words_Nick DePaula photography_Zac Dubasik
[As published in Sole Collector's Issue 29, available HERE] We've been hitting you over the top of the head with words and more words on the Air Yeezy, so this time around, we'll let Mark Smith and Tiffany Beers walk you through the changes that the shoe's tooling went through. After starting out with a fabric-wrapped midsole that featured far more slopes and contours, the team of course chose to run with a more flat and familiar tooling for the production version. Along the way, there were quite a few trial and error parts and pieces. Battery-operated lighting? They tried it. Rounds and rounds of samples with different glow concentrations? Tried it. Kanye even originally wanted Jordan tooling -- luckily for him, there proved to be a sneaky solution.....
Deciding on tooling: "In the beginning, we were going to create brand new tooling. That's when we started with the 'Death Star' tooling that has the circular contours on the lateral side. We dialed this tooling in to where everybody was really happy with it." -Tiffany Beers
Electro Luminescence Lights Sample: "Because Kanye talked about lights and referred to the Back To The Future II shoe so much, we approached lighting the midsole and outsole. We even built a prototype, but found out pretty quickly that it was not a feasible idea for this shoe. As soon as I showed Mark the sample, he suggested we try glow-in-the-dark, so we did ... and it looks much better than the lit sample ever could." -Tiffany Beers
Sneaky Sneaky. Kanye gets away with one for the final tooling call: "He wanted to use Jordan tooling, which was not an option. Then he saw the Assault Retro, and it was basically the III tooling and it had the word 'Jordan' replaced with 'Nike.' So he kind of beat us on a technicality, which was pretty cool. [laughs] It turned out great, because it took it back to that era." -Mark Smith
Getting the glow to an "intense" zone: "That was mostly just messing with the rubber formula and getting the right amount of glow. We have made glow-in-the-dark outsoles before, but they were never as bright as what we were looking for in this shoe. I think we started with three percent glow in the mix, but that wasn't enough for Mark. He kept saying, 'Double that; triple that!' We went all the way up to around 70 percent before it was all over. We put so much glow in the mix of some that the parts that came out would just crumble because they didn't have enough rubber in them. [laughs] We also tested several different glow colors like yellow, blue, green and mixes of them, but this green was the brightest. It took quite a while to get the rubber outsole just right." -Tiffany Beers Finalizing: "Ultimately, we tried to do a clear outsole, and we put an LED flat sheet that was powered with batteries, and we thought it was really cool, but it would've been very expensive, and it wasn't going to last that long, so we decided to do glow-in-the-dark instead. We did a number of formulations and probably did 10 or more mixes, and the one that came out the best was not actually the highest mix, but it was one of the mid mixes. It turned out that it held the charge of the light really well for a long time, and it didn't degrade much, because I think the first few we tried degraded the quality of the rubber. The one we landed on and stayed with was really good, and we're all real happy with how that turned out." -Mark Smith [Click for a wallpaper!]