A month ago, I had an opportunity to check out an Instagram livestream between Under Armour testers and listened as they talked about what they wanted to see from the brand in the future.
One guy mentioned that UA should abandon “storytelling” as a way to get style ideas for kicks for selling Player Edition (PE) colorways instead. The reasoning was storytelling inspired colorways can get repetitive while customers are drawn to what the players wear on the court and would want to wear what they wear.
While I understand where he’s coming from, I have to disagree. Storytelling inspired colorways ain’t the problem. Lack of creativity in a shoe design is. To me, a storytelling colorway or in a whole design gives the fan a glimpse into a player-his or her likes and hobbies, a memory, their personalities. It makes them relatable and make them relatable enough to make people want to go out and buy their shoes. To be really real, storytelling inspired colorways really works hella wonders for some shoes.
I hate to pick on his shoes as an example but it is what it is..Kevin Durant’s shoes are a great example of what I’m talking about here. Like I said in my BHM post, the KD 9 is for hooping and nothing more. Have y’all really looked at that shoe with two pounds of an airbag in the midsole and a basic, color-blocked upper and say “Them joints are nice. Can’t wait to rock these”? If I were a betting woman, that answer would be “Nope” That is because the shoe is great for on-court performance instead of its aesthetics. Now, take that same KD 9 and give it a solid upper and throw some color on the swoosh, color along the air bag and you made it into a shoe thats a bit fashionable. This is the reason why his “Aunt Pearl” Colorway is one of the best and popular in the line. The inspiration behind the colorway is what makes that particular colorway hot and notable.
While the argument can be made that storytelling colorways can get old, I have to put you up on something: Storytelling to gain inspiration for a dope colorway wasn’t meant to be a designer staple in the first place. It’s a great way to jump off the process but it’s up to that designer to take that inspiration and put their twist on it. UA does this somewhat with their Curry 3 low dark horse colorway. They take the Father and Son colorway, darken the purple and have tinges of teal in the woven upper. If they would slap that colorway on the mids, and put a faded teal midsole on it, that would be hot on the court. Releasing PE colorways won’t really help move numbers in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I love PEs and I sometimes wish brands would release the colorways but I know why they won’t. They are called Player Editions for a reason.
Think about it. There is so much of the athlete that is up for consumption to the point where people forget that these guys love shoes and want colorways exclusively for them. I get it. Releasing PEs shouldn’t even be an option if you are creative enough. When I look at kicks now, I think about two things. One: How much input does the player really have over their shoes? Two: Are the designers really spending enough of time with the athlete to jump off some inspiration or just listen to them enough to churn out a lukewarm colorway?
The only shoes I can think of that successfully does those things are the PG-1’s. The designer of those shoes and Paul George worked as a team and it shows. The designer took PG-13s love of fishing and instead of using it in a cheesy nautical colorway, they incorporated it in the shoe design.
I think a designer should really sit down and talk to these players and listen to them. If the designers would remember that these players are also sneaker heads and they know what they like in a shoe, I think the concepts would be better. I’m even willing to bet if they look in the player’s closets (it’s a plus if they have stylists), they will come up with some interesting colorways versus telling a “story” through colors.
Creating shoes that not only perform well on the court but look good off of it, shouldn’t be that complicated when you are having fun. Drawing renderings and experimenting with colors should be fun. and you can do that without relying on “storytelling”. Coming up with hot shoes is simple but designers for whatever reason would rather make it hard instead of fun. If they bring the fun in design, I’m willing to bet these brands will be having ‘fun’ at the end of every fiscal quarter when they look at their bottom line.