Go sea it yourself

Iben Johansen loves the sea, and she has created a special boot which is meant to make us take the step from sand to water.

Iben Johansen’s blood type is liquid saltwater. Her palms are yellow and calloused, and her upper arms swell with muscles. She is 25 years old, from the southern part of Jutland. She is a coastal lifeguard and a surfer, and her goal is to rub her great love of the sea into our skin. For her graduate project as industrial designer she has created a pair of boots which may best be described as modern waders. The boot is made of Ariaprene, which is a watertight and insulating material which fits snugly around the leg and can be rolled down to the ankle when you are not in the water. The shoe itself includes a surprising safety element in that it changes colour when it gets wet, just like stones change colour depending on whether they are wet or dry. Thus the users are aware of when they step from one element into another.

The coastline is dangerous
Iben Johansen has worked on her project since December, and she has interviewed a long list of people, among them fishermen, surfers, biologists and a philosopher in order to understand this fascination with the sea and how it is possible to make people who love the beach, but are reluctant to go into the water, actually cross the coast line.

- In my research I realised that everyone’s fear rests at the coast line. Both for fishermen and surfers, but also for regular people, because this is where the waves break and become powerful. The sea itself is much calmer of course. I had the idea to design a shoe that could be worn on the beach but also used to explore what is hidden in the water, Iben Johansen explains. Her project was completed in collaboration with ECCO, where she was hired after graduation.

Plastic islands in the oceans
But Iben Johansen’s project also has a larger meaning. We should not only learn to explore the wet element; we have to attain a greater understanding of the need to protect the world’s oceans.

- We should not only look at the water. We should experience it and understand it in order to conquer the fear that rests in most people. Our future depends on how well we take care of the oceans, and we have to be aware that every time we throw plastic in the rubbish bin there is an imminent risk that it ends up in the ocean. In the Pacific Ocean there are already two large islands of rubbish, but I believe that if people develop a closer relationship with the ocean they will be better at looking after it, says Iben Johansen.

Throughout her studies Iben Johansen has designed several shoes, and she has attended a course at the design school Pensole, founded by D’Wayne Edwards, one of the world’s leading footware designers. He is the one who designed basketball star Michael Jordan’s shoe ”Air Jordan,” and in recent years he has visited Design School Kolding where he taught sketching.

- Sketching is one of the absolute critical skills that companies are looking for in designers, and it is a great advantage for the students to be taught by D’Wayne Edwards. He has a vast experience and a very specific approach to the students because he treats us as professional designers and not as students says Iben Johansen.