Future of Footwear 2012 Kids Winner: Sarah S4 Sabino

For the 3rd installment in our 5 week series, we catch up with Sarah Sabino, 2012 Future of Footwear Kids winner.  We talked about her experience at PENSOLE and the family she gained as result.

Did you have any footwear background prior to the Future of Footwear class? (study Industrial Design in college, draw footwear just for fun, school project, internship, etc.)

I have been drawing footwear since I was in High School, but it wasn’t until I got to college where I learned that my passion for sneakers and art could be turned into a career.  I attend Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston where I studied Industrial Design for a year and more recently, switched concentrations to painting. As a sophomore at MassArt two very big things happened that changed my life forever.  I received an internship at Stride Rite Children’s group where my dreams of becoming a footwear designer was put in play as I worked with designers on children’s shoe projects.  This opportunity for me, was very much learning about the industry that I saw myself working in, and every part of the job became more and more what I could see myself doing for a lifetime.  That same summer, Nike and Jordan Brand sponsored a design competition called Future Sole.  I had entered the Jordan brand competition where I could only hope that I would be discovered and receive a dream opportunity to present my design at WHQ.  A few weeks after entering, I found myself 1 of six semi-finalists out of the country and the only girl.  At that very moment of seeing my own design on the website I knew that this dream was really attainable.  Although I didn’t win the competition I learned a very valuable lesson of networking, and the winner of  the competition became one of my best friends and role models Christopher Dixon.  After that Summer in the fall of 2010, I was blessed through a mutual connection to meet D’wayne Edwards who is the creator of Pensole, and coincidentally, the creator of Future Sole.   Knowing who I was when he met me, and seeing the passion I had, D’wayne had invited me to take part in a course in Oregon where I would be able to learn skills from himself and other talented designers at University of Oregon.  I attended the course and fell in love with every part of it.  I met aspiring designers from all around the world, as well as Designers at Nike and Jordan who made me realize that anything is possible.  Pensole became an experience like no other.

Tell us about your experience in the Future of Footwear class

The Future of Footwear class for me was an experience that was not only as fulfilling as my first Pensole experience, but magically even more exciting.  This time around instead of just learning about the concepts of footwear design and working with a group to create projects, we were competing for a spot at the MAGIC footwear showcase where our designs would be chosen as the Future of Footwear.  Each day at Pensole x FOF was something new.  Whether it was learning some skill from a classmate that would help you, or seeing Top designers from Nike, Adidas, Jordan and more walk through the door to give you feedback on your projects, every day was a surprise that kept you on your A-Game for sure. That Summer, the PENSOLE studio became our home as many of us would spend up until 3-4am working on our projects, because as D’wayne says, “You never know who is going to walk through that door” we wanted to make sure we were truly putting in all of our effort.  Although it sounds great to meet top designers and compete for an amazing prize, for myself, this experience was WAY more than that.  It was the summer of 2012 at FOF that I made a true family of sole brothers that are amazing and inspiring.  The thing about Pensole that people don’t realize is that the “un-advertised” reward you gain is a truly amazing network of people who will be part of your life and family forever.  Winning the prize was only half the reward of what i have gained through the FOF class, but the real reward is being able to call amazing, inspiring people my family.

As part of the class, you where selected to attend the Platform trade show in Las Vegas. That had to be crazy.

I am not much of a traveler, prior to Pensole I have never left New England.  So flying into Las Vegas was such an exciting experience.  As we landed, I could feel the anxiety and excited-ness (I just created that word for you) inside of me.  The way the summer had worked was we found out that we were the winners of FOF and then returned to our homes for a month before Las Vegas,  so I had not seen my Sole-brothers and Dwayne for an entire month! I think I was more excited to see them than anything!  We attended the MAGIC Trade show for a week, where each day we presented our projects to over 1,600 footwear companies.  The A-game was brought as the 10 of us became salesmen and in my case a sales woman for our Designs.  The first day at the trade show we were given a pullover sample of our design ( which is referring to the first sample of our designs from the factory).  For myself, it was the first time seeing a design I made into 3d.  It was such an amazing feeling to see myself and my peers shoes and to be able to actually hold them.  As the days panned out more an more people came by the booth to see us present our projects.  I even got the opportunity to present my shoe to the CEO of Sketchers Robert Greenberg who is D’wayne’s very own mentor.  On the final day in the booth a very large crowd began to form around us, lots of cameras and Press began to surround us.  As I looked around at my peers we realized that the moment that they would announce the winners was beginning to happen. I was so nervous  as I heard my name being called to come and receive my award.  I could not believe that I won. I was so proud of my sole brothers because in my eyes everyone was a winner. 

