From the Crib to the Court
by Lori Lobenstine
From designing kids' toys to kids' kicks, Maria Interlandi brings a female perspective to Footwear Design at adidas.
How did you get into sneaker design?
I started designing sneakers at adidas after a couple of years doing toy design. While designing toys was an awesome job too, after a while it was time to move on. I then got the opportunity to join the adidas footwear design team; that was two and a half years ago.
How does your experience designing toys impact your sneaker designs?
In the toy industry, it is obvious that kids like to play, to be entertained. That's the basis of toy design. So I came to adidas with that mindset. I always want to create sneakers that get kids just as excited as they get about toys.
What’s it like designing at adidas?
Designing at adidas is great! To be honest the best part is the people. We have the opportunity to meet athletes and travel, as well as all the technology and other resources we need to create a kick-ass sneaker (pun intended), and that’s super cool, but the people are what make adidas great. We are a group of designers from many different countries and backgrounds, and everyone has their own special talent. It's a very inspiring bunch.
What’s it like being a female designer? Does it have an impact on your designs?
Being a female athletic footwear designer means pretty much working with a bunch of guys! It's fun though. I feel it's an advantage since we can put a feminine and graceful spin into our designs that a guy may not do. We have a different perspective.
The common myth is that youth sneakers are just like adults’, but with worse technology. This is particularly rough for girls with small feet, who might be buying youth sneakers forever. So what’s the real deal?
Designing for kids has its own special challenges, and that makes it fun. For instance, a kids' shoe has to be just as valuable as an adults' shoe, but it has to stand up to more abuse, all the while for a lower pricepoint. We try to use adults' technologies when it makes sense, but kids have different needs, so we may execute the technologies to better suit them. I try to approach kids’ shoes not just as a cheaper smaller version of adults' shoes, but a translation into what a kid needs and wants.
adidas does not have many women’s basketball sneakers. Is this also true for youth, are most b-ball sneakers in the “boys” category, or is it generic?
In youth, our basketball shoes are done for boys and/or girls, and in colorways that will please each one. There is a belief that a true performer girl will go for a generic bball shoe, and not a "girly" version. We have a few off-court shoes that are targeted for girls only, but girls and boys share the on-court sneakers.
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
Inspiration for my designs ideally come first from the athlete. If I can meet the needs of a JV player who's becoming a great basketball player, that will be a successful shoe.
Are you a basketball player yourself?
I'm about as experienced with basketball as I am with basketweaving, but I'm learning just like the kids I design sneakers for :)
What are some of your favorite designs for bball shoes, both your own and others’?
I don't really have a favorite, it always changes. I'm a sucker for infant and crib shoes, but who isn't?
What else would you like female sneaker fiends to know?
If you have an interest in designing sneakers, definitely pursue it! The industry needs more of us girls out here : )
Editor's Note: All sneakers pictured were designed by Maria.