(Photo via Sole Collector)
Classic and clean. Those are the words Dwyane Wade kept using to describe his first signature shoe with Chinese apparel company Li-Ning. Wade is debuting the new kicks this week in China, as the Miami Heat play two exhibition games in Beijing.
Get the story behind the sneakers here, based on STACK’s interview with two of its creators.
Dwyane Wade x Li-Ning
Opting not to resign with Jordan Brand when his contract expired, Wade made big news when he decided to sign with Li-Ning, which had counted only Evan Turner and Jose Calderon as NBA endorsers. Wade has instantly become the face of the brand, which is one of the major reasons he chose to sign.
“Having my own Wade brand inside of Li-Ning is something that is special to me,” said Wade. “It’s kind of following the Jordan model in a sense. I think that was the biggest part of this opportunity that I really looked at and really said, you know what, the game of basketball is so big around the world globally, why not go into the biggest market there is, and go with the no. 1 shoe company in that market and try to do something new, try to do something fresh and do something that can be noble?”
A style enthusiast who has made waves with some of his post-game press conference outfits, Wade said that he wanted to “combine both worlds”—the worlds of performance and fashion—in his shoe. The Heat guard had a lot of input on the design, like the “W” shape formed by the laces around the toe; and he also got his coaches and trainers involved to make sure the shoe performed at an elite level.
“I think that as soon as we had the opportunity and knew that the partnership was going to be real, I hooked [designer] Eric [Miller] and them up with my trainers and my doctors to try and make sure that they understand my body and put the performance in the shoe that I needed,” Wade said.
Li-Ning packed a ton of details into Wade’s debut sneaker. We spoke with Li-Ning’s Miller, creative director of basketball, and Brian Cupps, brand initiative director, about five aspects of the signature shoe that you might not notice at first glance.
The laces form a “W” at the toe
If you look closely at the bottom rung, or the “toe down,” of the laces, you’ll see that they form “W.” If you look even closer, you’ll notice that the laces themselves are made up of smaller “W”s, which flow in a zig-zag pattern. It’s all Wade everything.
Eric Miller: “The W is a natural zig-zag form of a letter, which is great for us, great for Wade, obviously, and it was a cool form.”
(Photo via High Snobiety)
The shoe’s tongue was inspired by a Dwyane Wade photo shoot for VMAN Magazine in 2011
Wade has been featured on the covers of many of the country’s most famous style magazines, looking dapper for the likes of GQ and Uptown. But it was his photo shoot with VMAN Magazine back in September of 2011 that inspired the design of the shoe’s tongue.
Brian Cupps: “The tongue has been absolutely far and away one of the, if not the, most compelling and unique features of [the shoe]. It was inspired by a photo shoot he did, called the VMAN photo shoot. They kind of had him dressed up as Mad Max beyond Thunderdome, and Eric just gravitated toward that image. The next day I had renderings of this tongue that looked super protective but ultra-modern and clean, and the minute Dwyane saw it, he was like “Yo, I love that. That’s my favorite part of it.”
(Photo via Meet Tha Dealer)
The sole of the shoe contains numbers and letters that represent Wade’s family
Some of the coolest features of Wade’s kicks are found on the part that hits the hardwood. If you flip the sneaker over, you’ll find a handful of numbers and letters that hold special meaning for Wade.
Eric Miller: “The other letters and numbers track back to his family—ages, initials. You guys know with D. Wade, his family is number one in his life, and the book that he just recently produced and wrote was big there. This is just more detail as you start looking into the fine textures of the shoe, that you go ‘Oh wow, this is really something specific to him.'”
(Photo via You No Kicks)
The D-Wade monogram logo was designed in the shape of a bow tie
Again, the bottom of the shoe is spotlighted. The DW monogram on the sole was made to resemble a bow tie, one of Wade’s favorite fashion accessories.
Eric Miller: “It’s like, OK, D-Wade is dressed up. He’s that stylish athlete. He likes to get fitted. He likes to really appreciate the suits and the type of fashion that he’s brought to the NBA, and a lot of the time, that comes with a bowtie or with a tuxedo. So we brought the DW as a bow tie and that’s the monogram.”
(Photo via High Snobiety)
The Future of Wade and Li-Ning
As Wade’s time with Li-Ning continues, so will variations of his sneaker. Wade said Li-Ning will experiment with leathers and colorways as the year progresses. There are also rumblings of an animal-inspired version of the shoe, which Li-Ning is “exploring materials for,” according to Cupps. Finally, be on the lookout for a special All-Star version of the kicks, assuming Wade makes it to Houston next year.