Kyle Lowry leans forward in a swivel office chair, one hand holding a colorful shoelace and the other touching a sample of textured material. At the same time, he talks about color: faded grays, stealth blacks and Villanova blue. Lowry is immersed in a process designed to create special “player edition” sneakers for NBA players.
Kyle Lowry is at Adidas headquarters in Portland, swimming in all the sneakers.
“It’s everyone’s dream,” he tells SI.com. “When you’re at a certain point, yes, you’re trying to figure out how to leave some sort of legacy or your mark on a business or a shoe.”
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Lowry began his NBA career wearing Adidas, the German brand with a North American headquarters about three miles from the Moda Center in Portland. But then he switched to Peak, a Chinese brand. He returned to Adidas about 18 months ago, and now the Raptors’ NBA All-Star two-time starter – don’t forget the “starter” part – has a chance to design for Adidas. For himself.
“It’s cool, it’s like, ‘Wow, a company wants you to look great, wants you to be comfortable, but wants you to do it your way,” Lowry says. “It makes you feel good. “
These player edit meetings are all about looking and feeling great.
Of course, the pinnacle of NBA sneakers comes from the signature model. But that’s an elusive goal for many, with less than a dozen active contracts among North American brands. The rise to signing begins with Player Editions, known as PE in the sneaker world, is an easier plateau to reach. It can be anything from a main sneaker in team colors with a nickname, number or special word added somewhere on the sneaker to designs full of history told through colors. , graphics and words.
For Lowry, who Adidas certainly wants to promote ahead of an All-Star Game in his current hometown, a next wave of player edits will go way beyond the norm. Lowry will be one of the faces of the new drop line and he’s loving the process, you see.
“I am able to stimulate the creative side of my mind,” he says. “We don’t always use the creative side of the floor, but right now I want to get some purple, orange (shoe colors he just thought up with designers) and be creative. “
Lowry embraced everything Adidas had to offer at an annual occasion that perfectly matched the Raptors playing in Phoenix the day before the reunion. The Raptors had a day off in Portland before a game the following night in which Lowry scored 30 points and distributed eight assists to help defeat the Blazers.
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He started his day by thanking a room full of employees from Adidas, people who work in all facets of basketball sneaker design, a category based in Portland, not Germany. He greeted a quick Q&A with the crowd, reliving his favorite pair of Adidas sneakers (the 2006 Pilrahna, correcting an Adidas staff member in the year, calling it “one of the best shoes. of all time “) and joking about the way he tells his teammates he doesn’t have access to the latest versions of Yeezy (he does).
Then begin the meetings, where Lowry takes his place in a chair at the head of the small boardroom table overlooking the misty Portland weather. Clothing begins. Lowry tells designers he travels in comfort and needs matching tracksuits for the road, zippers on each pocket, and flowy fabrics for the post-game. He shares details about the NBA players’ love for 3 / 4th shorts these days and how he needs multiple options for the variety of cities he visits. He wants Adidas to scale down and fit the other outfit though, jokingly telling them to “make it sexy and show my body.”
Designers want to know his favorite fashion brands and find out what he likes to wear off the court. This will help define how they design in the future. They feature all-star all-star collaborations, giving him a box of “East” gear he can wear during the Toronto festivities.
With the clothes discussed, these designers are stepping out, leaving room for basketball players to fill the table. Here they want to know what Lowry likes and dislikes about the Crazylight Boost line he is playing in. They want to make sure he’s happy. Now playing in a Primeknit version, Lowry explains how stability is the most important attribute of a sneaker, especially for a player who doesn’t band their ankles and only wears a single pair of socks. “I’m just playing,” he says. “I go left or right and it changes with me. This is something that is important to me so I don’t have to worry. I go in and out and the shoe is responsive. I do the hoop.
And then comes the demo, with designers giving it low, mid, and high examples of a new basketball sneaker silhouette slated for fall / winter 2016. Adidas wants Lowry to be one of the faces of the lineup. shoe, a position at the top of the PE food. chain. With a dozen models and colors of this new line and updates to the current lines spread across the table, Lowry takes a look at them by commenting on the attributes he enjoys. “I don’t even have to touch it to know it’s a comfortable shoe,” he says.
The designers want his opinion. Lowry keeps repeating the word “crazy” which makes the folks at Adidas happy because the word crazy appears in many names on their shoes. From there, however, he begins to talk about the look of the new design, pointing out that he prefers to play in the highs, lows and color schemes he gravitates towards. But if Adidas wants him to help sell the sneaker, he’s ready to play a preseason game, half a game, or whatever they need in a mid top or top to show it off. “I’m ready to do whatever it takes,” he says.
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With Lowry’s preferences in hand, the design team can then figure out how best to deploy the new line, knowing that his input is invaluable. “It’s crazy, it’s awesome,” Lowry said, soaking up the shoe and its role.
With much of the overall discussion over, the tone moves to the details, such as the laces. Lowry cares about the laces. He wants one with a little stretch as he squeezes them tight. He also wants more discounted options, as he’s now used to changing channels to mix and match his look.
But the biggest personal discussion comes with the third meeting, one on colors and materials, where less than a handful of designers fill the table with color sample books, heaps of materials, and sneakers.
When it comes to colors, Lowry knows he loves blue. The Philadelphia native played Villanova and the blue still resonates with him. And maybe a shoe that fades, starting with blue and lightening, maybe down to gray, maybe that would work. He talks about it. But as the brainstorming session takes shape, you see Lowry’s interest in all black, white, even a garnet and gold color option to get back to his high school days playing through his mind. . He’s intrigued by the mixes of purple and orange, but wants to stay away from solid red.
“The shoe is pop,” he says. “The shoe is the trigger.”
For the stories, it all starts with his young family. Already Lowry writes the names of his boys – Kam and Karter – on his shoes, so maybe Adidas can do it for him. “Put it somewhere where I can see it and watch it,” he said. “It’s my story, it’s for my heart.”
The stories don’t stop. Lowry emphasizes life’s ups and downs, bouncing off adversity. He explains how the phrase “being awesome” means a lot to him, helps him get up for those morning workouts. Then come the questions from the designers. Is there a place or area code that has special meaning? “215.” A specific place? “Connie Mack Park” in Philadelphia. Popular hero? “Rocky. Me being from Philly, you could do Rocky. I’m a sports fanatic, so (also) the Eagles’ green. Then the creative juices keep flowing. Lowry discusses the use of zodiac signs for his boys – a lion and a crab – one way or another.
Next come the materials. “I like the texture,” he says. “A little shine, but not shiny.” He reiterates his love of blue, how he likes clear soles and thinks that using his personal logo as a small-scale stamp might just play a graphic role.
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There are plenty of takeaways for designers. Once Lowry opened up, they saw his personal preferences and the stories that rock him as a player, as a person. Now, it will be their job to weave this in a mix of colourways, some to wear in team colors on the field and others for those special NBA days when players can stray from the color rules of the NBA.
Lowry is eager to take the next step, when he sees the elaborate options, all designed and manufactured just for him, while Adidas scanned his feet to customize the fit of his size 13 sneakers. wearing a new shoe every three games or so, giving his old shoes to the kids, the idea of having his own stash of PE makes him think he will release a new pair every game. As Adidas designers begin to create, we’ll see their EPs roll out after this season. When you spot the Kyle Lowry PE on its feet and at retail, know that Lowry’s level of commitment has driven every design detail. Especially the laces.
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, sneakers and design for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.