Student Designers Compete to Create a Custom Shoe for NBA Star James Harden

Pensole Footwear Design Academy
Students at Pensole Footwear Design Academy.
Courtesy of Pensole

Would-be footwear designers can get some insight into the evolution of a shoe with today’s debut of Pensole Footwear Design Academy’s sneaker competition online. The first three episodes will air on Complex’s YouTube channel, while the remaining will follow on YouTube Red.

The original unscripted series, “Lace Up: The Ultimate Sneaker Challenge,” was produced through a partnership by 10/10 Entertainment, Largardère Sports and footwear design and Pensole founder D’Wayne Edwards.

Aspiring designers from around the world battle it out in teams to determine who can design, develop and produce the next great sneaker. The prize: their own limited-edition James Harden sneaker and a design job at Adidas.

In addition, students will have the chance to show off their skills by creating additional custom sneakers for major celebrities who will give them creative challenges and inspiration for the designs.

According to Edwards, “What we do is so organic and natural, but had never been filmed.” He added that during the course of the competition, whose winners have already been determined but are under wraps, participants had six topics to design against over the course of eight weeks. Each episode covers an entire weeklong class, at the end of which a shoe will be finished, unveiled and judged by a panel of celebrities and footwear experts.

You can watch the premiere episode here:

As with other Pensole classes, participation was open on a worldwide basis. Pensole provided scholarships including airfare, housing and tuition for the 18 selected for the event.

The series is hosted by YouTube star Adande “sWoozie” Thorne, whose channel has more than 4.9 million subscribers and over 700 million views. Episodes will feature appearances by guests including actors Anthony Anderson and Jamie Chung, YouTube creator Jesse Wellens and NBA stars James Harden and Damian Lillard, along with sneaker influencer Jacques Slade and tennis great Stan Smith.

The show takes place in a real-world environment as it follows a heightened version of the current master class program Pensole in Portland, Ore. The series emphasizes a mix of footwear design and professional skills, and features 12 competitors operating in four teams. Only one team will make it to the top, with Adidas set to produce an exclusive limited run of the winning design that will be available in November.