Hey, Cool Shoes
A giant high-tech sneaker by Janne Kyttänen is the centerpiece of an ASICS promotion
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 4/1/2008 12:00:00 AM
The name of Japanese footwear manufacturer ASICS is an acronym for anima sana incorpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body. But how about a whole city in a single shoe? To kick off a promotional campaign for the Onitsuka Tiger, Janne Kyttänen designed a mini Tokyo in a mega-sneaker.
An alum of Belgian lighting innovator MGX, Kyttänen calls himself a digital sculptor—and now serves as the creative director of a studio called Freedom of Creation. "I don't feel I have to get my hands dirty," he says. Indeed, for the ASICS job, the entire modeling process took place in 3DS Max. The results included stripes that double as superhighways for sub-subcompact Toyotas, a flea market with flea-size billboards, and a downtown replete with a green toy lizard that's "not Godzilla," he says.
After a week spent honing every angle on-screen, he e-mailed a 39-inch-long version to a layer manufacturer for rapid prototyping. The company's three-dimensional digital printer painstakingly deposited tissue-thin layers of white polyamide powder that would then be hardened by a laser into two halves of the shoe. Once they were removed from the device, extra powder was blown away by compressed air. "It's a bit like archeology," Kyttänen says. Finished with a dirt-resistant coating, the polyamide became durable enough to go through the dishwasher. (The exact same material can also be tumbled in a rock polisher for a gemlike luster.)
When Kyttänen received the 19 ½-inch-long halves in the mail, he glued them together. The shoe was now ready for its lighting components. Under the guidance of an electrical engineer, Kyttänen screwed on the circuit boards that would connect to 300 feet of wire and control the LEDs spotlighting the un-Godzilla and the electroluminescent wire lining the highway. The only thing that remained to be done was to plug the shoe into a wall outlet, 110 or 220 volts.
The shoe began its world tour at the fashion trade show Bread & Butter in Barcelona, Spain. Meanwhile, the same basic data was employed to make dozens of smaller, slightly simplified shoes for retail locations and a zillion stainless-steel key-chain fobs—just for kicks.