The future of footwear isn’t more colorways of classics nor is it shoes that simply look like you’re traveling from a different time. It’s rethinking the tried-and-true process of developing and distributing a sneaker because what is standard now is simply not sustainable. Heron Preston is here to take on this reimagination with the HERON01, a fully 3D-printed sneaker made in collaboration with 3D technology company Zellerfeld.
The laceless, slip-on mule merges innovative technology, design, and style and aims to provide a customizable fit without the need of excess materials. The whole shoe is printed as one form with design features that resemble the scales of the heron bird’s feet and does not contain any seams, stitching, or glue. Although the specific material is currently not confirmed, the shoe is meant to be fully recyclable allowing Zellerfeld to repurpose the model as new material after its use.
“The HERON01 is just the beginning – with additive manufacturing, the potential is unlimited. I was able to design and print functional and evolving prototypes in hours. With traditional manufacturing, this would have taken months. I can’t wait to print more shoes and updates,” said Preston.
The goal is to create a fully personalized shoe through foot scans that erase the need for any shipments in the design and sample process since only digital files will be transferred. In a sit-down conversation with Preston, Zellerfeld CEO Cornelius Schmitt emphasizes the ability to create a new pair and a new silhouette at the push of a button. Currently, Zellerfeld is only in beta so we’re curious to see how the company will scale its approach.
The HERON01 design process mirrored the digital and information age we live in today. Zellerfeld produced an early version of a 3D-printed shoe, and after seeing the prototype, WhatsApp conversations with Preston turned into collaborative design explorations with initial concept direction and sketches provided by footwear designer Mr. Bailey. If you kept a close eye on Preston’s social media, you would have seen bits of the process unfold in real time.
“This feels like the beginning of a more harmonious lifecycle for 3D – something that would allow creatives to independently realize their footwear concepts in a tangible and commercially viable form. [A way to] produce as many pairs as people order, each one being personalized to the individuals unique foot shape, and once the product starts to wear out, re-use that same material to print more,” said Mr. Bailey in an Instagram post about the HERON01.
The HERON01 sneaker isn’t the first time sustainability has been a guiding principle for Preston’s projects. The designer, artist, and all-around creative thinker has always had a DIY approach that’s synonymous with streetwear. Preston famously bootlegged the Givenchy Rottweiler T-shirt as a cheeky nod to downtown New York. Over the years, he’s turned that energy to make more of a conscious effort in understanding how sustainable practices can be implemented throughout his brand and different collaborations. It’s not just about remixing logos to make a statement or reusing clothes because of what’s available, it’s now creating with purpose for the future.
He teamed up with the New York City Department of Sanitation to create a capsule of workwear essentials created from upcycled DSNY uniforms in 2016. The partnership was a result from two separate experiences and thoughts: plastic waste brushing against him in pristine beaches while vacationing, and an interest in designing uniforms. That moment sparked a fire within Preston. He also spent time in the Eileen Fisher production facility Tiny Factory at the end of 2017 and worked directly with the designer to learn more about her eco-conscious approach to circular design, production, supply chain, and overall brand strategy.
“I don’t think the streetwear industry is as focused on sustainability at the moment as some other sectors of the fashion industry,” Preston told Glossy in 2018. “But I do feel that consumers are paying more attention to sustainability than ever before, and more and more designers and brands are being forced to innovate and become more sustainable because their fan base is starting to demand it.”
The HERON01, which is available in black, white, and the brand’s signature orange, is exclusively available via StockX through a $10 USD donation raffle. A portion of all process will be donated to Global March, a worldwide network of trade unions, teachers, and civil society organizations that work towards eliminating child labor in supply chains. Winners will also receive exclusive access to Zellerfeld’s Beta Program.
In other material news, adidas introduced a new outdoor jacket with recycled ocean-bound plastic as its insulation.