EXPLORING THE WORK & IMPACT OF DESIGNER CHRISTIAN TRESSER

Christian Tresser has quite the resumé. A very abbreviated work history reads like this: he started designing footwear with an independent footwear design company that did work for Reebok. He later was hired by Reebok in their heyday when they were seriously threatening Nike; vying to become the top dog in the sneaker game. After a few years at Reebok which included him designing some classic runners and helping to launch Reebok’s football category, he got a job with Nike where he designed a number of iconic silos in both the running and soccer categories. Later he worked as the head of soccer innovation at adidas.

Before he ever picked up a pencil to doodle sneaker designs, Christian was immersed in his first passion, soccer. He can remember wanting to play ever since he was little and as a young man was on the California State Select team. Eventually he played at Foothill College in Northern California for legendary American Soccer figure, George Avakian. In the days of Christian’s soccer career there were not many options to pursue after college. So after a year of playing college soccer Christian decided to enroll at The Academy of Arts in San Francisco. His artistic talent would later be the vehicle for him to connect with football as a designer for performance soccer footwear. 

Christian Tresser has always been ahead of time. As a young designer working at a shoe design consultancy in the Bay Area of California, Christian was designing athleisure shoes, with the Reebok sublabel Boks, before they even had a name for that category of footwear. Later as the lead designer of Reebok’s football product he was incorporating cutting edge technology like Instapump, Graphlite, and carbon fiber foot plates into performance soccer shoes when the entire industry was pushing out virtually the same boots—stitched K leather uppers on rigid plastic sole plates—that they had been producing for decades. Tresser even designed laceless Reebok boots that were worn by players in the 1994 World Cup. 

The innovation and groundbreaking designs didn’t stop with his work at Reebok. After taking a job with Nike, Christian was tasked with designing the first high end synthetic football boot, the game changing Nike Mercurial. The synthetic upper provided a level of freedom for a designer not possible with traditional kangaroo leather which is only available in small hides that had to be stitched together.

“Things changed when it came to the Mercurial. That was the big moment where…soccer footwear changed. Because [of] the synthetic materials you could do a lot more with treatments on those materials than you can with…natural leathers. So it opened the door for design possibilities. Most of the soccer shoes leading up to that point were cut and sew…Weirdly enough the low end shoes were all synthetic. They were all synthetic and they had way more [options]. You could mold onto it, you could HF(high frequency) weld onto it, you could add color, you could print on it. 

“It was sort of a weird moment because when we did the Mercurial I was conflicted with it, in that we always did soccer shoes out of K leather or leathers and those are high end shoes. And the low [price point] shoes were all synthetic—it was a low end thing…When the Mercurial came along and they wanted to do this synthetic shoe at a [high end price point] I was conflicted as a player. I was like, ‘O, God, I’m not sure if that’s gonna work,’ because synthetics didn’t really have…the fit and feel that K leather would and I didn’t know if the players would accept it. But as a designer I was really open to the idea because it allowed me to more expressive.”

Taking a departure from traditional football boots Tresser designed the Mercurial from a single piece of material.

“When I realized…I could do that then I could think about adding more design element to it. And one of my ideas—and this [goes back to when] I worked at my dad’s [auto] body shop—I wanted to put a little bit of a light textural grip on the upper. And I had this idea that I could spray on, and I did, the material that you would spray on the under side of cars…So I took this upper and I taped…off the areas, and the pattern didn’t even change from [the] sample that I [made] to what came out in the market that…literally…didn’t change. So where you see the silver…3M reflective…on the Mercurial…originally I sprayed that with the [textured] spray material…And then I took a silver pen. I needed to highlight it because I wanted to show it off and I wanted it reflective because I wanted the cameras to see it…[when] there was a moment that light would hit it and it would show it off…in a very…clean and subtle way.” 

At the same time Christian was experimenting with his high end synthetic boot Nike was setting up there now legendary facility in Montebelluna, Italy where they to this day craft all of their high performance soccer footwear. He hand carried his sample to the Italian factory and shared his vision for the Mercurial. 

“These guys were amazing. They said, ‘okay we know what to do.’ And ultimately what we did is we took that upper…to the Aprilia factory somewhere in and around Montebelluna…to go look at this spraying process…We went over there and they showed us some of the motorcycle parts in the factory line and the showed me this spraying stuff and ultimately [we used] this clear spray…a very thin, light…material that was sprayed on to the synthetic. And when the shoes came back they were just beautiful, man. It was a new thing. It was totally new…I couldn’t even believe it myself…how great it came out.”

Even though Christian is complicit in changing the landscape of soccer footwear forever it wasn’t something he did intentionally.

“I don’t think too much ahead of myself at all. I do have a strange vision, that somehow…works for me. I start to create, and I go on a creative journey and I don’t think too much about what the future is and what it is going to be. I only get in the moment, what is inspiring me. The first Mercurial is that moment that changed it. I didn’t know it would do that, but it did…and that’s pretty cool. Where it goes from here, I don’t know, I just don’t. I don’t have that answer, I do know that I can do it.”

