We got the chance to chat with Evan Belforti about how he started his journey and how he gets inspirations for his ingenious, elaborate and tirelessly innovative shoe designs.
Interview Conducted By Parker XL | Chris Parker
How long have you been designing? What’s your design style?
“Well I grew up in Natick Massachusetts, a suburb outside of Boston. I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember, I always had a pen with me and for some reason a roll of tape. I am not sure I have a “design style” so to speak, but I’ve always been inspired by cinema, particularly films that exist outside of our reality and use narrative structures to hint at a deeper lore that surrounds the story being told. I think as creatives we all have our own lore and each project you see is just a cut scene from the world spinning around in our heads.”
When did you first realize you wanted to be a shoe designer?
“I was in my senior year of college, I majored in Industrial Design. Industrial Design is a very broad major and at the time I really just enjoyed the act of problem solving with design. It wasn’t until I took a traditional footwear making course, and physically made a pair of shoes I had designed, that I realized I wanted to be a footwear designer. I think the people I tended to gravitate towards at school also played a large role in my realization that the apparel and footwear industry was the right fit.”
What was the first step you took toward becoming a shoe designer?
“Well after school I was applying to design roles while working as a welder and machinist for an Industrial Press company in Rhode Island. One day I got a call from Reebok and managed to get a small role as temp working in materials. On my first week I met a footwear designer named Jay and he became a mentor to me. I would work 10 hours a day in order to work on practice design briefs he gave me. One day he gave me a real brief for a new upper for a limited fashion project and I was able to design my first shoe for Reebok. After that I was brought on as an apprentice for the “Tech Style” team and 5 months into my apprenticeship I was hired full time. At the time Fashion and Collaborations came from a small team that had recently lost their one designer. I was given the opportunity to work as their fill-in designer and the woman who created the team, Anastasia, took me in. Now I work on a team with a single developer and two PMs and we do all of the “Fashion and Fashion Collaboration” projects for Reebok. I am very lucky for how things worked out and I owe everything to all the people at Reebok that gave me all of these opportunities.”
What have been the biggest struggles on this journey?
“My journey has been filled with so many people that have believed in me and my work. I am so fortunate that the difficulties I’ve faced haven’t really been the path itself, but rather the steep learning curve I faced. That and the desire to do more. It’s difficult to balance personal work and the work I do at Reebok. I also want to move onto clothing and that is a whole new mountain to climb.”
What was your inspiration for this first shoe design?
“I think my first shoe was really an attempt at creating a unique language and aesthetic for my design and I totally failed. I made it my senior year of school and while it was a good jumping off point, it was juvenile and my mental library of footwear reference was so small that it was easily traced back to brands like Y-3 and Rick Owens.”
Many people have passion projects, but they lose steam after a certain point. What has been the biggest factor motivating you to actually keep going with this venture?
“I think I have slowed down and I am just recently beginning to pick it back up. I think something that has helped me recently has been taking the things I love that are distracting me from my work and make them apart of it. With COVID I have been playing video games for the first time in years and watching a ton of movies and I am just recently realizing that they can actually bring some new life into my work.”
Favorite brand/person you’ve worked with to create a design?
“Wow that is a really difficult question. I’ve been lucky enough to work with so many amazing designers and brands. Kerby believed in me really early on, and he as well as the team at Pyer Moss is unbelievably talented so working with them is always such a full experience. Kanghyuk consists of Kanghyuk himself as well as Sanglak and they are brilliant designers that I always vibe with aesthetically, I mean they made a giant robot from door handles so..yeah, super sick. Cottweiler consists of two creators as well, Matt and Ben, and they are always just on it and so easy to work with. Then there’s Margiela and I couldn’t be happier with the way this collaboration has gone so far, I can’t speak on it too much but it is such a proper collaborative effort working with their team.”
What brand’s sneakers do you love the most and why?
“You are throwing me so many tough questions out here. I think I appreciate brands that collaborate with a larger footwear brand and properly use footwear as a vehicle to continue the narrative they are telling with their apparel. I think brands that have been really successful with this are Raf, A Cold Wall, Sacai, 11 By BBS and then obviously the brands I listed in the last question. And then I also really love the brands that speak to nerdy shoe designers and make highly functional footwear like Brooks, Solomon, and Hoka.”
What’s the future of sneakers look like?
“I think there’s always a split between innovation and trend. Trend tends to loop every 20 or so years but then you have to see how it is manipulated by innovative concepts. I think we are moving towards a combination of mid 2000s and really questioning the shape of the traditional footwear silhouettes. But who really knows it’s all up in the air.”