lup: Ping Pong Inspired Footwear
Heads up to all those low cut lovin’ sneaker freaks out there: a new brand is hitting the market in a special way. In order to fund a free design space in New York for young designers, Daniel Bailey, Omar Bailey, and Luke Deering have come together to put out the “lup” brand. Three shoes are being dropped, all of which are inspired by the game of ping pong. Currently split between Belgium, London, and New York, the three lup founders were quite hard to wrangle down, but we managed to get a volley going with Bailey to uncover the story behind lup’s ambitious project.
Daniel, how’d this whole idea begin?
We actually started off with a brand called SG3. It’s a shoe brand that creates custom footwear for pro-athletes and entertainers (T-Pain and Allan Housten being a couple of those). It had been something Omar had been doing for quite sometime, and then Luke and I got involved too. This was great, and we learned a lot from it, but we just really wanted to create something that crossed the border of sport and casual, which ended up being lup. We thought for a long time what type of sport we could use to create a shoe that would work for the crossover of having a casual looking shoe, while still responding well the sporting activity, which of course ended up being ping pong.
The whole idea to bring the brand over to Kickstarter didn’t come until much later. We’d always used Omar’s design space in Manhattan to schedule meetings and showcase our stuff while making these shoes. This was such a life saver, because it gave me a place where I could work on my stuff, and be around the right type of people to feel inspired while also looking semi-professional by being in this great place and not just meeting in a coffee shop. So with the Kickstarter project we’d like to do the same thing on a slightly larger scale, and create a free design space for other young designers to use it just as I did, in order to jumpstart their careers. We thought it would be a great idea to mesh the shoes in with this and kind of give them as an incentive for people who bid; give money to the design space, receive a pair of dope sneaks… sounds like a good deal to me!
Definitely a solid plan. Back up an bit and tell us how did you and your partners come together?
Well, I actually met Luke in England at the National Basketball Academy in Durham. I bet him like fifty hours of rebounding that I could do a 360 dunk by the end of the week. I failed pretty miserably at it, but we’ve been great friends since. I met Omar at a design conference in Philly, he was talking about footwear design and development. I remember I was sitting in the front row with these bright ass yellow Jordan 1′s on. I introduced myself and we’ve been boys since. I then introduced Luke and Omar to each other and now we’re involved in all types of stuff. Apart from lup, Luke is also the founder of EntreprenuerFinder.com, Omar runs his own footwear development agency called Bright Idea Design, and I’m just all over the place, designing everything from footwear to Jet Ski’s. I also have a footwear design and development agency and I also run a footwear design blog called ConceptKICKS.
Crazy: imagine a kick inspired by the sport of jet skiing! For this Kickstarter, is there a reason you picked shoes and not another product?
With both Omar and I being heavily involved in footwear – mainly for other brands – we just really wanted to create something a bit more on our own terms. Don’t get me wrong, in the future there will be other lup products, but the shoes will always be at the forefront of the brand. It’s just something we love to do, there’s definitely something special about shoes that I don’t think any other fashion-related product can really even get close to.
Would you guys call yourselves collectors?
Omar and I are both footwear designers and developers by trade, having created footwear for brands like adidas, New Balance, Timberland, DC, and others. So it’s what we do as our job and we love it! Luke loves it too, but from more of a fan perspective, though he has a lot of great ideas too. We’re all definitely collectors, we’re always looking to cop the dopest and rarest sneaks.
What sort of work did you guys do for adidas?
Omar worked at the “adidas Village” location in Portland, Oregon, where he designed cleated, basketball, and advanced concept shoes (similar to Nike’s kitchen) which was a hybrid running trainer that allowed users to track workout progress and training amongst other things. There are obviously shoes and products that can do this now, but this was back in 2004. adidas was great along with therir designers and staff. He says it was a great and memorable experence.
Back to lup shoes, why ping pong? And what exactly is a ‘ping pong shoe’ anyway?
The sport of ping pong was a way for us to bridge that gap between sports and casual footwear. How we actually made it a ping pong shoe was a pretty long process. What we basically ended up doing was scooping out the midsole, which makes the outsole thinner and more flexible. Then we made a thick insole that would fit into that gap, so it’s a super comfy shoe that has great flexibility, but still looks like a simple, clean, casual shoe.
Can you elaborate on the creation process in detail?
We actually got the idea when we were walking past a ping pong club in New York called, SPiN. We knew we wanted to make a sporty/casual shoe, and ping pong just seemed to fit. So I got to work researching and coming up with a few different concepts. We wanted something with a classic silhouette, something that was timeless and we could build on. After we were all happy with a couple of the designs I put the tech packs together for the factory, and made some quick pull-overs built on standard sole molds while also starting to create the woodmold to see how our designed sole would come out. This took quite a while, the first pull-over samples resembled something someone would wear if they had a club foot. But after a couple changes to the sole woodmold and the last shape, we were very happy with how things were going. After a trip over and three more rounds of developing and wear testing the upper and the sole, we ended up with what we have now, which we’re all very happy with.
Quite a process you’ve all traveled! Can you share any stories of success or failure that you’ve met along the way?
Probably more failures then I’d care to mention!
But it’s all part of the process, especially when you’re trying to alter how a shoe is traditionally made. I remember seeing the first samples and just praying that they’d end up looking somewhat how I wanted. This being the first shoe we created on our own dime, if it didn’t look good, we were pretty much screwed and the project just wouldn’t happen. Luckily it all came together and the hard work paid off.
Daniel, it’s been our pleasure. Thanks for taking the time to share your stories with us. Is there anything you’d say to the ‘young designers’ and entrepreneurs out there?
I guess I’d probably just say to do what you love, and do whatever you have to do in order to be able to make that happen. Network, grind, and work hard, all the usual stuff, just do you, and buy a pair of lup.
For more information or to help the cause, jump on over to the lup Kickstarter project and pitch in your two cents!