and couldn’t believe that I was actually going to be a finalist in the competition and the opportunity that was in front of me.

Melo with Future Sole Winner Allen Largin

Melo with Future Sole Winner Allen Largin

Being a finalist wasn’t the end of the competition; Scott Zenteno (my competitor and other finalist) and I had to design an All-Star shoe for Carmelo Anthony using the M7 tooling. So, basically, we were given the sole of the Jordan Melo M7 and had to design the upper in about 30 days. Before the contest I was oblivious to the design side of the footwear industry. I didn’t know that designing a shoe was an 18-month process from start to finish. My design mentor, Denis Dekovic, showed me that there were four steps to follow when designing a shoe: research, story boards, sketching, and the final rendering.

I was very excited to present to Nike and Jordan executives, but before that, I got to experience the Nike campus – a.k.a Heaven. Getting to see where everything is thought up and where all the great minds of the industry are was incredible. Also, getting to talk to Jason Petrie, Justin Taylor, Wilson Smith III, D’Wayne Edwards, Leo Chang and finally getting to meet my mentor, Denis Dekovic, was quite the experience, because of all the knowledge they gave me in such a short time. Getting to meet to the rest of the finalists was awesome too, because I got to share the experience with people who share the same passion for sneakers.

The night before the presentation, I couldn’t sleep; I was just thinking about how life-changing the next day would be. Then came the day of my presentation. I just couldn’t wait to hold the 3D model of my shoe and tell everyone about it. Just before the presentation, I saw some of the biggest names in the shoe industry walk in and I couldn’t believe that they were going to be the judges. I did my presentation and felt confident, because at that point I had done all I could do. When my name was announced as the Jordan Brand high school winner, I was speechless. I can’t even describe the feelings that ran through me. The fact that Carmelo Anthony might wear my shoe was incredible, not to mention all the doors winning the competition would open.

On November 9, Melo flew me and my parents out to Denver for four days so I could present my Future Sole design to him. On November 10, I met Melo at the Nuggets’ practice facility. I wasn’t as nervous as you’d think because Melo was a laid-back guy and was really interested in my design. Melo loved the Flywire design that represented him as a rising sun. It put a big smile on his face and you could tell he really appreciated it. Overall, Melo really liked the shoe and the story behind it.

D’Wayne and Melo had a little trick up their sleeve when they pulled a new version of my shoe out of a duffle bag. It was Melo’s take on my design. There were different colorways: a Puerto Rico, a Syracuse, and a classic red and black. Even though there are still changes to be made to the shoe, I can see the direction the shoe was going.

The next night, I got to watch Melo in action against the Lakers, who were undefeated. Melo filled up the stat sheet with a double-double: 32 points and 13 boards, while handing Kobe and the Lakers their first loss of the season.

I still can’t believe that Carmelo Anthony will be wearing my shoe. This isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning of bigger and better things.

Read more about the 2010 Future Sole Design Competition.

2010 Future Sole Melo Winner Allen Largin

2010 Future Sole Nike N7 Finalist Ian Cobb

2010 Future Sole Design Competition Nike N7 College Runner-Up.

words_Ian Cobb

My experience in the Future Sole competition has been incredible. What an amazing experience.

My story started when I received an e-mail informing me about this Nike shoe design competition called Future Sole. I loved the idea of entering; however, I received the e-mail only two days before the deadline. So I juggled the idea of entering the contest with so little time, but I told myself “just go for it, its my dream,” so I went for it. A week or so later, Future Sole posted the semi-finalists and I couldn’t believe it–there I was in the top six in the College Nike N7 category.

Ian Cobb's 2010 Future Sole Final Rendering

Ian Cobb’s 2010 Future Sole Final Rendering

The next round demanded a lot of social networking between friends, family and anyone else who was eligible to vote. A week later on OSD (Obsessive Sneaker Disorder), they were to announce the finalists for the Future Sole contest. That had to have been the longest five minutes of my life, waiting for them to call my name. And when they did, I hit the floor in awe. It actually took several days and an e-mail from my design mentor, Ashley Payne, for everything to soak in. I was actually a finalist in the Nike Future Sole competition!

