New: ANTA’s Duane Lawrence talks about the KT9, his love for sneakers and a couple other things
I have a confession to make.
I prefer to have sit downs with sneaker designers than the athletes that wear ’em. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy chopping it up with hoopers, but it’s just different to be around the guys behind the sketches and people who conceptualized what essentially is rubber and leather.
We were fortunate to have a recent visitor make a second trip to Manila, taking in more of the island sun than some runs on the concrete courts this time around. We sat down with ANTA’s design director for Basketball, Duane Lawrence, to talk about the KT9, how his love for sneakers started and a couple other that goes behind designing a shoe for your favorite athletes.
After designing the KT8, Lawrence took inspiration from the Bay and further evolved the ‘Captain Klay’ persona of Klay Thompson for the KT9. Taking cues from Thompson’s love for boating, the KT9’s design shows elements that reflect that love as well as nods to the Bay Area – – from the vertical lines found on the upper that represent the bridges throughout the Bay, or the Oak Tree pattern found on the shoe’s outsole as seen on the City Edition jersey worn by Dubs. Lastly, the collar on the KT9 also carries the same elements found on boat shoes, with the laces wrapping around working to help with the shoe’s overall fit.
While the general design and direction comes from Lawrence, there is an entire design team for them to churn out this amazing product. The design team puts in the work, putting specific details and designs for special colorways as well as answering Klay’s needs from shoe to shoe. We saw the innovation behind the KT8 with its high top/low top transformation, but the overall improvements done on the KT9 definitely shows with the way the shoe is built. There’s a lot of details that may go unnoticed on the shoe, but Duane pointed out pretty nifty details that would make you appreciate the hard work the entire design team put in for their pinnacle basketball product.
You would think a guy who’s been designing shoes for two decades would have that schtick of being one of the best out there but dude’s a pretty humble, down-to-earth guy. Having designed shoes for Dwyane Wade (yes, he designed the Converse Wade 1 and 3), Dwight Howard (adiPower Howard 2), Elton Brand, Gordon Hayward and a couple others, Lawrence’s love for sneakers started way back in middle school, when he and his friends would flip through the pages of an Eastbay catalog. Those memories sparked his love for design and sneakers and that led him to such an amazing journey. Lawrence also notes the Glove (Nike/Gary Payton) as one of those shoes that he remembers distinctly growing up that truly fascinated him.
In terms of designers he looked up to, Duane Lawrence lists Aaron Cooper, Eric Avar, Wilson Smith, E Scott Morris, and D’wayne Edwards as part of his ‘Mount Rushmore’ of designers (AC and Avar are usual picks by most, but was truly happy to see Smith, Morris, and Edwards get the shine they definitely deserve). While Duane’s worked with a boatload of athletes through the years, he still enjoys getting to know them and still gets a kick out of that ‘kid-in-the-candy-store’ moment whenever he would hand them their signature shoe or getting feedback and insights that would eventually help him and the design team come up with.
Like any other individual, Duane wen through some challenges when designing the sigs for Klay. Going back to the KT8, the dual-purpose collar gave him fits, as he felt that he was overthinking a lot of the elements into building that collar (don’t worry Duane, the final product works wonders and fans everywhere appreciate the work!). As he shifted from designing shoes from Gordon (Hayward) to Klay, so many ideas were flowing through Lawrence and attributes the final work as an exercise of restraint and control in trying to put in all of the ideas into one shoe. After all, it is quite difficult keeping things simple.
Duane spoke on a couple more things with regards to athletes, other signatures athletes’ shoes and a bunch of others. With design and innovation being at the forefront, we can’t wait to see what ANTA and Duane Lawrence has in store for us in the coming years.