BASF DesignFabrik Concept Footwear Project

In 2019 I had an opportunity designing a concept shoe for BASF’s creation division, DesignFabrik. BASF is the company created the infamous popcorn PU midsole material that is named Boost by Adidas.

The project starts with a visit to DesignFabrik in Shanghai, which is a very rare opportunity since I will be seeing latest inventions and materials from BASF. I was in the heart of the creation.

After several conversations and a formal kickoff meeting briefing on the project. Off I went.

The Q&As below were asked during Chinaplas press release event in May 21st, 2019. Please take a look at design process and drawings and development.


Q1: What does Athleisure mean and how has innovation played a substantial role in it? Is Athleisure the future of fashion and footwear?

A1: when talking about athleisure, things like leisure, comfort, relax, chill, athletic, fun comes to mind. I believe that everyone has their own understanding of what athleisure is since it’s all about a lifestyle, or I should say the lifestyle. And more so it’s about an attitude. Everyone can pick and choose whichever aspect of athleisure suits him/her the best. Athleisure is part of one’s personality. When comes to design an athleisure product, innovation in new material gives designers tools to explore more possibilities than ever before. For example, the level of comfort in shoe sole is just un-comparable to pu boost material in recent years. And the variety of product PU can produce is just incredible, such as in 3d technology. Athleisure in future is not a question but a statement. Life can only gets tougher consider global direction we are heading. Athleisure lifestyle is a channel for people express their freedom, their thoughts and emotions.

Q2: How is it like collaborating with BASF, a material supplier and a shoe manufactory? It is very different from working with brands I suppose? Has it changed your perspective of footwear and what it can bring for the future? 

A2: It is a bit of different working with a material innovator compare to a footwear specific brand company. The biggest difference is the product focus. when designing for branding companies, no matter what the product category is, it must fit into brand DNA, history, heritage etc. The area that the envelop can be pushed is a bit limited due to the entire brand market placement, custom base, price points and sales volume, etc. However, when working with a material innovator/provider. There are less of a bottle neck when comes to design creativities. There’s less of a what type of footwear I can do. I can purely focus on creativity and think way outside the box than traditional branding product design. With designer has the first hand access to materials, I can experience the best design to have these material shine.

Q3: What is that one advice that you will give aspiring designers out there when developing the next shoe design? 

A3: I would say be creative and be open minded.  Designers need to get out of their comfort zone from time to time. Design is ever evolving. Design is not all about drawing pretty pictures. It is problem solving. Every material and resource has its own usage and benefits. Design is a tool to put these benefits in good use.

Q4: Do you spend a lot of time researching your collections or is it a lot based on inspiration from the items around you?

A4: I believe too much researching will limit on creativity. Because whatever I’ve seen I can’t un-seen, which will leave an imprint during actual design process. However, I do enjoy drawing inspirations from subjects that have nothing to do with shoes and products in general, such as sculpture, abstract art form, nature, etc.