Flying out to Portland, Oregon and going to Nike HQ was unlike anything I had done or seen before; it’s Disneyland for shoes. Everything is broken up like a theme park. There are many different buildings showcasing different sports, superior athletes, and the many design categories.

Visiting Nike and presenting my N7 Future Sole Project brought me back to playing sports, most of all football. When I met the other finalists, I felt I already knew them. We had gone through the same process and worked extremely hard towards our dreams to get where we were. The bus rides to and from town reminded me of traveling to an away game, when you’re nervous, excited, and anxious for your moment to shine. The days before the presentation, when we toured the campus and went out to dinner, were like practice and visiting the stadium before the big game. By presentation day, we were all focused and ready; it was game day. I was trying to get mentally prepared, but at the same time we were going through such cool areas and meeting so many amazing design legends in the footwear industry.

Actually presenting my shoe design caused one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I have ever had. I was so nervous but so excited and honored to be granted the opportunity to present my work to some of the top designers in the world. Despite the fact that I did not win in the finals, I had such an amazing experience from start to finish. Meeting and connecting with so many people in my dream career field was surreal. If I had the chance, I would participate again in a heartbeat.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had this experience. I am so grateful to my design mentor, the design heads, and the entire Nike team for holding such an amazing competition.

Ian Cobb's 2010 Future Sole Final Board

Read more about the 2010 Future Sole Design Competition.

2010 Future Sole Melo Winner Allen Largin

2010 Future Sole Nike N7 Winner Neil Zemba

2010 Future Sole Design Competition Nike N7 College Grand Prize Winner.

words_Neil Zemba

Neil Zemba and Wilson Smith III

Neil Zemba and Wilson Smith III

My Future Sole story is perhaps a little different than that of the other finalists. I first heard of the competition through a good friend of mine, Daniel Gold, who had placed second in the Jordan category the year before. At the time, the competition was open only to high school students, and after hearing him talk about what an amazing experience it was, I couldn’t help feeling a bit dejected that I myself, a freshman in college, had narrowly missed what could have been the peak of my Future Sole prime… or so I thought.

One day I got an email from the runner-up himself, saying he had heard college students were going to be included this year. I applied the first possible day. To be honest, I didn’t really know what kind of competition to expect, and I didn’t have high hopes about making it to the next round. I saw it as more of an opportunity to put my stuff out there and see what kind of response I would get in return. It goes without saying that I was both surprised and humbled to find that my designs placed in the top six. To gain recognition from your peers is one thing, but to have professional designers acknowledge your work really is something else entirely. Just seeing my designs up on the website felt unreal.

After a bout of public voting, it came time for the finalists to be announced on Obsessive Sneaker Disorder. To say I was anxious at this point was an understatement. I listened for a while before hearing a familiar voice. Daniel had come on the show as a past finalist to announce the first winner of the trip of a lifetime. He babbled a bit (hi, Dan) before announcing me as a finalist in the college Nike N7 division. The feeling was incredible. I had done it! It’s really easy to assimilate the feeling to how Charlie must have felt after finding a golden ticket; except instead of just eating a bunch of candy, I had to actually do something.

I soon received what would come to be the basis of a month of intense design work, the prompt for my shoe design. I was instructed to make a shoe that would incorporate the Lunerglide+2 tooling, and keep with the N7 brand identity. It was also at this point that I had my first encounter with my mentor, Mr. Wilson Smith III. In retrospect, as amazing as touring Nike’s campus was, perhaps even more incredible was the opportunity to bounce ideas off one of the most prolific shoe designers out there. Wilson was like a fountain of information in a field that, from an industrial standpoint, I was fairly ignorant of. This guy has worked with everyone. He designed the Jordan XVI, XVII and the Agassi line in the ’90s, and has worked on a multitude of other projects. Not to mention that he’s one of the coolest guys I’ve ever had the pleasure of coming in contact with. I can’t say enough good things about him.

