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After two weeks of hunting, gathering, and working with their footwear designers, the Materialists are ready to share their work with professionals from the industry. Each CMF designer prepared a presentation board detailing their story, inspiration, material recommendations, and color palettes. They worked in collaboration with their brand designer to ensure continuity across the team, and with their individual footwear designers to make sure the right choices were made to achieve all the desired performance characteristics in each shoe. Representatives from Adidas, Nike, Sketchers, Under Armour and Vans came to PENSOLE to watch the Materialists in action:




Pandora Lei shares her CMF design strategy for Adidas.



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Kye Kang represents the Nike team and talks about drawing inspiration from the natural world.



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Grace Lee presents Sketchers’ CMF concept for their blue collar footwear line.



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Under Armour team shows off the team’s palettes and image boards.



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David Hollo shares his CMF vision for team Vans’ sustainability concept.


The Materialists’ ideas really shone through their team presentations. They contributed to building a stronger CMF foundation at PENSOLE and inspired this year’s Art Center contingent. Thanks to all of the designers for their hard work, and congratulations!



Each footwear concept features a specific “hero” material – the material most prominently featured for what it brings to the shoe in terms of look, feel, and performance.


Here are the Materialists’ selections for their footwear designers’ concepts:




MATERIAL: Clarino PU skin – translucent finish/upper, Hexagon AW220 RP

FOOTWEAR CONCEPT: Space Flight shoe

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS: Durability, magnetic charged outsole, silver and gold represents celebration


MATERIAL: Ariaprene

FOOTWEAR CONCEPT: Olympic Martial Art Obstacle Game shoe

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS: Stability, comfort, lightweight


MATERIAL: San Fang Stretch Synthetic  – Leather Grain RP

FOOTWEAR CONCEPT: BRICS Market low cost shoe

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS: Bond laminate shank, shock absorption





MATERIAL: 3D Carbon Fiber + Poron XRD Foam

FOOTWEAR CONCEPT: Injury Prevention Basketball shoe

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS: Support, shock absorption, flexibility


MATERIAL: San Fang synthetic leather

FOOTWEAR CONCEPT: Kids’ activity shoe

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS: lightweight, adaptable, playful





MATERIAL: Ariaprene composite foam mesh

FOOTWEAR CONCEPT: Beach hill running shoe

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS: Flexible, durable, barrier to sand and temperature for extended sand exposure


MATERIAL: San Fang synthetic leather

FOOTWEAR CONCEPT: Workforce shoe

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS: Durable, stylish, flexible, cost effective





MATERIAL: Poron foam

FOOTWEAR CONCEPT: The shoe concept is that of resistance. Making training more intense so that the athlete can achieve his/her full potential. The shoe will also mimic the feeling of training/running in sand.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS: Impact absorption, comfort, durability, high/hard performance


MATERIAL: Ariaprene

FOOTWEAR CONCEPT: A training shoe for athletes looking for an extra push. As the outsole wears down, a metallic finish from underneath shines through as an indicator of progress and hard work. The shoe needs to be tight fitting, light, but still function as a training shoe.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS: Moisture wicking, lightweight, stretch and compression, closed cell





MATERIAL: Bionic Canvas

FOOTWEAR CONCEPT: “The Patch Up”  – A shoe with patches that correlate with skateboard stickers to repair and customize the wear and tear of a shoe

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS: It’s durable, more sustainable compared to canvas


MATERIAL: Ariaprene with canvas outer

FOOTWEAR CONCEPT: “The Pack Up” – A shoe that packs efficiently for ease of shipping of carrying

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS: Light, breathable, structural

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MATERIAL: Biopolymer (modified polycaprolactone)

FOOTWEAR CONCEPT: “Grow” – An authentic but contemporary shoe for 2050

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS: The biopolymer can be structured during the growing process to achieve different performance characteristics from the elastic rubber outsole to the flexible mesh upper, all in one material via one process.


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As the end of the workshop approaches, the collaboration between footwear designers and their CMF leads intensifies. The teams meet with Suzette in the MLAB to pull material options for their designs and fine tune palettes and colorways.


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During the second day of material education, Michelle Swenson for San Fang Company visited the studio to introduce the design teams to the world of synthetic leathers.


San Fang materials are primary used in footwear applications, and occasionally in automotive. It is typically about half the cost of natural leather, and because of the very high end finishes that can be achieved it has been used in premium and luxury applications including Bentley and Lamborghini interiors. It is also found in other products areas including upholstery, electronics, sport, and medical.


