Furniture Inspired Footwear - ON GOING PROJECT

There’s been a lack of Project threads here lately. So I’m going to try and document my latest project on here and hopefully get a bit of feedback in the process.

Purpose: I want to showcase a style of footwear design that strays away from the standard Hot automotive side sketches. There are tons of Lebron, Jordan, Durant footwear guys out there (and honestly they are better at it than me). So instead of trying to beat those guys at there game. I want to have a few projects that showcase my design approach and style better.

I remember a quote from one of my first Nike interviews, (was showing footwear from my old internships.) “We have tons of guys here that can design shoes for today, show us something that makes you different.” It made sense, why do they need to hire a kid who can sketch exactly whats on the shelves now. That’s the easy part. Someone that is designing concepts out 3,4,5 even 10 years out. Can turn around and design for today. But the opposite might not be true.

Further on in the conversation I was hit with another heavy hitting comment, while trying to show some outsole blueprints. “Eman we know you can sketch and make a tech pack. That is evident in your level of work, you don’t need to show us that. What we need to see is story behind this project.” This shifted how I presented most of my work, from that moment on forward there is a clear shift in my style of presentation in my portfolio. But I want to push this idea more.

Requirements: Hope ing to have a handmade sample of every shoe concept made. If its not a full shoe, just a section of it. An origami piece of paper that shows a heel cup. A 3D printed eye row idea. Lasercut leather. Vacummed formed plastic. Whatever it takes to show and take my sketches from being just drawings to a more realized idea. I hope that this will again further separate me from other footwear guys out there.

Furniture inspired footwear. I’ve always loved footwear growing up, but as a designer I really love furniture. Half my inspiration folder is just furniture. I love the details, the level of craft, and the unique solutions people come up with. A few months ago, I had this idea laying in bed. What if I designed shoes inspired by classic furniture. There are Jordan 5 “Oroes” and “Space Jam” 11’s. Why not create a Nike “Eames”, “Bertoia”, “Mies”, etc. And thus this project thread was born.

Nice self directed project Eman, looking forward to seeing the progress.

The Nike “Eames”
I spent awhile trying to think of which furniture pieces to try and use. But this one was a no brainier and will be my first chair in this series.

Project thoughts: For this first project, I’ve decided against designing a completely new silhouette. Just because I want to be able to prototype these concepts quickly. I’ll go back and further explore a from scratch design in the future if time permits. But for now. I’d rather do this exploration than be overwhelmed trying to model and 3D print an outsole. Plus I thought the plushness of the Roshe outsole mimicked the Eames pillowed leather well.

Design Thoughts:
To me the Plywood shells are what everyone associates with the lounge. So how can we use that to help come up with concepts.

Unique Manufacturing
Eames (and Bertoia) developed this idea for bending and bending plywood. This unique take on wood opened up a new avenue for design aesthetic. Could I take the same approach and use modern technology to make wood do something different from its traditional role. This would lead to a concept that is inspired by the idea of the Eames Lounge, but wouldn’t necessarily look like an Eames.

Iconic Panels
On the other side, could I use the design language of the Eames and create a shoe that looks directly inspired by the aesthetic. With the lounge. The way the plywood panels interact with each other is great inspiration.

Next Steps
Continue brainstorming ideas around how to use the Eames Lounge as inspiration and begin sketching out concepts and creating mock ups.

Thanks Michael, Hoping by posting this on here. I can keep the design steam going.

Accountability typically leads to progress. :slight_smile:

United Nude shoes may hold some inspiration for your concept.

Fantastic! Very good timing as I just started a similar project (furniture inspired by footwear). I cant wait to see what you come up with here

If you want to follow your own advice “We have tons of guys here that can design shoes for today, show us something that makes you different.” Why are you not designing a new shoe? Colors and materials and nice presentation photos are all great but as a portfolio piece designing on top of an existing model doesn’t show much.


Yes, love their stuff. Thanks for reminding me of them.

I agree Richard and fully plan on trying to do a full footwear project from scratch. I just want to get started back up again and start making things again. I didn’t want to go all out right from the start.

On going all out from a standstill. I had this experience when I started training for soccer again. I was trying to run 3-5 miles, like I did back in the day when I played everyday. But I had a hard time finding that much free time and energy to do it daily. At that time I didn’t see the worth in running only 1 mile, whats the point. So If I couldn’t block out time for at least 3 miles that day. I would rather not run. I could easily have done a quick mile, but refused cause it wasn’t worth it. Tried that for awhile and didn’t make too much progress. I eventually lowered my goal. 1 mile run a day. (15 minutes, from getting dressed to finishing.) And guess what. My mileage increased greatly. Because it became habit to just run everyday even if it was a tiny bit.

Defining customer/market opportunity, designing the shoe itself, doing the design/marketing story, sourcing a last, outsole cad and prototype, full on pattern making, sew and lasting the shoe, etc. That’s my half-marathon and end goal. Hopefully I can get up to that as soon as possible.