After I had a design I was confident in, it was time to head over to Beaverton to see where the magic happened. After touching down in Portland and meeting the other finalists, we headed over to the hotel to get ready for dinner with the man himself, D’Wayne Edwards, the Design Director at Jordan brand and the mastermind behind Future Sole.

After an inspirational talk at dinner from D’Wayne and Wilson, we headed to Nike’s campus the next day for the moment we had all been waiting for. I don’t know that I’ll ever forget what it was like to pass through the entrance to Nike’s campus, and knowing the circumstances as to why I was there made it all the more incredible. We met up for a quick talk before heading out on a tour. The Nike campus is, in a word, awesome. It’s insane. It’s like a perfectly manicured metropolis meets sports fanatic’s utopia. I was completely overwhelmed as I got a glimpse at everything from testing facilities, to the boardroom where Michael Jordan goes to discuss the future of his brand, to the offices of current designers, to the room with all the samples for the following year, to concept boards of products that won’t drop for years. The list goes on and on. One of my favorite parts of the tour was catching a glimpse of the “Innovation Kitchen,” the place where much of Nike’s more experimental design work goes down. The trip would have been more than worth it for that alone. The entire thing was beyond words.

This is the point in the article where I have to admit something. I hate to besmirch the integrity of an article about Nike by acknowledging their tri-striped nemesis, but prior to my involvement in this competition, I was a huge fan of adidas. Huge. I made sure to downplay this character flaw during the tour, during which I was rocking a sick pair of Air Royal mids. Needless to say, I made a great effort to suppress any utterance of the “a” word while a guest in the corporate home of the likes of MJ and Tiger. However, this experience (also needless to say) gave me not only a great appreciation for Nike, but also a strong predilection for it. adidas who?

The next day we returned to campus for what would be our final day of the competition, and the day where we would present our designs to the judges. I had tried to rehearse my presentation and get some sleep the night before, but by that point, I was so overwhelmed by the whole experience that it was hard to do anything but reflect on what I had just seen, and drool. We drove back to headquarters (driving under the entrance was almost cooler the second time) to have breakfast, meet with our mentors again, and take a tour of some design offices and behind-the-scenes areas of the campus. The tour was insane. We got to look at the actual work environments of a lot of designers there and see what they were currently working on. It was an incredible experience to be able to meet and network with designers whose work I had been inspired by on my own project. One of the highlights was meeting Leo Chang while wearing my Hyperfuses. We looked at Nike Basketball, SB, Tennis, and the offices of the newer N7 division.

Now it was business time. We all headed over to the Tiger Woods building to get ready to present our designs to the judges. I felt a combination of nerves and excitement in regards to the presentation. It didn’t take me long to realize how much of an impact it could have on my future. After a bit of rehearsing in the lobby, we moved into the auditorium where the presentations were going to take place. As we walked in, we saw the giant stage where all of our presentation boards had been laid out. In front of each board stood a small table with a Z-core model of our shoes! Seeing an actual 3D model of my shoe was crazy. It’s like reuniting with a long-lost child or something, or at least what I think that would be like: a really cool child with exceptional taste in footwear. Laid out on the other side of the room were a about a hundred-or-so chairs for the guests and judges. I wasn’t that nervous until I took in the scale of the whole thing, at which point it was like my nerves went into a phone booth and became super nervous. I guess I was more anxious, though, than anything. After kicking things off, and watching a polished presentation from Ian Cobb, it was my turn.

After the presentations, the judges tallied up the scorecards and announced the winners. I heard my name. I’m pretty sure I’ve never felt a feeling quite like that before. It’s hard to put in to words, but I felt this kind of overwhelming, surreal sense of accomplishment. Honestly, I really don’t remember whom I thanked afterwards. The whole thing is kind of a haze, but I thanked my man Wilson, my parents (I hope), and certainly D’Wayne, the man who deserved it the most.

Afterwards, we congratulated one another. The effort everyone had put in was more than evident, and I was really surprised by how good all the high school designs were. The winner for the Jordan category was 15!!! We discussed our designs some more with the judges, not wanting to leave the room. After that, there was a dinner for all the Future Sole attendees, followed by some basketball and chilling. I took an opportunity to soak up the campus one more time before getting ready to head back to the mitten.

