The athleisure footwear trend is still going strong, with a recent NPD Group report attributing the market to $3.2 billion in sales in Q1 of 2019 — that’s more than fashion or performance footwear. To capitalize on this, chemical company BASF collaborated with Taiwanese shoe manufacturer Longterm Concept and designer Gu Guoyi to develop X-Swift, a shoe that combines athleisure style with four performance technologies by BASF.
“The genesis of this collaboration was to showcase what BASF materials can achieve with the latest designs,” said Manfred Pawlowski, vice president of consumer industry at BASF’s Performance Materials division.
Guoyi, founder of abanana.design and previously a designer for Nike and Reebok, wanted a shoe that could be worn to the office, but also during a workout. To achieve the dual purpose of stability and support, the X-Swift concept utilizes performance BASF materials in multiple elements of the shoe.
Elastollan, the TPU material used in the outsole, incorporates a high grip tread pattern to optimize traction and create maximum surface contact. Elastopan polyurethane was then used in both the midsole for cushioning and the insole, a breathable feature that was engineered to work with the performance sock liner.
Sustainability, a growing concern of many footwear manufacturers, was also considered when developing the X-Swift. The shoe uses BASF’s sustainable synthetic leather Haptex in the upper, in conjunction with the Freeflex fiber. The result is an upper with minimal seams and stitch lines. Longterm Concept integrates an automation process for quicker production time.
“The demand for new shoe designs is growing at a fast speed,” said Darren Shih, innovation director at Longterm Concept. “Our process changes the way that shoes are made and opens up possibilities both for what we can create and the speed with which we can create it. The name X-Swift reflects the speed of production, and how it mirrors our fast-paced lifestyle.”
The X-Swift will be on display at BASF’s booth during the CHINAPLAS 2019 trade fair. It isn’t currently scheduled for mass production, but the materials used are all available on the market. The companies are also in the process of collaborating on a product for commercialization, but this has no confirmed release date.
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