If shoe makers have their way, 3D printing will be the future of footwear. With companies like New Balance, Nike and Adidas all investing in innovative new techniques to make shoes lighter and easier to produce than ever, 3D printing appears to be a natural next step following innovations in ultra-light knit and microfiber technologies and at the turn of the decade.
Having already mastered the art of making lightweight shoes during their time at Native Shoes, Esmé Smith, Matt Penner and Damian Van Zyll De Jong left the brand in 2013 to form People Footwear, focusing solely on innovative uses of 3D printing in footwear. To be sure, the shoes are lighter than ever—lighter even than 3D printed shoes by some of those bigger names mentioned before—but while others have naturally focused on the use of 3D in athletic footwear, People is taking things, well, to the people. The brand’s high performance leisure shoes take cues from the sports world, but are meant to be worn every day, and come in a host of sleek, casual silhouettes in bright color combinations.
Vamp recently spoke with People co-founder Damian Van Zyll De Jong on what it takes to make a shoe that’s truly as light as air, and on what to expect from the brand for 2016.
VAMP: You’re a relatively new brand but have made quite a name for yourselves in a short amount of time. How has the time at Native informed your work at People, and how is People setting itself apart from that brand?
Van Zyll De Jong: We always say our experience at Native Shoes was like shoe-making university. Esmé Smith, Matt Penner, and myself were the original crew that started Native Shoes and are the founders of People Footwear. The team that started Native and moved on to create People Footwear have a strong background of experience and what we’re creating now is the result of the all the prior trial and error. We’ve been hard at work, heads down and feet forward looking at how we can explore footwear on the daily. It’s a constant evolution. I feel like the energy behind People Footwear is setting the brand apart from the past, and the product—both current and new styles—speak for themselves.
VAMP: How has People Footwear been received so far?
Van Zyll De Jong: People are loving People. For Spring 2017 we will be selling in 25 countries. It’s always a challenge when you start a global brand from day one. It’s all about the approach and aligning with the right partners. I think we have done an amazing job so far.
VAMP: Could you tell us more about the printing process? How are the shoes so lightweight?
Van Zyll De Jong: We always come from a place of light thinking and a slim aesthetic so we tend to battle a lot of weight issues before we start the development process. Our proprietary SkyLite EVA is used in all our shoes and really is what creates the weightless experience of our shoes. Weight is considered in all aspects of the design from fabric and trim selections, to outsole thicknesses and so on.
VAMP: Do you feel that we will continue to see more 3D footwear industry-wide?
Van Zyll De Jong: It’s definitely not a niche trend. I think the process will just evolve more. 3D printing is a great way to achieve layers and definition in one swoop. We love working with it and will continue to evolve with the industry.
VAMP: What do you see People bringing to the footwear industry that is unique? Is there a missing gap you’re filling?
Van Zyll De Jong: We do feel like there is a gray space in the industry that we’re filling. We’re bringing fun, fresh and new ideas to how footwear can be constructed. People Footwear is a brand that is enriching day-to-day life with lightness and good vibes for all ages. We have recently been verified by PETA as a vegan friendly (animal-free) company, which is becoming more and more important to consumers.
VAMP: What’s new for People in 2016? What can consumers expect?
Van Zyll De Jong: For Spring 2016 we introduced the Lennon Chiller which has become a top seller internationally. There’s a collaboration with Poler Stuff coming out this July in this silhouette which we’re really excited about. The Yoko, a Japanese inspired flip-flop, is super unique and has been getting a lot of attention. The Rio was the third new style we introduced for the season and we barley have any left in stock. It’s a fully molded EVA slip-on reminiscent of a Mexican huarache that is perfect for the summer.
Coming out for the upcoming fall season we have The Jasper—a water resistant duck boot, The Weller—a modernized slip-on Chelsea boot, and The Phillips Puffy—a quilted water resistant high top. We’re growing the product offering so consumers will come to see us as an all seasons brand. There is so much good stuff in the pipeline right now for future seasons.