May 31, 2024 - News

Shoes as high art in Portland show

Pink octopus sneaker high tops

"Octopus Shoe" is on view at the Portland Art Museum. Photo: American Federation of Arts and the Bata Shoe Museum

An exhibition of futuristic footwear at the Portland Art Museum shows the wilder ideas of sneaker lovers, but also how designing and making are interdependent skills.

Why it matters: In a sportswear-dependent town, shoes are both high art and a way to make a living.

The big picture: Axios toured "Future Now: Virtual Sneakers to Cutting-Edge Kicks" with famous designer Dylan Raasch, who can tell which way the winds blow when it comes to footwear.

  • In April, Raasch quit Nike to go solo after 15 years at the forefront of design.

Zoom in: Aside from crazy kicks styled after pigeons and octopi, the show highlights some shoes made from chromed plastic, mushroom leather and old rope.

  • There's the Nike Go FlyEase, which folds at the arch and snaps into place on the foot, and the Nike Mag self-lacing shoe from "Back to the Future II."
  • Nike has "a massive amount of resources and the ability to make very futuristic ideas," Raasch said.

Zoom out: The exhibit shows AI tools that allow designers to turn a sketch into a 3D model and work remotely with the factory.

  • "We're moving into an era of quick ideating and manufacturing processes, and the ability to do more future-forward thinking without those resources is more feasible for designers," said Raasch.

Catch up quick: Raasch is known for designing the modestly-priced Nike Roshe Run lifestyle running shoe, which sold over 40 million pairs. His Zen meditation practice inspired the minimalist sneaker.

Bottom line: Style is hard, but manufacturing is harder. Besides giving the Roshe Run a super plain look, Raasch reduced the number of pieces to construct it — from 50 to 22.

If you go: Future Now: Virtual Sneakers to Cutting-Edge Kicks is at the Portland Art Museum until Aug. 11. ($25)

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