The Anta KT3 is one of the best basketball sneakers we’ve reviewed all year — Nightwing2303 even created a new badge for it. Recently, I sat down with the shoe’s designer, Robbie Fuller, to get behind the design and check out a very interesting KT3 sample.
Right off the rip I have to ask: What’s it like working with Klay Thompson? He is one of the most famous athletes in the world right now — all eyes are on him, on his play, on his team, on his sneakers, etc.
Well I’ve met him a couple times already, he’s a great guy — walk into his house and he’s like “You thirsty?” and instead of asking his assistant he grabs a glass from the cupboard and is like “Do you want ice?” He’s that type of guy.
Working with him, like working with any great athlete, raises expectations and it’s exciting. For us, an emerging brand, I go back to China with his ideas and expectations and it makes everyone do better. He’s got dual-personalities — we met China Klay this summer — but before that it was, “he’s the silent one” or “Quiet Klay.”
Now, everyone realizes that there are so many more layers to him — he loves having a good time. And he is the face of the brand [Anta] for a lot of people in the U.S.
That’s interesting because it has, for several years now, been our job explaining to people like “Yo there’s this Chinese brand that Klay Thompson signed with and you can get dope basketball sneakers for nearly half the price of what other brands are charging.”
The Anta KT3 is a great sneaker — we had to create a new badge in our performance reviews for the traction because it was so good. We were actually surprised because the shoe, at least on the ‘Get Hot Stay Hot’ colorway, uses translucent rubber. Can you tell me about developing the traction; what about the compound or pattern makes it so good?
It’s a mixture of life lessons, I’ve been doing this a while and I’ve realized what works and what doesn’t work. Working with a good team over there — actually this guy Han Jin, senior for the team before I got there, he moved upstairs and sat right next to my office — we would meet and talk through things. He’s a splash brother, so we need some sort of water inspiration.
I’ve got a sample with me here and you can see that the scale of the traction is actually smaller than on the final shoe. We did weartesting and saw too much wear. 90% of basketball is played outdoors in China, so we wanted to make sure we balanced the needs of Klay but also the needs of most of the people that will be wearing it on-court.
It needed to be multidirectional — you can see the little breaks in how it works out from the pivot point — and we own some of our own production, so we have a little more transparency (pun intended) than other brands as to what actually goes in to the materials. So we can be more assured of what the formula is.
A lot of times, if you’re woking with someone who is external, you provide them with a request and you have all the quality checks you can but you’re never quite sure. We made sure that the sample we want at the end is the sample that we got.
Does the fact that Anta owns some of its own production mean that it can dial things in in a way some other brands can’t?
Everybody has their strengths. This transparency — and being very vertical — means you’re able to see all aspects under your own recording system. You can see the challenges a bit more clear and come to some good solutions that benefit the entire brand — and ultimately benefit Klay.
This is a sample.
This is an early one that got leaked out.
What was the idea behind this plate?
When I first got to Anta the tagline was “keep moving.” To me, that meant we’re the motion brand. When I think of Klay — what’s his motion? Is it shooting, is it cutting? Who has built a shoe that’s meant for shooting motion?
I like to think of us [Anta] as a split second brand. We want to make that split second between sitting on the bench and being an all-star.
With this shoe the idea was: “Should shoes always be molded flat to the ground? Is that the right posture for a shooter?”
There’s two benefits: that’s not out of bounds — remember Sean Elliot hit the side line three, heels off the ground. Imagine if you could do something that would help in a big moment like that. Secondly, in shoes it’s gold medals, not silver or bronze. Normally, you go to the store you’re buying one pair, so what’s it best at? With Klay some say oh, best two-way player, others say best shooter.
With ‘Get Hot Stay Hot’ it’s pretty clear that he has the hottest hand in the league. We analyzed how he gets hot. If you just watch his pattern when he comes down he’s just running off of screens until he can get open. That’s why the forefoot is wrapped up so high, in order to help him do these 180 cuts. Once he’s made that space, then it [the shoe] needs to be light and it needs to and to be up and get that shot off as fast as possible.
This sample is pre-cambered, it wants to be up, and encourages proper shooting motion.
And does it encourage being on the forefoot, the way Klay is most of the time?
Exactly. For the final shoe we kept the concept — it is two different foams in the front and back, how we dialed it — but this is the thing I’m most proud of with the shoe, what we didn’t do.
We didn’t have solid proof that he would shoot the ball faster [with the midfoot plate] at the moment of production so it was easy, we don’t do gimmicks. Instead, we upgraded the upper and made it more comfortable.
The removable shroud — how did it get on to the sneaker? What was the thought process behind it?
He’s been in hightops — mids and highs really — all his career. If you actually look, he’s not lacing all the way up so we saw it as an opportunity. If he isn’t lacing all the way up, that is some real estate on the shoe where we could try something.
Especially for our consumers over in Asia, it’s how can you put more and more value into the shoe? There are lots of ways to add value. The strap is new, it’s adaptable — snap on snap off, and it gives a unique sensation.
It’s aesthetic and functional. Was there something that informed the design of the KT3, was there something that you were sketching over and over again?
We knew we wanted a significant change from the first two shoes. It’s always Klay, there will always be consistent elements, but we saw an opportunity to progress the direction.
Being more of an international designer, there’s simplicity that comes with that. We went away from some of the line language of the other shoes and simplified down to let the materials drive the vision.
Thank you for speaking with me.