Today, London-based shoemaker Po-Zu launched the first wave of its new all-sneaker Star Wars line at Rhode Island Comic-Con. The 2019 spring–summer collection will kick off with a pair of magnificent high-top sneakers inspired by The Last Jedi.
“Rey and Kylo are landmark characters in the Star Wars films, and really they’re the ones who have taken the series into the next generation, in so many respects,” says Kate Osborne, PR and marketing manager at Po-Zu. “They appeal to such a wide audience, with all the women out there who have got their Rey costumes, and all the romance that goes around Rey being such a heroic female character.”
Both sneakers, which retail for £75 (about $97 USD), are manufactured in Sri Lanka using organic cotton canvas and fair-trade rubber, and come with a removable shoe insert made from coconut husks. All seven pairs in the new line are unisex and vegan-friendly, as well.
“We see ourselves as the Rebel Alliance of the shoe industry,” says Sven Segal, Po-Zu’s founder and creative director. “And that’s the very reason why I started Po-Zu in the first place. Because as a designer, I discovered the dark side of the shoe industry, and I felt bad contributing to all sorts of bad practices and the use of very toxic substances that most people are completely unaware of. When you buy a pair of shoes, they’re likely to contain all sorts of nasty chemicals, and shoe-factory workers are exposed to these chemicals. That’s why I decided to start my own shoe brand. We try to make shoes the way they should be made: we respect both the workers and the environment.”
The quarter of the “Rey II” sneaker is adorned with a beautiful ink-wash portrait of the fan-favorite character. Beyond the white backdrop and the black profile of Rey, the shoe gets a splash of color from her blue lightsaber and red Katakana-style script.
“Rey and Kylo are obviously very strong characters, and we wanted to add, to what is generally a very commercial line, something more distinctive,” Segal says. “Rather than the traditional eyelets, we incorporated some lacing loops. And I think it ties-in quite nicely with the profile of the character, because of her hairstyle. You see those loops in her hair.”
“Fans who maybe don’t necessarily want to dress up as a character, but they love the brand, they’d like to have something they can wear on their feet that kind of mirrors that,” Osborne adds. “That’s why it works as a sneaker — it’s cool, it’s quirky, it has Rey on the side, and it has some really cool fastenings. It’s a sneaker, but at the same time, it’s Rey.”
All black save for a red pinstripe and the silver contours of Kylo’s iconic mask, the “Kylo II” sneaker is striking. Its fastening feature is made of a combination of elastic, made to resemble Kylo’s costume, and a band of velcro for added adjustability and security. Initially, the design used elastic for the entire tongue of the sneaker, but Segal decided that velcro was a practical addition.
“Apart from having an illustration of the actual character on the shoe, the main difference [from the ‘Rey II’ sneaker] is the fastening feature,” says Segal. “Rather than the typical, traditional lace-up with eyelets, the Kylo Ren one has this overlapping elastic, a bit like an armadillo, which is kind of in line with part of his costume. His sleeves, for instance, have those kind of pleats, so we wanted to create a fastening element that would somehow resemble a detail in his costume, and this is what I came up with.”
X-wing, troopers, and BB units
The rest of the line includes other bits of iconography from The Last Jedi, and is composed entirely of casual footwear, including a lace-up BB-8 sneaker, which is primarily orange, a fashionable First Order stormtrooper slip-on that shares some similarities with the Kylo II design, a T-65 X-wing lace-up featuring a repeated pattern printed on a blue backdrop, and a Resistance X-wing pilot lace-up that comes in both red and black.
“The X-wing is more of a general theme of the film, rather than a specific character,” Segal says. “It’s more of an all-over graphic print, which has worked really well for us both with the porg and the R2-D2.”
“The Kylo shoe’s overlapping elastic feature is something that we also included in the new stormtrooper, because, obviously, they’re both from the First Order,” he adds. “We thought it would be nice to keep a theme across those two particular designs.”
Typically, Segal and the design team work from official images and follow various ideas through trial and error. He might pick something memorable from a character’s costume, or something unique from a droid’s design, and begin to sketch out whatever comes to mind based on that initial spark of interest. A shoe then goes through several iterations, usually, before settling on the most inspired concept for prototyping.
Once a prototype is finished and Po-Zu is pleased with it, the company carefully selects the right materials for the shoe and sends it off to one of their partners for manufacturing, located either in Portugal or Sri Lanka. “I wish I had a formula,” Segal says with a laugh. “You know, I could just sit down and follow the formula and spit out some designs.” So far, though, the Force has been with them.
Po-Zu’s Rey II and Kylo II sneakers debuted today at Rhode Island Comic Con. Pre-orders for the shoes are expected to begin shipping in January.
Alex Kane is a journalist based in west-central Illinois. He has written for Polygon, the website of Rolling Stone, Syfy Wire, Variety, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane.