The company decided to contemplate an update to the classic by holding a competition among students at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, where Sperry offered the winning designer a summer internship with the brand. Designers needed to produce shoes built for climate, traction, fit and water.
The competition served as a course for 13 Pratt students beginning in January, where they would research, design and produce an updated boat shoe to act as the “New icon” for an updated Sperry collection to bring new customers to the brand.
Midway through the semester, Sperry and professors of the course chose three student designs that were further developed into tech packs and sent to Asia to be made into a model and presented at the final competition.
“Pratt Institute has an established school of design that appealed to Sperry’s interests for the project. The student population is incredibly diverse with a unique design aesthetic, and we wanted to be a part of their innovative process,” said Adam Meek, Sperry global SVP of product. “As Sperry continues to evolve as a brand, it only made sense to look to the designers of the future for a new take on a classic.”
The winner, Tianhan Zhang, created an innovative unisex design for Fall/Winter 2017, featuring a futuristic, fluid look and functional silhouette, with a muted minimalist colorway.
“I want to create something new but not just drop it from the sky. So, I want the design to have a root that you can relate it to, but that you can see the new style being covered with it,” said Zhang. “I worked on a project before with NASA, so a lot of times when we did research on space there’s a lot of excitement we have [with] futurism. I think that’s another thing… I think about.”
A panel of judges from Sperry, Pratt and Vamp voted on the winning shoe.