A few months ago while at Nike’s Portland WHQ, I was fortunate enough to be involved in a new series of interviews with a number of people involved in the history and development of one of Nike’s most iconic shoes, the Dunk! While, in recent years the Dunk has taken on numerous new faces, its still a very important shoe within Basketball, Skateboarding and even fashion. It carries alot of history, holds a simple and clean aesthetic, and certainly isn’t all about the hype. For this reason I was honoured to be a part of this project and it was great to speak to so many people who shared my views and need to express what the dunk really stands for. Over the next few weeks and months you’ll see a number of interviews and product releases from a new era in the history of the Dunk, here’s a preview. I spoke with Jesse Levya, the man behind Nike’s Teir 0 programme and their Global Design Director.
Name: Jesse Levya.
Where you’re from: A little town called Woodland, Oregon.
Where you’re at: Portland, OR.
Occupation: Global Design Director for Nike.
What is your favorite Dunk and why?
I would say the Goldenrods or the Michigan colorway. It’s like what’s the greatest original colorway? What’s the greatest collaboration colorway? What’s the greatest SB colorway? The Dunk is now so many personalities it’s hard to say which is my favorite Dunk. But any of the original Be True to Your School colors will probably always be my favorite Dunks.
How does “Be True to Your School” apply to your work on the Dunk?
I’m a really big basketball geek so I remember watching all of those guys in Sports Illustrated and Derrick Coleman–when he was wearing them at Syracuse–I thought that was insane. I just remember going, “what are those shoes?!” There are so many crazy things happening with the Dunk, what if the creative direction for the season is just going
back to the original “Be True to your school?” Let’s look at what they did back in the day and figure out how to make a few little tweaks but really stay true to that.
How will that manifest itself in 08?
We started looking at it and thought there were a lot of great similarities between the kid who camps out for a Duke game and a kid who camps out for a Dunk. So what we want to do is a series of Dunks around those colleges around the US which kids are really passionate about their basketball team. We are going to do a Duke Dunk that’s only going to be sold in Durham, North Carolina. We are going to do a North Carolina Dunk that’s only to be sold in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. So if you don’t live in Chapel Hill you are not going to get the shoe. It’s only going to be sold there. It’s really, really special for the kid who is buying it, and it’s relevant and it’s local.
What’s one of your proudest creations at Nike?
To me my favorite shoe that we have done is probably the hybrid with Anthony Hope from the innovation kitchen. This is the trainer Dunk Low. The shoe is great just because when we first showed the concepts people wanted us to drop it. I remember being in New York and there were like twenty Nike people that say whether a shoe is going to make it or not. I remember calling Anthony Hope going, “Dude they completely hated the concept, they didn’t get it”. Then I came back to Portland and on my way back I was talking to Parker and Mark was like “Keep going, you have something there. Just think it through and make sure what you’re doing is the right thing to do for the sneaker game. And if it is, then keep going.” So if he hadn’t of said that, then we would have dropped the project all together, it wouldn’t have happened, because people were like, “Don’t do it, it’s going to ruin the sneaker game, kids are going to be pissed. Youre going to ruin the Dunk, you’re going to ruin the Trainer One,” and we were like “no, no, no, you don’t get it. It’s making it better.”