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Hoka One One Taps Industry Veteran Matt Rask to Take Its Footwear Design to the Next Level

Hoka One One has added a veteran designer to its team.

The company has tapped Matt Rask as its senior director of footwear design. Prior to Hoka One One, the 20-year industry vet held senior design positions at athletic behemoths Nike and Under Armour, and launched his own industrial design service company, Jackalope Studios, where he worked with outdoor leaders including Patagonia and Keen.

Hoka One One added Rask to its team after a stellar Q4 2021 performance for parent company Deckers Outdoor Corp. The running and outdoor brand posted a 74.2% sales gain to $177.5 million for the three months ended March 31. (Aside from Rask, WWD reported last night that Hoka One One named Evie Moe as its new senior director of apparel.)

Here, Rask offers insight into what led him to join Hoka One One and discusses the brand’s commitment to innovation and top-tier product.

Matt Rask Hoka One One senior director of footwear design
Matt Rask, the new senior director of footwear design at Hoka One One.
CREDIT: Courtesy

What made Hoka One One an attractive landing spot?

“For me, selfishly, originally it was the product. Having worked in the athletic footwear industry for a long time, Hoka was one of the brands that we always held our product up against as a barometer in terms of performance, fit, weight, ride. What’s great about the brand is you instantly feel empowered, like a better version of yourself, when you try on the shoes. That’s transformative, and for a product designer, that’s as good as it gets. And I’ve been in for a month now, so I’m still getting my feet under me, but I’d say for the culture, it’s a unique place to work. It’s a tight group of passionate, committed and talented people who all want to do the right thing and make great product. What I feel makes it unique is it’s very supportive and collaborative and a positive environment to work in. That’s kind of rare these days. I’ve come from bigger corporations and it’s tough to maintain that family-like feeling when you get that big. That’s what’s really special about the place.”

What makes Hoka One One different from your prior stops at Nike and Under Armour?

“When I joined those brands, they were more established, they were larger organizations, and I’d say Hoka feels more entrepreneurial. I mean, it’s not a startup, it’s well-established and growing at a phenomenal rate, but you still feel like you can have a big impact on the brand that maybe you couldn’t in those bigger organizations where your scope of influence is narrower or smaller. I want to be a part of the brand’s momentum and this period of growth.”

How have your experiences at companies including Nike and Under Armour, as well as your own Jackelope Studios, prepared you for what you’re about to embark on with Hoka One One?

“When you work at bigger brands, you learn how to truly be collaborative and work within an organization to make sure you’re managing the entire process. And you’re learning to work with different functions. I think that’s extremely important. And as a contractor, you learn the value of time, how to be efficient with your time and how to get to solutions to problems quickly. Having that breadth of experience helps me to not only work on product, but also it helps me manage teams and mentor younger designers. And then having experience outside the footwear industry specifically allows me to bring different perspectives to solving problems for athletes, for footwear.”

What are some of the more noteworthy products you’ve worked on with big brands?

“I don’t come from strictly a footwear design background, so the projects I get most excited about aren’t [all footwear]. I worked at Smith Objects and designed some helmets and goggles for them that did really well, a helmet that launched a line for Smith Optics. In terms of footwear, as a previous contractor I was working with Patagonia — and more specifically, working with [founder] Yvon Chouinard — and we created some product that shifted the paradigm in the fly-fishing boot space that forced all the other competitors to follow suit. He’s always been a hero of mine, so having the opportunity to actually work one on one with him was was a huge honor. Early on at Nike, I got to work on a couple of Air Max shoes. That was fun for me. I was a really green designer and didn’t expect to be working on those projects so early in my career, but those were great experiences for me. In terms of Keen, I had an opportunity to work on some of their big franchise models that are still in the line 10 years later, and they’re actually retooling them because they’re so successful. And most recently at Under Armour, I was working with the innovation team to bring a carbon-plated solution marathon shoe to life for the brand, which isn’t out yet, but athletes are really liking and are excited about.”

Where within Hoka One One’s footwear range will you focus on most? 

“As I familiarize myself more with the seasons that I haven’t had visibility to being on the outside, running is obviously really well established, as is recovery, and there’s other areas we’re getting into like outdoors, the hike space and sandals that I get excited about. And given my history with product, working as a contractor or in-house at other brands, I love designing running shoes, so I personally can’t wait to get my hands on some of that product and dig in. I’m excited that the brand has decided to get into these other silos and categories, because with all the tools it has in its toolbox, it can really have a positive impact in those areas.”

What does your hire say about Hoka One One’s commitment to innovation and delivering cutting-edge products to consumers?

“The company is willing to invest in people who have been at these bigger brands, who have seen how it can work, and bring those insights to help streamline the organization and set it up to be even more successful — because it is hugely successful right now.”

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