If I haven’t enough already, I would like to thank D’Wayne once again for making this all possible, and for taking note that college students may in fact want to take part in this amazing contest, too (We do go to school for design, after all). D’Wayne isn’t much of a talker, but one of the more pedagogical points he was sure to make was that, in being afforded this amazing experience, we have a certain responsibility to pass on what we’ve learned to others. I remember thinking how great of a point that was, and since then I’ve made sure to help anyone interested in design, and serve as a mentor to others. For those of you asking if you should enter this competition or not, I think an apt response lies in Nike’s slogan. Just do it. You’ve got nothing to lose.

Neil Zemba's finals board

Read more about the 2010 Future Sole Design Competition.

2010 Future Sole Melo Winner Allen Largin

2010 Future Sole Jordan Runner-Up Matt Walters

2010 Future Sole Design Competition Jordan Team College Runner-Up.

words_Matt Walters

The entire Nike Future Sole experience will be one that I’ll remember and cherish for as long as I live.

Everything before, during and after my visit to Nike Headquarters was a dream come true. A person usually experiences a pretty big moment in their life every once and a while. It was unreal because for the entire 2010 summer, these ‘big moments’ seemed to never cease. Hearing my named called on Obsessive Sneaker Disorder as one of the two finalists in the Jordan College division is a three-second moment that I play back in my head on a daily basis.

The feeling of knowing that your month of work on this one shoe had all paid off was incredible; so incredible, that it took me a couple days to actually realize that I had won and that I would be traveling to Oregon to continue to design and meet the people that I ultimately look up to and want to work side-by-side with one day. After getting Jonathan Johnson-Griffin as my Nike mentor and the new brief, it was back to the drawing board. It was wild because the entire time I was designing this shoe, I had this different motivation and drive to design something unbelievable. I knew that I had been given this one-in-a-million opportunity and that I couldn’t take any of it for granted. While working on a shoe, I usually have my other designer friends and professors take a look at it to give me some comments and critique. Having Jonathan look and critique my sketches every couple days was not only an honor, but also helped me take a step back and look at my design in different ways.

Being flown out to Oregon, having someone pick you up at the airport, and having them let you out in front of an amazing hotel in the heart of Portland was as if we were being treated like celebrities…the entire trip was almost too much to handle – in a good way. One of the best things that we did there wasn’t actually an event. While being flown out to Oregon, creating a ton of new friends, and presenting my shoe are things I will never forget, my favorite part was when we took the multiple tours throughout the campus. Seeing Jason Petrie, Mark Miner and many others working in their own studio space on their current projects right in front of us was inspiring to say the least. While walking through the studios, you had no idea what to even look at because there were too many things for one sneakerhead’s mind to handle. Shoes everywhere. Sketches everywhere. Models and materials everywhere. I was a kid that never wanted to leave the candy store .

Once all the fun and games were over with, it was time to do what I had been sent to Oregon to do: present my shoe design. To be honest, I was a bit nervous about presenting my idea in front of so many designers and important players at Nike and Jordan. It wasn’t until the night before our presentation that I realized I shouldn’t be nervous at all; rather, I should be unbelievably confident and excited to be presenting my hard work in front of the people I admire.

Going up and talking about my shoe was a huge rush. In the past, I’d usually given shoe presentations in front of designers that really didn’t know too much about footwear, so to be able to talk about my number one passion with 40 other people that have the same passion was truly amazing. My presentation went very smoothly, and I was excited to hear the results. Unfortunately, I ended up getting second place, and was a bit angry. But after a couple minutes, I realized that I actually don’t think I was ready to win. Chris Dixon, the winner, had an amazing design, and has years and years of shoe sketching under his belt. I have only been seriously designing shoes for 2 years now, and just to be able to be given this kind of opportunity, in my mind, I had won already.