80% of footwear products utilize some kind of synthetic leather, the most common being non-wovens. Its popularity is based on its many performance characteristics:








To create a unique look and feel for footwear applications, first you choose the appropriate substrate, or “base material.” This is the sheet that and finishes or effects will later be applied to.






There are three options for substrates:




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Next, the designer selects the desired texture, which is achieved through use of release papers or roller emboss:



Finally, the finish is chosen. This allows the designer to customize the color and look – whether it be matte, gloss, metallic, graphic, or any other variation:


Michelle compared the process of putting together a synthetic leather look to customizing a cupcake.




To celebrate our new knowledge of synthetic leather, the designers enjoyed the delicious cupcakes that Michelle brought, and consulted with her about their projects.


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Thanks, Michelle!


For two days, footwear, brand, and CMF designers convened for a material intensive. Suzette Henry introduced the teams to the different materials most commonly used in footwear, the differences between natural and synthetic materials, manufacturing and sustainability practices, finishes and surfaces, and color theory.

Dacie Doucette visited the studio from Ariaprene and walked us through the benefits and applications of this amazing material.


Neoprene was invented by DuPont in the 1930s primarily for automotive applications. It’s versatile, flexible, insulating, and temperature resistant but highly allergenic and unsustainable.


Ariaprene was engineered as a neoprene alternative that does not cause adverse reactions with skin contact, and can decompose and be recycled. It uses a much less resource-intensive manufacturing process than neoprene. It can also be easily reclaimed in a closed-loop scrap recycling process to create a new product called “re-sheet.”

Ariaprene is a closed cell foam composed of three laminated layers of material. The primary applications are in footwear, apparel, and electronics. It’s moldable, and the surface can take a variety of different effects – meshes, foils, jersey, emboss, perforation. There are countless possibilities for designers to create their own customized look and meet their unique performance needs.

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Dacie gave lots of examples of products that use Ariaprene for all of its high performing characteristics. The Nike TR Fit was the first all-foam upper shoe, which has spawned a trend in the footwear industry. Arcteryx utilizes Ariaprene in it’s hike and camp shoes to create an insulating bootie that can be worn as a stand alone camp shoe. Carhartt uses Ariaprene in work boots because of its lightweightness and ability to protect.

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Dacie brought lots of product samples for the Pensole designers to check out and spent lots of time with them answering questions about different design considerations and explaining Ariaprene’s specifications.

Thanks for an inspirational material lecture, Dacie!


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As their footwear designers evolve their concepts and brand designers create their messaging, the Materialists sort their inspiration – putting up images, samples, words, and items – and watch their stories unfold:


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materialists logo 3After several days of CMF introduction, the Materialists took to the streets of Portland to uncover visual inspiration, details, and trends. Here are a few of their findings:



PANDORA  –  Team Adidas

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CMF Team starts out at the Oregon Art Museum and one of my favorite exhibition is Italian Fashion from 1945 to Now. Lots of beautiful clothes from post World War II and most of them still looks very modern. Also it shows very high level and quality of craftsmanship.

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After the museum, I finished my field trip by hopping on and off the the street car and check out all these unique shops that carries many locally made crafts and goods. Even the Goodwill and second store have very unique selection of goods. I made a few interesting purchases for my team project.

I also took pictures of people passing by local street also contributed to my inspiration process.



KYE  –  Team Nike

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I spent some time searching for color and material inspiration on Sunday. My theme is about Senses and I could easily find inspiration almost everywhere I went.

Portland is full of vitality and I was able to draw ideas from shops, food, people and nature.



GRACE  –  Team Sketchers

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Team Under Armour

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On my trending day I went to a bunch of interesting locations and stores to gather visual inspiration for colors and materials. I went to the Portland Art Museum where I was lucky enough to experience the “Italian Style: Fashion Since 1945”.  I wandered around the streets of portland exploring the different stores and eclectic styles all   around me. Book stores, record stores, the Saturday Market, thrift stores, window shopping and parks filled my day with an abundance of new inspiration and outlook on potential color/material approaches for my projects.



DAVID  –  Team Vans

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As part of my trend research I immersed myself in the diverse culture of Portland. Vans shoes are built to be versatile, simple and are built to take a beating! The more you wear them the better they look. They gain character and become a record of the wear and tear they went through.

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Portland is filled with weathered surfaces and textures which visually indicate the passing of time that match the skate culture. Rusted pickups, stapled and posted phone poles, exposed weathered wood provided me a myriad of color and texture inspirations which could capture the idea of authenticity, a quality that’s very much engrained in the skate culture which surrounds the brand.