You where selected as the winner of the Future of Footwear in the Kids category.  Can you tell us about your design?

I was assigned a brief to design a shoe for best friends. I began by focusing on children when they first begin to make friends. I looked back to when I was younger and remembered some of the first friendships I had. What was it about those relationships that helped me remember them?  I thought about different ways children interact and spark up new conversations.  Two major friend-making elements stood out to me from my past,  friendship bracelets and Pokemon cards.  What I liked most about these elements was the idea behind building and trading things for and with your friends. Some of the first concepts I had come up with ranged from shoes that had bracelets as fasteners, a secret note hider shoe, shoes that spelled out names on the upper. All of these ideas led to my final design which is a shoe that is completely interchangeable and built by kids.  It is composed of 4 main parts, 3 that build the upper, and an outsole.  The three pieces on the upper are removable and the can be woven together and traded out with other pieces.  The idea behind the shoe is that it will be sold in one color and in order for children to get more colors on their shoes they can customize and trade with other friends. So the more colors on your feet show how many interactions you have made with new friends.

You mentioned being presented with a pullover of your design.  What was it like to see a pullover of your design for the first time?

As a designer your craft is typically what comes out of your brain translated through your hand and onto paper.  Seeing this idea turned into an actual physical model is like giving birth to your design.  We all worked so hard on our projects, and for most of us this was the first time an actual shoe we had designed was created in a factory.  It feels like your holding your dreams in your hands; there’s no other way to describe it. Because my final design had an interchangeable upper, D’wayne handed me a shoebox filled with 30 pieces and 4 outsoles and smiled as he said “Get ready to get to work” .  I couldn’t wait to start putting together my model. I still can’t believe its real.

What have you been up to over the last 8 months, since I saw you in Las Vegas for the FoF 2012?

I’ve been working mostly on graduating college so that I can become a designer in the industry.  I have been painting a lot and working on my portfolio.  I have also been trying to give back to the community by working with an organization called Sneakers for Success.  It is a program set up similarly to Pensole where we teach kids about footwear, but we focus on more than design. We use the footwear industry as a gateway to get youth to think and learn about different types of jobs in the industry, anywhere from marketing to color trends we try to teach Kids that they can get a career in anything they are interested in.  Its a great feeling to give back,  Currently we are working with a younger group from 7 -14 years old on a project called “Sole Searching”.  The project is asking kids to create any type of creative project whether its a poem, picture, or design, of something that they are interested in the footwear industry.  In the summer we will have a showcase that will double as my Senior Show as I will display my artwork alongside my students projects. Its a pretty great opportunity and it has taught me the importance of classes such as PENSOLE.  I hope to truly make a difference in the world.  After graduation, I plan to continue my work with S4S and get a job in the industry!

What advice do you have for designers looking to be apart of the Future of Footwear class of 2013?

My advice in terms of design is to be as open minded as possible.  Designing footwear doesn’t mean that you have to make something you would see on the shelves at Footlocker.  Designing footwear means your solving a problem that a person has during a specific activity, and you just so happened to be creating something that will help their feet. Try to think of things that haven’t been done before, and be your own brand, don’t design the Nike or Reebok way, design the YOU way!  Don’t be scared of your imagination it will take you very far in this competition.  Most importantly, have FUN!! it shows the most if you truly loved your project, chances are, others will too!

Sarah, Thanks for taking the time. 

Register Here to learn more about Future of Footwear 2013