Overall, it was the experience of a lifetime. I am unbelievably grateful that I was given this opportunity and would like to thank everyone that made this possible. As for the future, I am currently a Junior at the University of Illinois, where I will continue to enter footwear competitions and beef up my portfolio to hopefully land some kind of internship in the next couple years.

Matt Walter's finals board

Read more about the 2010 Future Sole Design Competition.

2010 Future Sole Melo Winner Allen Largin

2010 Future Sole Jordan Winner Chris Dixon

2010 Future Sole Design Competition Jordan Team College Grand Prize Winner.

words_Chris Dixon

Future Sole 2010 Chris Dixon

Chris Dixon

My journey to the Future Sole finals began in the 7th grade at Anne Chesnutt Middle School, Fayetteville, NC, in Mrs. Washburn’s music class. I was a fan of both sneakers and basketball and my mom had bought me only two pairs of sneakers for the year. Like your average 13-year-old basketball player, I wanted more. In music class, I began sketching my friends’ shoes, since they switched up often, but I would put my twist on the sneaker sketch. I continued to sketch and draw kicks, but basketball was my first love. However, the love affair that lasted through high school and D2 ball soon grew old and I found a new love: art and design. I changed my major from business and took on a focus in graphic design. After sacrificing much time, hard work and prayers, I received a message on sneakernews.com saying the Future Sole design competition increased the age limit to 25. In my heart I knew I had to do something. This was my chance to show people my passion! With much oblige to all the people who voted for my Air Jordan 2k11 concept…I am able to humbly tell you all about my Future Sole experience.

Finding out I was finalist in the Future Sole competition was the most exciting news of my life. I dropped to my knees with tears of joy and my hands raised high! I was going to the headquarters to present in front of some of my design heroes!

After a long flight, I made it to Portland, where I started to meet the finalists one by one. We hung out for a while, then went to dinner with D’Wayne Edwards. There we met with designer Wilson Smith III and Sean Williams of Obsessive Sneaker Disorder. They spoke to us about the experience and importance of Future Sole and what we should take from it. After the great meal and good laughs we took it back to our hotel room to chill.

Arriving at the Nike World Headquarters campus the next day was like seeing my dreams becoming a reality very fast! D’Wayne and Wilson met us in the front to start the tour. Since it was Sunday, some of the buildings were closed, but that was fine because just the sight of the architecture was amazing.

We reached the Jordan Building. I was hoping the pearly gates would open and they did! We walked in and bam! I saw all 25 Air Jordans in glass cases. “WOW” is what I said in my head while Sean held me up. I was in there! We then took the elevator up. We made a quick tour through the office where I saw some top secret projects. I didn’t want to leave. In the Michael Jordan Building, we had a short celebration for the viewer’s choice.

The next day, we went back to campus for a detailed tour. I slid off with my mentor Ben, who took me to the different areas in the Mia Hamm building where I met a bunch of cool designers. The highlight of my tour was when Ben took me to meet Eric Avar. I had never been starstruck until that day! This is the guy who makes me scrap up bucks for the freshest Nikes! He blessed me with some encouraging words, tips and most of all, his time. I took a peek at what he was sketching and it looked to be the Kobe’s of the future. Just talking to Avar made me feel like I just won the competition! I met up the rest of the crew and we made our way to the Tiger Woods building, which is where the presentations were taking place.  No time to get nervous; it was show time! I glanced at my design board and I was blown away! My shoe was touchable!

Everyone gathered and, after we all drooled over our models, we took our seats. The host, Julian Duncan, was very enthused about the event! I presented with confidence and I was excited to let the audience know about my shoe. I was so jittery when I sat down, but after I presented, I felt good. When Julian announced that I was the grand prize winner of the Jordan college category, I turned to Ben and smiled BIG. I almost fainted when I gave my acceptance speech. Then came the cameras, and business cards came from everywhere. I loved it. I had never been #1 in a national competition. I guess it was my time.

Chris Dixon's final board

My Future Sole experience was the best experience of my life…..TO BE CONTINUED!!!!!!!

Read more about the 2010 Future Sole Design Competition.