Dylan Raasch is the Design Director for Nike Sportswear, one of the leading brands in lifestyle footwear as seen through a sportswear lens.
A firm believer in keeping it simple, Dylan’s designs artfully combine aesthetics with functionality, putting technology to work on providing innovative solutions to functional problems.
One of his early projects for Nike was the iconic Roshe, one of the most popular styles worldwide, both original and elegant in its simplicity.
Design Father met up with him during the Holiday 15 NSW sneakerboot collection preview in Moscow, and found out a little more about him and his process for transforming inspiration into functional design.
Dylan, I’d like to start with a brief introduction to you, and your collaboration with Nike leading up to this collection.
I started in 2009 as a Level 2 designer in Running. That’s where I did a lot of designs of running footwear, and that’s where I did the Roshe.
I then moved into Design Director positions in women’s NSW and core NSW design, and two years ago I became the design director in NSW Running, Global Football and Tennis.
The Roshe is one of the most popular Nike models worldwide.
What was the actual brief for this model?
Actually, there was no brief for the Roshe. I just had a manager come up and say “Hey, have you ever thought about how you can reinvent the price point at $75?”.
So I started thinking about it, and that was really all I had to go off of. In my free time I started thinking of how I could do that. Using my manufacturing experience, I saw we needed to change how we make shoes because there are way too many elements, and by eliminating some I could make it more comfortable and in certain ways more functional. That’s how it all started.
You mentioned the complicated process of making shoes and functionality.
What are your thoughts: Should design be for design’s own sake or should design be driven by functionality and actual usage?
I think it’s up to the designer. I’m very functional based because I like it when the product solves a problem. If you’re just doing it for an aesthetic purpose, it’s almost more of an art piece. I like to solve problems, and use my artistic ways to do that, so that’s my preference: to have a function and have the form follow that. Usually you get stuff that’s pretty interesting that way.
Were there any particular difficulties in the manufacturing process for the shoes in this collection?
I think the biggest problem in manufacturing the sneakerboot collection are the water protection elements: you have to figure out how to do that, at what stage to do it, and make sure you‘re doing enough of it.
We have to do a lot of testing, then go back and fix any issues, and go back and test again, so it’s a very time-consuming process. That was the biggest hurdle for this.
What about your thought process? What goes through the mind of the head designer when thinking about the next collection? What generates the next idea? And how do you go from an abstract idea to an actual design?
A lot of it from this point on comes from when people start wearing these and giving me feedback, and I’ll think “oh, I want to try this” or “what if I did this?”.
We’re starting on the next season now, but I’m thinking about it throughout the whole year, so the thought process is continuous. There’s an ongoing stream of ideas slipping into my head, so it’s really just a case of “OK, I want to try this next”. I’m always thinking of what we can do next. I’m always playing around in my head and sketching stuff.
Is your design philosophy based on abstraction, in taking elements off, or on synthesis, putting elements into the design?
I prefer to remove and combine. How do you remove something but combine that element into something? With the Air Max 95, for example, how do you remove those four layers and turn it into one beautiful sculpted layer that still kind of has those elements? That’s what I like to do: remove elements but maintain the integrity.
You mentioned sculptured elements. What are your sources of inspiration?
My inspiration is nature for all my sculptural elements. I like to keep things very natural so I always look at how stone is sculpted with the wind and water, tree sculptures, sand… there are so many elements in nature you can look to and see the natural execution, and how it almost looks like a natural form out there.
Have you ever visited Greece? Ancient Greek sculpture has been a source of inspiration for designers worldwide.
Just through books unfortunately. I need to go there, people say it’s amazing.
Is there a particular piece of clothing or an item that you’ve inherited or that you love and is a source of inspiration or motivation to you?
There is. My father rode motocross in the ‘70s, so he had these leather motocross boots. I have a pair, and I love them. They’re beautiful now: I love how the leather has aged. I grew up looking at those and loving how they wore over time so I think that’s something that I’ve put into my designs. I’m always thinking of how stuff is going to wear and evolve over time.
Is there anything that you always carry around with you?
I always carry my Muji notebook, I’m always sketching in it.
Are there sketches in it right now?
No, not in here. I just got a new one but I have a pile of these at home, filled up. I always carry that, my pen, and my iPhone.
And generally, I always have the same outfit on, kind of like a uniform. It makes it easy.
And the final question, the tricky one: suppose you were hosting a dinner party you could invite any four people you wanted, living or dead. Who would you invite?
Let’s see…off the top of my head I think it would be cool to have Steve Jobs, he’s a genius, I’ve heard so many stories about him. Also because I think we have a lot in common: I share his meditation practice, the ethereal way he approached things. Steve Jobs is an icon
I’m into music. I’ve always loved Jimi Hendrix, how much love he had for people. He’d be amazing to have there.
I’m a huge Valentino Rossi fan I’d love to have him there. Crazy man!
One more…who else? It’s a tough one off the top of my head, there are so many people to chose from. Let’s see, I have music, I have design, I have sports…
How about someone from the movies?
Angelina Jolie, I’d like have her there. There you go. That’s a good group!
The Nike Sneakerboot 2015 Holiday Collection:
Featuring reimagined classics such as the Flynkit Chukka, Air Max 95, Lunar Force One and Air Max 90, Nike’s newest sneakerboot collection has been designed to protect against the elements, even in the harshest of winters.
With features like double-layered uppers, heat-reflective sock liners, water-resistant uppers, and rubberized toes, they offer added warmth, visibility and dryness, without compromising style.
The collection will be available on the Nike online store from November 5th.