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Finding the Perfect Fit: Stamps Undergrads Win DKNY Shoe Design Competition

In April 2019, the design team at DKNY will be flying out two Stamps School of Art & Design undergraduates for a review of the student’s shoe prototypes.

The students, Zachary Williams (BFA ‘22) and Alexa Deford (BFA ‘20) were winners of the 2019 Stamps School Shoe Design Competition, where students were invited to submit design renderings to DKNY following a shoe design workshop at the school led by Stamps alum Shane Ward (BFA ‘96), Creative Director of Footwear at DKNY and GHBASS (G-III Apparel Group).

Contest winners Alexa Deford (BFA '20) and Zachary Williams (BFA '22)

Twenty-two students participated in the workshop and eleven submitted designs to the contest. The designs were evaluated by a panel of shoe industry judges. Originally, the judges were only going to select one “grand prize” winner, but they were so impressed with the caliber of the work that they ended up selecting two: Williams and Deford.

The students will enjoy an all-expenses paid trip to NYC, where they will create a tech package and CADs of their design for prototype review by the Men's and Women's Design Teams at DKNY. Additionally, winners will receive a $150 shopping spree at any DKNY outlet or online, plus a $150 gift card for Bass.

“Before I came to the final design, I had done a lot of research on trending shoes and DKNY as a brand,” Deford said. “I wanted to combine simplicity and sportiness while also being spunky.”

Design by Alexa Deford (BFA '20)

Of his winning design, Williams said, “Both my designs were made to work within the lifestyle of an active person, constantly on the go. It was important that both shoes worked in multiple settings within this person's life.”

Design by Zachary Williams (BFA '22)

When asked about their inspiration, both Deford and Williams mentioned sneakers: for Deford it was “dad shoes” and for Williams it was basketball sneakers. “I believe we'll continue to see High Fashion Houses adopt styles and ideas from the hip-hop and athletic worlds,” Williams said.

Both Williams and Deford found Ward’s shoe design workshop incredibly instructive, especially in regards to process. “It was an amazing help to see how Shane sketches his shoes, especially because I had never done it like that before,” Deford said. “I usually just sketch with a pencil and never use markers, so it was eye opening to see how simple it is to add depth to a shoe.”

Design by Alexa Deford (BFA '20)

Deford also noted the importance of research in creating a successful design: “In order to design a successful shoe, you have to be aware of the company you are designing for. That requires research of not only the brand, but what other brands are doing with their shoes.”

Neither Williams and Deford are strangers to the world of shoe design. For Williams, the passion for sketching shoes has been with him since his childhood days of sketching basketball sneakers with his older brother. For Deford, the shoe design workshop was an opportunity to build upon her experience as a 2018 summer intern working with materials by hand at a Steve Madden sample factory. Both are eager for their April design excursion to NYC.

Design by Zachary Williams (BFA '22)

“I am particularly interested in seeing the processes that go behind selecting what shoes end up being picked and put into production,” Williams said.

“I am truly excited to be in the presence of so many wonderful designers,” Deford said. “Not everyday do you get an opportunity like this, so I am grateful to learn from some of the best in the industry.”

According to Brian Banks, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor at the Stamps School of Art & Design, the competition was an idea that originated with Ward.

“This all started with me calling Shane about the possibility of a a class visit or a workshop, but when we got to talking he came up with the idea of a contest,” Banks said. “I’d like to thank Shane, GH Bass, and DKNY for allowing this to happen. They’re gonna make some dreams come true.”