This week, I wrote about RYZ, the new shoe company founded by ex-Adidas brass Rob Langstaff. It was the mini-size version of my column run this week, so that I barely had space to explain the concept (would-be designers can download a template of the RYZ sneaker, embellish it with whatever graphics they can come up with, and then upload their design to the company's web site, where it is rendered in 3-D and voted on by member of the RYZ online community. the contests happen in cycles, and only the winners of each cycle's shoe design goes into production. whew, got that?)
I was curious, especially after having two consecutive Merc fashion shows that invited the audience to vote (both times the went for the designer with the biggest, most theatrical presentation), what Langstaff's take is on having matters of design decided democratically. I shot him a few questions, about this issue and a few other details, which I'm posting here as a little supplement from what has already been published in print:
Where did you find the inspiration for the RYZ business model?
Observing behavior. Society started shifting away from passive consumerism to active participation. The growth of You-Tube and Wikipedia points towards a more activist populace choosing to participate and share their knowledge and creativity. I wanted to take this motivation and channel it into innovative sneaker design.
What is your response to the point of view that matters of fashion and style should not be left to popular vote, that doing so will water down innovative design and produce results that are increasingly
pedestrian/least common denominator?
We here at RYZ believe in strength in numbers; power to the people. We have members with artistic talent and trained design eyes, and the diversity of RYZnation ensures that RYZ will bring freshness and innovation to the marketplace.
My take is that your marketing strategy is designed to appeal to an artsy, design-focused crowd who will counter this potential [watering down] effect by being drawn to the more interesting designs. Would you agree with that?
Were these issues consciously addressed during the planning stages?
We addressed this by the groups we targeted from the outset, as well as the tools required to participate. We did our Beta testing with the Portland Art Institute, and our first competition was done in conjunction with 52 Limited’s creative collective. So from the start we targeted both designer students and designer professionals. Also, the designer needs to use Photoshop or Illustrator to complete the upload onto our design template. This software is quite expensive and we knew on the one side that this would be a potential limitation of the number of the designs that we would receive, but we felt that this barrier would also ensure that those who participate would be serious designers.
Where did the design of the shoe/canvas come from?
It was a collaboration of Mikal Peveto, a former Nike and adidas product manager and Peter LaRowe, Nike and Converse designer. We used this particular silhouette because we believe a canvas shoe would be the best medium to print on. Our goal is to offer multiple different silhouettes and materials in the near future.
The online contest in on over at RYZ. It's free to register and vote on the designs. This one is titled "Bitchin camero." Someone should tell the designer how to spell Camaro.