Unless you work in the design field yourself, it’s often hard to get a gauge of what goes into a skate shoe. Who is the Gravis design team comprised of and what are the individual titles?
Kelly Kikuta: Our global product team consists of Joe Babcock, Luz Zambrano, Kyle Plummer, Shinobu Mase, Takashi Sato and myself.
An obvious question, but an important one: how did you approach designing Dylan Rieder’s new pro model shoe? The end result is clearly different from any other skate shoe on the market, but there’s clearly something good going on here.
Our main goal was to design a shoe that embodied Dylan’s vision. He wanted something unique, something different. He has an eye towards high-end fashion and we interpreted this aesthetic into his shoe. Working closely with Mark Oblow our Creative Director, we injected Dylan’s style and personality into a silhouette the skateboard market had yet to see.
How involved did Dylan get with the design? Having read interviews with other skaters who’ve simply added a signature to an already-popular silhouette for their own models, it seems this was a little more involved.
The relationships we have with our team sets Gravis apart from everyone else. It’s been one of our most consistent traits from the inception of the brand. We made sure every aspect of what Dylan was looking for was brought to life. I still remember the day he tested the shoes for the first time in our parking lot. To see him be able to pop tricks like he did was validation that we accomplished something special.
Were there any other ideas that didn’t make it to fruition? Were there any unreleased samples produced?
Kelly Kikuta: Actually, we really lucked out with Dylan’s shoe! The first prototypes came back pretty spot-on, not a lot of tweaks were even necessary. Overall we were able to build a shoe that had every aspect and feature he was looking for at the time.
With a non-standard shoe – or rather a product that doesn’t rely on an existing style so much – is it a challenge to introduce it to the consumer market?
Yeah, I think the challenging part in introducing such a unique design was gaining the acceptance. We’ve always had our loyal Gravis supporters since day one, but launching such a unique skate shoe like this really tested that. At the same time we gained a lot of respect for taking Dylan’s lead and designing a shoe that had never been done or seen before in skateboarding.
Everything feels very ‘premium’ with the first Dylan model. A small number of shoes were released to a select number of stores – I recall an element of excitement that is normally reserved for the latest Nike SB or Lakai release. Was the slip-on intentionally released as a limited model?
Dylan’s shoe is not a limited model, although we offered a limited color way (the Oxblood edition) to select stores, the Dylan shoe is available to all of our skate retailers. We have a small collection of styles based around Dylan: those models really compliment what we’ve done with his first shoe and will be available to a larger consumer base.
The Gravis skate program is relatively young compared to some of the core skate shoe brands, but the product has been really strong and the skate team is one of the best out there. Do you need to keep a close eye on the rest of the industry or are things more organic?
Kelly Kikuta: First off, thank you! That’s a huge compliment. We back our team 100% and we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished as a brand in such a short time. Skateboarding has become so competitive at all levels these days that you have to stay on top of what the other brands are doing. We feel we have the ability to produce product that competes with the other brands and at the same time sets us apart from the pack. We want to be different and build shoes that give skaters an alternative to what’s currently saturating the shoe walls. That really comes down to being inspired by our team and bringing their visions to fruition.
With the backing of Burton, are you able to take advantage of their own research and development when it comes to creating new product?
Being backed by Burton has been helpful on a multitude of levels. Jake has been extremely supportive of what we’re doing and makes sure we have all the right resources available to us. We definitely wouldn’t be where we’re at today without the support of Burton.
What’s up next from the Gravis skate program? Is there a full team video due in the future at any point?
The launch of Dylan’s video was been a huge project for us. The guy flat out destroys it! Mo, Oblow and everyone involved in that project did an amazing job… good work guys! We’ll definitely be following that up in the near future. In terms of product, we have plans to launch a new Arto Saari model in the Fall of 2011 – look out for that!
There isn’t really much point in writing a review of the Dylan Rieder Gravis promo video. It’s a web-friendly freebie, but featuring content worthy of a premium release. I might be from the era of Ed Templeton and Rodney Mullen’s ollie impossibles, but seeing Dylan pop one clear over a bench in this video blew me away. Sugarcane in a pool? Chest-high frontside tailslide to flip out? Fakie flip over a rail, into a bank? Check, check and double-check. The little guy we saw in the Quiksilver ads grew up big.
Seeing him skating his private park with Biebel, Mariano, Marc Johnson and AVE and rolling around popping impossibles over the crowd barriers at Street League just confirms his status. I might not be able to rock a pair of jeans like that, but in the same breath I will never be able to skate like that either.
Gravis pulled the stops out with this video. Expertly filmed and edited (Greg Hunt has been a long-time favourite of mine), great music choices and minimal-but-slick graphics throughout. I hope Arto gets the same treatment when his model drops later this year.
The final thing to say – yet perhaps the most important to anyone who’s still wondering how you can possibly skate in leather slip-ons – is that I have been skating in them since I got a pair. Switching from a pair of Lakai mid-tops to the Dylan shoe is a definite head tweak. Whilst I have relied on some ankle protection since breaking my ankle for the third time, the feeling of freedom was actually refreshing. For tricks like 360° flips or pop shove-its, these give you a proper feeling for the catch.
As you’d expect, these are lighter than anything else out there. What you lose in foot security is made up for with suppleness and comfort. No laces means no frayed bits of material hanging off broken eyelets. Minimal seams and panel joins mean there are no obvious areas for abrasion too. And where you’d normally mourn the lack of ventilation holes, the clever construction is one step ahead: thin layers don’t retain the heat like padded tongues do. Thin layers don’t mean flimsy construction either.
Three weeks into my wear test and I can safely say that these are the eye-openers of the decade, in terms of comfort. The fact I can ignore the ‘no sneakers’ rule and walk straight into the pub afterwards is the icing on the cake.