Nike Shoe Designer Reveals Her Secret to Designing the Perfect Sneaker

Since Nike Air Max Day on March 26, Nike has been conducting “Nike: On Air,” a global competition for aspiring sneaker designers, where the winners are able to create a pair of Nike Air Max that will be produced and sold.

Aspiring designers applied via Instagram and those selected were given the opportunity to attend a series of workshops. These have already taken place in London, New York, Seoul, Shanghai and Tokyo. This weekend, Paris will host the final leg. Two hundred participants were chosen from over 4,000 applicants in the City of Light.

Guided by Nike designers and ambassadors from the local creative community, including Skepta in London and Christelle Kocher of Koché in Paris, participants are tasked with dreaming up a new Air Max design inspired by their respective city. Workshops take in concept development, silhouette selection, exploration of materials, color and embellishment.

Nike On Air, Paris
Nike On Air, Paris

Judges in each city select their top three designs, which will be rendered 3D and result in a global online vote, with the most popular per city going into production.

Today at the Paris preview, FN caught up with Nike footwear designer, Marie Odinot.

FN: How will you select the three finalists? What will you be looking for?

MO: I think the most important thing is the story that they want to tell. All good shoes promote emotion. The looks and how you translate it to material, color, shape and finishes all come from that concept.

FN: What do you think is the most difficult part?

MO: The concept is the hardest as some people know how they want their shoe to look, but don’t necessarily think about what they want to say. It’s not the most obvious thing.

Nike footwear designer, Marie Odinot.
Nike footwear designer, Marie Odinot.



FN: What are your top tips for aspiring designers?

MO: Make it personal; it doesn’t matter if it’s about something that only happened to you, it’s still going to touch a lot of people. That is how you get the emotion. If it’s too vague it’s hard to relate to. It’s best to pick one thing to lead with like a material lead or a color lead because if you have too much in the story you might end up with a clown shoe. So it’s also about how your own taste plays with the story.

FN: Tell us about your own career trajectory?

MO: I went to product design school and really enjoyed the footwear part because it’s a mix of hard and soft together. I started at Nike right away. I started in kids’ shoes, which was a good way to learn. Then I worked on women’s training and then sportswear.

Nike On Air, Paris
Nike On Air, Paris

FN: What is the best part of your job?

MO: There are two things: One is finding inspiration in random places to make your shoe unique. The other is the collaboration element. You get ideas and different points of view from everyone. For instance, with the Nike 270, I worked on the upper and another designer worked on the sole.

FN: How many pairs of sneakers do your own?

MO: I have lots, not ‘sneakerhead lots’ but ‘normal people lots.’ Around 60.

FN: What is the most recent addition?

MO: The new Air Force 1 from The Ten.

Nike On Air, Paris
Nike On Air, Paris

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