Salehe Bembury: his unique vision of footwear

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The New York Times has just devoted a glowing portrait to him in its pages. The designer who cut his teeth alongside Kanye West and Donatella Versace is now shining on his own, with collaborations with New Balance and Crocs. His strengths? A powerful design identity, an unconditional love of sneakers and a solid fan base. Let’s take a look at her career path.

From thread to needle

Originally from New York, Salehe Bembury was born, like many New Yorkers, with a passion for sneakers. It was this same passion that led him to study industrial design at Syracuse University with the aim of working on accessory innovation. His first professional experience began at Payless, which, as its name suggests, is a low-cost retailer where he had to imagine absolutely every kind of design within the constraints imposed.

He talks about a life-saving experience that led him to work for Damon Dash, Fortune Footwear and Cole Haan. This brand, which designs models that oscillate between the golf shoe, the richelieu and the trainer, even innovated a model inspired by Nike’s Lunar lightweight foam technology: the Cole Haan LunarGrand. A huge shift in his career, it was during this period that Cole Haan introduced Salehe Bembury and Kanye West.

From Yeezy to Versace

At the end of 2015, his taste for innovation and his bold vision of design led him to join the Yeezy design team for Kanye West. He will work on the 3rd and 4th seasons, which include the YEEZY Boost 350 v2 and YEEZY Boost 750 models. A one year experience within the brand was enough for him to start a phenomenal success story. He then took his first steps in the Versus Versace label before taking over the head of footwear in the prestigious Italian house of Donatella.

The artistic director even went so far as to call him “the best trainer designer in the world”. And this is understandable given his success. For three years, he designed Versace’s most emblematic sneaker models. These include the Trigreca, the Apple inspired by the famous model worn by Steve Jobs’ employees in the 1980s and, above all, the massive Chain Reaction, which has been seen just about everywhere since its appearance on the catwalk in Autumn/Winter 2018.

Flying solo

Alongside his position at Versace and now that he has now conquered the fashion world, Salehe Bembury is approaching the equipment manufacturer New Balance from 2020. He then unveiled “Peace Be The Journey”, an autumnal model inspired by his taste for the outdoors and hiking in the Antelope Canyon, a key region around Los Angeles where he now lives. In no time at all, the New Balance 2002R and its bright orange colour became one of the most desirable models, just like the Aimé Léon Dore x New Balance creations. He also collaborated with the Chinese brand Anta, creating a futuristic hiking shoe that was a great success. And to top off the year 2020, when he finally announced his departure from Versace, Bembury was named FN Designer of the Year by Footwear News.

SPUNGE : his own label

As a result of his success, Salehe Bembury continues to be hyper-productive in the sneaker world under the name of his label Spunge. After several drops with Anta, he released his second collaboration with New Balance, “Water Be The Guide”, with aquatic tones, inspired by the Havasu Falls in Arizona. We also saw a Salehe Bembury x New Balance Test Run Project 3.0 with animal prints reminiscent of certain models seen at Versace, a collaboration with Vans Authentic in two colours and a Crocs with a surprising design that will be released in December. On these last collaborations, Salehe Bembury says that the fingerprint will now be a strong aesthetic inspiration for Spunge. At the time of writing, the American is also preparing to release the New Balance 574 Yurt collection on October 22nd. What’s on the agenda? Its largest collection ever. Five silhouettes with a bold whistle in the heel, as well as a wide range of textiles and accessories that all stylish camping enthusiasts can choose from. In short, Salehe Bembury has earned its place in the history of footwear and is not about to let it go.

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