This right here is my 1 mile a day project. Not a great excuse, but just my current strategy.

Cool idea Eman. Nice to see a new project thread in here! Looking forward to following along.

Taking upcoming Friday off + Jury Duty this week, and my keeping up with my work responsibilities, means I haven’t had much free time to make a ton of progress. But I’m posting what I have so far. Every small step forward helps.

Project thoughts:
I’ve distilled my ideas down to two main concepts. Both ideas kinda build off each other. And I could potentially see a cross of the two being the final execution.

Concept1 :

Concept 1 Ideas:
This is a pretty straight forward material adaption of whats already out there. Just re-purposed into footwear.
The idea is to use the wooden textile idea ( ) and see how that would work in the footwear medium. The to me hits on the the idea of using current manufacturing (laser cutting) to shape wood in ways not traditionally though. Bending wood via steam vs bending wood via laser pattern.

The concept ties very directly to something Nike has already done though with the Roshe Metrics, using a textile that has applied plastic triangle pattern. So this is essentially a updated version of this concept.

Ways to push this forward
Different pattern ideas? Can we create a pattern that flexes with the user better? Or creates more interesting shapes. Could it turn into something more sculptural and less fluid? Behance

Design Challenges
Would this concept hold any value as a portfolio piece? Or is it just a nicer colorway execution. Would it just be seen as an art piece?

Technical Challenges.

Getting the wood veneer to stick to permanently to the fabric substrate. Right now I’m using some standard art store adhesive sheet (Mac Tac) While its great for quick mock ups, I would like something a bit more heavy duty for the final prototype. I have ordered a few sheets/rolls of 3M 9786 and 3M 9088. Hoping to try these out and see if they work better. Anyone have any other recommendations?

Concept 2

Concept 2 Idea:

This idea is based off using the Eames itself as design inspiration. When I was looking at the first slide in this deck I noticed how the wooden panels seemed to be floating on the black leather back ground. The wood panels have a unique shape to them that allows them to flex into each other. I though could we apply the same idea to footwear “panels”

The rigid panels reminded me of Knight Greaves. AS they are made from very stiff panels that are joined in such a way that allows for a good deal of flexibility. I’m sure there is better imagery for rigid panels on a fabric substrate, that allow for movement. Hockey pads maybe? Couldn’t think of exactly what to search for. Sure it’'ll hit me later

Making sure the panels don’t dig into the foot. I’ve had a few pair of shoe samples where the toe box stiffener is too short and it digs into the tops of my toes. Not very comfortable and I want to make sure that I don’t run into the same thing with this.

Originally though this could be combined with the wooden veneer idea, but not sure about super stiff pieces that large. (They’d have to be backed with a stiff backer, plastic, to keep them from breaking at that size.) Currently I’m thinking of using a thick leather on a fabric based shoe. Think veg tan/horween leather on a black mesh. This would hopefully give the appearance of the floating panels, but still allow for the flexibility of a standard leather shoe.

Eman, have you seen the Nike Cityknife 2?

Never heard of it, But I googled it just now. Looks like I’m 11 years too late to the party. :confused: Also looks like you did the CityKnife 3 too.

But exactly what I thought the cross between the two concepts would be. But good to see that the concept would in fact work.

Looks like theres even a pair on eBay right now

Side note: Just noticed I joined this site 9 years ago.

It’s all been done. The concept for that shoe was inspired by a purse by Isaac Mizrahi.

What matters is what you bring to it? How will you advance it? Don’t give up, make it new.

I love the thought process, and as a furniture guy I get your motivation. I often look at the works of the masters and think “what were they thinking?”

If you do some research on this, and I assume you have, the answer is they had to design with what they had at the time. The Eames partnership were using WW2 fighter pilot seat technology and adapting it to consumer furniture.

Now 65 years on, we are faced with different constraints. How do we design without destroying what’s left? There are amazing materials coming out and new opportunities popping up all around us. I’m looking at recycled PET composites, wool blend felt and cork; bamboo and CNC machining; 3d printing and nano fibre.

There’s a rich narrative underlying the Eames lounge. I am left thinking what they would do if they were born in 1980 like I was.

agreed! not sure ive seen a shoe yet that didn’t borrow a few things from other concepts or other shoes in general.
typically when i see a shoe design that is flat out trying to be “like nothing ive ever seen before” it usually is nowhere near possible to manufacture, or its just basically an art piece that no consumer demographic would wear/buy in any sort of volume. but thats just me… :smiley:

You and this guy must be following the same pinterest boards :smiley:

Haha that’s an awesome coincidence. Think I can take it a step beyond a render though

First proof of concept sample just got finished. Took me about 5 hours to do one shoe. Still got another one to do. :cry:

Really dig this idea. Going to try and push it further a bit. Change up the sizes of the triangles to create more iconic shapes and hopefully coincide a bit with the flex zones in the shoes. Might end up doing an ombre effect too. Smaller triangles in the toe area, gradually increasing towards the heel.