What happens when talented young designers make it through the PENSOLE Footwear Design Academy gauntlet and don’t come out with jobs at Nike or adidas? We Are Underdogs is the answer.
We Are Underdogs is a creative platform headed up by Paulo Saraiva Gonçalves, CEO of Portugal Footwear, that is bringing the sneaker concepts sketched by young designers to life. Thousands of striking and interesting concepts flow from the minds of designers every year but very few actually make it onto the production line. We Are Underdogs is changing that by releasing exclusive and premium builds of concept shoes handcrafted in Portugal.
For every model launched WAU will produce a numbered set of 99 hand-made pairs — complete with authenticity cards and a note from the designer — while pair 00/99 goes to the designer. The company’s goal is to produce and sell a new concept sneaker every four weeks, an ambitious effort to give back to the sneaker community.
The first shoe We Are Underdogs has launched is aptly named INITIUM. Designed by Maxwell Lund, winner of the 2016 PENSOLE World Sneaker Championship, the shoe flaunts soft split suede, perforated Nappa calf leather that feels amazing in-hand and on-foot, and tumbled floater calf leather. The shoe rides atop the EVA sole Lund designed for his winning 2016 WSC shoe. As soon as I opened the box all I could smell was leather — that’s a great thing. (Fit note: go TTS or half a size down in the Initium if you want a snug fit.)
“My goal when designing this shoe was to explore different design processes and ultimately try and have fun without worrying about the end result or whether or not this could turn into something for my career,” Lund told WearTesters in an exclusive interview. “Try and get back to how I was when I first started doing all of this — clueless, but excited to try and figure it out for myself.”
Designers that partner with We Are Underdogs will be given a chance few receive; they’ll be able to helm their own brands and act as ambassadors for this platform. Moreover, they’ll be paid royalties on the sales — as will PENSOLE, a WAU partner — the first step in bringing these young creatives into the footwear industry. (I don’t know of any designers at big brands making royalties from their designs!)
“I think this platform is very important for young designers,” Lund told WearTesters. “It is super valuable for people to see their ideas all the way through to the end. There is only so much you can learn by sketching, and your whole thought process changes for the better when you have the knowledge and experience of turning that initial idea into a finished product by actually seeing the whole process.”
Maxwell Lund’s Initium sneaker is available now in ‘Gunpowder Grey’ for $199 in U.S. sizes 8 to 13 at WeAreUnderdogs.com.
Stay tuned because much more is coming from We Are Underdogs and we’ll have all the coverage!
Images courtesy of We Are Underdogs