5 Questions With Puma NTRVL Designer Jeff Staple

Puma and Jeff Staple have collaborated twice before, but neither collection was as large as NTRVL.

The line boasts both performance and lifestyle elements, designed to have the wearer seamlessly transition from the gym to the office and out at a bar with friends. In the collection are five Puma sneaker styles reimagined by Staple: Ignite EvoKnit, Ignite 3, Limitless, Clyde and BOG Sock. The kicks are executed in a black and white color palette, as well as Staple’s signature gray and pink tones.

Aside from the size of the collection, what makes NTRVL different from past Staple collections are the performance elements, something the renowned designer has only dabbled in once before with snowboard label Burton for its Idiom project alongside Hiroshi Fujiwara of Fragment Design.

Prior to its release on Saturday and global launch at Puma stores and puma.com on March 25, Staple spoke with Footwear News on Thursday at a media event in NYC about the challenges creating a large collection, why one shoe for all purposes just doesn’t work and the future of NTRVL with Puma.

Footwear News: Does your approach change when designing something performance-oriented versus something with a more lifestyle or casual focus?

JS: When you’re designing for streetwear, it’s more about form; what it looks like is more important than how it works. You’re not going to wear the Rihanna Creepers to play basketball in; they’re more for form. But when you’re designing a line like this it’s function first, so everything came first from a usability standpoint.

[Yesterday] I was cleaning up the boxes because the first season is over and I can no archive those samples, and with those first samples there’s no color, it’s just black and white; it was more about testing the usability of it. After we got that down we were like, what colors are the polkadots, where do we apply that logo. But the first part was getting the functionality right.

Puma NTRVL Ignite Evoknit
Puma NTRVL Ignite Evoknit.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Puma.

There are five sneakers in the initial NTRVL drop. But for footwear, the athleisure trend would ideally have you in the same pair of sneakers at the gym, at the office and at dinner. Does this one pair of sneakers for all activities concept work?
No. After a month of doing that, they’re not going to hold up that well. The thought process behind NTRVL was modular-ness, almost like building a Jenga tower; when you go out for the day, instead of packing three individual outfits for work, gym and going out at night, it’s more like modular layering so you could build on top and take off. It’s more about modulation versus replacement.

But you’re talking to the wrong guy who’s got like 2,500 pairs of shoes.

Puma NTRVL Limitless
Puma NTRVL Limitless.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Puma.

What were some of the challenges in developing such a large footwear and apparel collection?
With a big line everything takes a lot longer. The design sessions with my other collabs with Puma could be done over an email and there could be a one-hour meeting. The meetings for this, I had to go to Boston or Germany for an eight-hour powwow and hunker down for six or eight hours and bang out all of these specs.

If you did a collab with someone and it’s just one shoe and one top, the fact that it’s now 10 shoes and 10 tops doesn’t make it that much harder, you don’t work on it as a mass thing, you take each one as you go. It’s the same process as doing one SKU, it’s just times 10. It’s not harder, just a lot longer and work intensive.

The only other step you need to do is when you’re done with the 10 designs, zoom out and say, “Does this whole thing look holistically cohesive together.”

Puma NTRVL Ignite 3
Puma NTRVL Ignite 3.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Puma.

Do you see yourself doing more design work in the performance athletic space?
I would ideally love to, but I need a partner involved in it. I don’t want to open up development for my own performance division of Staple; I’d rather let a company that has that access to work together with them and do it. [NTRVL] is great because it’s a very specific take on performance, it’s about transitioning from performance to life, it’s not pure performance. It’s about I could zip this up with these shoes and go to a board meeting and feel just as confident; that was the call to action with NTRVL. If it weren’t for the trend of athleisure, there’d be no purposefor an NTRVL because it wouldn’t even be allowed in the workplace.

Puma NTRVL Clyde
Puma NTRVL Clyde.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Puma.

Puma confirmed at least two more seasons of NTRVL. What can we expect for fall ’17 and spring ’18?
Totally new shoes [not on the market], new silhouettes are coming. And eventually it’s going to expand into men’s and women’s.

There’s a similar vibe in the sense that some shoes are strictly meant for the gym, some are strictly casual, and then there’s the transition shoes that could work in both. The apparel is much heavier [for fall], and another theme is instead of the adaptability of the spring-summer, the theme in fall is more about reversibility, having two colorways per one style, which connects to the shoe, too. Some of the shoes have an olive and navy colorway, which is kind of weird, but I liked how it came out. The jacket, one face might be navy and then you reverse it and it’s the olive side, but the shoes match with either side of the jacket.

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