Matthew Ciszek (THE WINNER)
Ciszek is two for two in the winner’s circle. This time around, he drew praise for creating a sleek men’s rocker-bottom shoe. “It’s by far my favorite,” said Blake Mycoskie, adding that Ciszek’s use of soda tops for eyelets was a creative touch. But it wasn’t a total love fest. While Michael Atmore commended Ciszek for adapting after seeing flaws in his original design, he thought the shoe could have made a bigger statement. “It was a little boring.”
The judges were mixed on Ramiza’s blinged-out boot, which featured upholstery, black straps and a brooch. “There’s a little too much going on for my taste,” Atmore said. Kasey Gibbs said she thought the look could do well with the juniors’ market, but questioned whether Ramiza would be comfortable designing for a broader audience. “She designs for herself, and that can be hard,” she said.
Fishbein, who visited shops to try on toning shoes already in the market, landed points with the judges for research. “She doesn’t just assume. That’s the kind of employee I’m looking for,” Mycoskie said. Though Atmore said the interchangeable concept was a bit gimmicky, Gibbs praised the way Fishbein approached building the shoe. “She thought about the materials and why reusable [elements] were important to this project.”
Though the panel appreciated Fleming’s attention to material details — including a padded layer to boost comfort — they agreed the styling missed the mark. “The shoe really isn’t aesthetically pleasing,” said Gibbs. “It’s just weird-looking.” But it was Fleming’s energy level that puzzled the judges most. “She didn’t have confidence,” Mycoskie said, “and that didn’t make me excited about it at all.”
The judges couldn’t mask their disappointment in Choi’s finished product, which featured stripped computer wiring to bring a pop of color against the solid black upper. “I just didn’t understand it,” Atmore said. Though the judges said Choi clearly brought creative thinking to the challenge, the shoe wouldn’t resonate with consumers. “It’s more like an art piece,” Mycoskie said. “It’s cool to look at, but that’s about it.”