words & images_Nick DePaula

When offered a blank slate for a collaboration shoe, sometimes it's hard to come up with the perfect theme.

Do I overthink things and have a huge overarching story? Do I try and too literally force a theme or concept onto a model? Do I follow a similar colorway or theme from past shoe?

For our Friends & Family Pony Special Blend, the concept was pretty straightforward -- What would I want to wear? With the shoe planned to be ready by the Fall of 2009, I had in mind the autumn season of Portland and wanted to wear a shoe that featured a subtle grey base and would let the materials and design speak for itself. There's no use overdoing a beautiful shoe when the lines already flow so well together.

Rather than a contrast of colors, a contrast of materials would best serve the appropriately named Special Blend. I wanted to wear just the right blend. As it stands, a premium sonatina leather wraps around the perimeter above the midsole and can be found along the shoe's collar and strap. A rich suede body tops the upper and a crisply woven ballistic mesh is seen through the quarter.

A molded faux-carbon panel flowed throughout the shoe to bring it all together, and the shoe couldn't be too subtle, so I went with the highest contrast color possible -- neon -- on all branding hits and the shoe's toe. It was the right blend and contrast of high quality materials that I was after, and Pony executed the shoe to perfection. Also, enjoy a look at the original line art: Here's a bonus look at the personal pairs styled up in Black/ Red/ Green for former staff writer Mikey Andersen, and as usual, I went with a Black/ Purple Kings theme.