Shoe designer steps up to teach students: Feburary 2011
Shoe designer steps up to teach students
By Rob Kuznia Staff Writer
Posted: 02/08/2011 06:50:27 PM PST
Updated: 02/08/2011 07:20:29 PM PST
David Raysse is Skechers VP of Design, and leads a design group of students from Griffith Middle School in an after-school program at the corporate offices in Manhattan Beach. (Brad Graverson / Staff Photographer )
Nobody wants a pair of shoes that makes their feet look long. So it's generally good to break up the design with a bit of striping, a heel plate and a toe cap.
This is the kind of design wisdom that is making the practical value of an arts education come alive for a group of inner-city middle-schoolers at Skechers in Manhattan Beach. In the company's swanky new headquarters on Sepulveda Boulevard, a star designer is giving them lessons on how to put together a sharp-looking shoe.
David Raysse designed the company's newly minted Resistance Runner line of fitness sneakers. He also oversees the design of the Shape-ups line that was showcased in a risque Super Bowl ad starring Kim Kardashian. Moreover, he's the VP of
Paulina Marquez relates her passion about being in the design class at Skechers, where the group will design and produce an actual shoe. (Brad Graverson / Staff Photographer )
design at the 20-year-old Manhattan Beach company, which has become second only to Nike in the world of footwear.
So when he imparts pointers about what makes for good design, students listen.
The four-week course, which is halfway done, is a product of the partnership between the Skechers Foundation and After-School All-Stars, a nationwide program launched several years ago by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to prepare low-income students for the 21st century work force.
In this particular art class, the four walls are mounted not with paintings, charcoal sketches or clay sculptures, but displays of shoes. Of the Skechers variety, of course.
The young art students are learning that in the real world, most creative professionals must innovate within the restrictive confines of budgets, marketing, commercial appeal and science.
"You have no idea how hard it is to get them down to 100 bucks," Raysse sighed.
The 38-year-old Westwood resident likes to repeat the hard-nosed guidance given to him and other young designers by a former superior in the shoe business.
"You are not artists. You are designers. If you want to do art, go home and make a painting. What we do here is commerce mixed with art and design."
At Monday's class, the 20 or so students from Griffith Middle School in Los Angeles worked within the confines of their shoe outlines, drawing up motifs with colored pencils that included dollar signs, Irish clovers, polka dots, and more.
Eighth-grader Damaris Verduzco labored away on a pink-and-purple design that would most likely be marketed to girls about her age or younger.
"Little girls, they of course like hearts and flowers and stuff like that," she said, explaining the patterns sketched onto one of her designs.
Seventh-grader Paulina Marquez, who created the Irish clover design, was surprised to learn that designing a shoe can take as long as a year.
Skechers Foundation hosts a design class of middle school kids in an after-school program at the corporate offices in Manhattan Beach. (Brad Graverson / Staff Photographer)
"Designing a shoe is not a very basic process," she said. "There are many, many steps."
The class is also a contest. Over the next few months, students from across the nation will submit their Skechers designs. The winner will have the satisfaction of seeing his or her creation go into production, even if only for a single prototype pair. The Manhattan Beach class is the pilot group, but other art classes around the nation will soon begin to participate and submit their entries.
The Skechers class is paid for with a small portion of the $250,000 that the company donated to the After-School All-Stars program.
As for Raysse, he said he was drawn to the design profession in large part by how it is a meritocracy. It doesn't matter how you dress or what color your skin is. (Raysse is part African-American and part French.)
"I was making a lot of money by the time I was 20 years old," he said, adding that he and another designer used to show up for work "dressed like thugs. ... We were looking like the Wu-Tang Clan at corporate meetings. I mean, in retrospect, I think we should have toned it down a notch. But we were able to do that and still get the job done."
These days he goes for a much more casual look. On Monday he sported a buttoned-down shirt tucked into blue jeans.
Skechers President Michael Greenberg said the company got involved with the after-school program in part to counterbalance budget cuts that have gutted enrichment programs in the schools.
"The students are so excited to learn about shoe design from actual designers at Skechers corporate headquarters, and this experience opens their eyes to a new world of career possibilities," he said in a statement.
Skechers is involved with other school-related philanthropy projects. The company's foundation recently donated more than $380,000 to South Bay education foundations and a nonprofit called the Friendship Circle that assists special needs children and their families.
The money was raised during October's Pier to Pier Friendship Walk between Hermosa and Manhattan Beach piers. It benefited the education foundations of school districts in Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, El Segundo, Torrance and on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.