Q&A - James Lee | Shoe Designer

Can you speak about your history and what you do?
I'm a footwear designer based in Boston, and have worked on products for brands including Reebok, New Balance and PF Flyers.

How did you get into footwear design?
I knew I wanted to pursue a career in art/design and I always had an interest in footwear, but I never really thought about these 2 paths crossing. Growing up, footwear was always looked at through a consumer lens so I never thought it could be a career opportunity until my senior year of college. I spent the first 3 years of college studying industrial design so naturally I was drawn to products that people interact with everyday. Then I had a great internship opportunity with Reebok designing a football padding system and experience for the future. While I was there, I was connected with various people in the sportswear industry and I had a moment of realization that footwear design was a career path that I wanted to pursue.

What intrigues you with footwear design? 
Everyone consciously decides what kind of shoes they wear - it's a way of expression. Dressing down is as big of a style decision as dressing up.

What influenced your style growing up?
I was always influenced by my environment and the people around me. When I was younger, I looked to my older brother and my friends for style inspiration, until I started establishing my own.

What's the biggest misconception or most overrated part about what you do? 
People assume that I always wear crazy looking shoes all the time considering I'm a footwear designer. Since I'm already making color/material/design decisions everyday at work, I'm more drawn to quality understated shoes that I can wear everyday. Don't get me wrong tho, I do dabble in the full spectrum of footwear choices.

Where was the first place you visited that really amazed you? 
The one VHS rental store I used to live next to when I was living in Korea. I was about 4-5 years old and my brother and I used to just hang out there and watch Dragon Ball Z and other cartoons all day. It was the original Netflix.

What's your favorite was to get around and why? 
Definitely on 2 wheels in Boston. The road system sucks our here and being on 2 wheels is sometimes faster than driving or taking the subway.

What's something you disliked at first, but now are into? 
I used to think milk was gross, but now I'm a choco milk fiend.

Which athlete do you feel like you relate to the most?
I'm not sure if I could relate to him but my favorite athlete growing up was Allen Iverson - especially having grown up in Philly. I liked how dominant he was even as a small player. He was also a style icon at the time. 

What's something from the last few years that's inspired you?
A lot of my friends have started to pursue their own businesses, some even leaving their full time jobs. It's pretty inspiring to see people dedicate themselves to their passion and drive.