Socks to riches

Internationally acclaimed shoe designer visits Design School Kolding

US shoe designer and former developer at Nike, Mike Friton, was one of the highlights at the opening of the international shoe conference 'Being a shoemaker' at Design School Kolding. He has developed more than 14 models for Nike and can think anything into a shoe - from a slice of cheese, which after a few hours in the baking sun gets a leather-like consistency - to random observations made through an open window. He talks of himself as 'a wanderer', and see opportunities everywhere he goes.

- I find inspiration in nature, in haphazard play and in anything not associated with an ordinary shoe. I can walk into a shop, spot something and think 'oh, I could make a shoe out of that, he says.

One size fits all
Mike Friton was the first to introduce the groundbreaking mesh technology in shoe design - a technology since launched by Nike under the brand 'Nike Presto', which most are familiar with today. The shoe was originally developed as a stretchable sock, which was to be launched in three size variants: small, medium and large. Each sock stretches to expand 2 to 2,5 sizes, which made smaller production and fewer shoes feasible.

- We launched 9 sizes at first. Next season was to be 7, then 5, 3 and then just one size for all. We called the concept 'One size fits all'. We loved it, the customers loved it - but the industry was against it. This was before internet shopping and it would have meant a lot fewer shoes in production and fewer sales, says Mike Friton.

Million-dollar business overnight
The sock design was equipped with soles and was launched in all sizes - and then things happened fast. Overnight 'Nike Presto' became a million-dollar business, and today mesh footwear is seen on many a foot. Mike Friton still wants the concept 'fewer sizes for all' to become reality.

- It would make more sense today to launch the 'small, medium and large' concept than back when we introduced it at Nike. We could accommodate more than one size in just one shoe - but no-one is doing it. The industry is just not flexible, he concludes.

'Being a shoemaker' was created in collaboration with ECCO