With all of the incredible work Christian has done up until this point there is no reason to doubt that he will continue to shape the future of footwear. Besides almost single handedly designing the entire Reebok football range, including signature boots for Ryan Giggs, and creating the some of the most iconic boots in Nike’s catalogue; Christian has also left an indelible mark on the sneaker game. In his time at Reebok Tresser was responsible for the Aztrek and DMX Daytona runners which have both been revisited with retro editions recently. 

In his five to six months working as a designer in the runner space at Nike he produced nothing but classic. To name a few he designed the Footscape, the Spiridon, and what is perhaps his most widely known and beloved silhouette, the Air Max 97. His work is still as impactful today as it has ever been. You can always find a Tresser silo, that he designed in the 90s, on a shelf at any sneaker shop today. 

The former youth standout soccer player and designer responsible for some of the most iconic sneakers ever, has now seen the worlds of football and sneakers blend. Two worlds where he made such an enormous impact are now more intertwined than ever. From the custom Air Max 97s designed for Cristiano Ronaldo to the Air Max 97 Mercurials released on Air Max day in 2017 Christian continues to be relevant to the culture in new and unexpected ways. 

“I saw that and I was pretty blown away. The two worlds, the parallel paths are really starting to blend into each other…My nephew, who’s a soccer player, got a pair of those and was so excited to share those with me.”

Kicks to the Pitch, an outlet dedicated to the entanglement of sneakers and football, would probably not even exist if not for the work of Christian Tresser. His design DNA is in everything we talk about. His work and elements of his designs continually pop up both in the football space and the lifestyle space.

“I stay humble in it…I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t think it was cool. I don’t know, it’s flattering I guess, to have something I did so long ago still [be] relevant. And I get people saying that certain things I’ve done have been impactful in their lives. And I didn’t really think [of] it back then and it’s cool but it’s also scary at the same time…it’s like, wow, I guess I did do a little damage in the industry.”

BEHIND THE DESIGN OF PLAYR SMART COACH WITH CEO BENOIT SIMERAY

At KTTP we are obsessed with design and the process of design. We are fascinated by the stories behind the products we use and the stories they communicate to the user. That is why we were drawn to PLAYR. 

PLAYR is a tech vest and pod that tracks speed, distance, sprints and heat maps. The focus of the product is solely on the pitch and performance-based and the potential of wearables to impact the game is enormous.  We will leave the analysis of how smart tech is changing football to those more qualified than ourselves. We did, however, get the opportunity to chat with Benoit Simeray the CEO Consumer at Catapult, about the design process of PLAYR. 

One of the first things you notice about the PLAYR vest is the sleek design—no buttons, no visible outlets or charging chords. That was no accident, a lot of thought went into the crafting of the vest. 

“We had to questions those things. Why do we have a button? What is the value of having a button?…what is the value of the vest? How do we approach the smart vest in a different way then we have been doing for the last 10 or 20 years…Why not wireless charging? Could we not use the vest to activate the pod, to turn it on? And to autodetect when you actually started to move? So there is a magnet in the pocket of the vest that signal(s) the pod to turn on.”

The result of asking those questions is a sleek and seamless piece of technology that looks great. The design of the product was shaped by four defining principles, Benoit explained. First, needed to be the highest quality. It needed to perform at a high level. It needed to be what Benoit calls, “frictionless.” 

“So it was [more than] just high quality and high performance it was [about being] frictionless in all aspects. That’s the third pillar. It’s got to be very easy to unbox, to set up, to upgrade, to use, and then to upload the session.

“And then the fourth thing—it’s got to be beautiful. It’s very simple, but for me, it is fundamental that anything that we are doing at Catapult has to be design led…Not just the way the product looks it’s the way our products interact with our customers.”

The simple and elegant design and packaging is a visual manifestation of the seamless and efficient product and user experience. “We massively enjoyed the creation of that beautiful project… The product is not just the vest. It’s the pod, it’s the vest, and it’s the software—where the user is spending 90 percent of their interaction time…frictionless and beautiful…”

Benoit and Catapult were very conscious in their design choices for the product, the packaging and the story they tell in their online messaging. 

“PLAYR is not for every soccer player. It’s for players who are really serious about…their game and who are willing to enhance their performances and get a competitive edge [over] the other team and the other players. And that’s fundamentally all we are after.”

Through the use of colors and selective imagery PLAYR is looking to hone in on their target audience: “the high working, high performer who has this passion [for the game] That is why we chose [certain] colors…electric blue…a strong pink. We also worked a lot around [the idea] of electricity—that electric, dynamic player. The [building] of a human machine. All of that [fed] the art direction.”

The idea of PLAYR being for the select few, those who are passionate about getting better is an idea that Simeray elaborated on. 

The [people] that are buying PLAYR are adapters, they are opinion shapers. opinion leaders. They have an edge on the rest of the population. They innovate and they…embrace new technology. 

“In sports today talent is important but it’s not everything. It’s the preparation, it’s the constant performance. Those players, that’s what they have…We are after those…leaders…who are showing the way to the rest of the team.”

Those individuals who are leaders and opinion shapers should be excited about PLAYR’s future plans to add more customizability and more design choices in the near future. 

“We are investing [significant amount] into research and development to make it the best performing…smart vest in terms of ability…but also the most appealing and distinctive because this is actually what you wear and this is how you express…your personality…from when you wear it on top of your team jersey during training but also when you wear it underneath your team [shirt] and remove it when you score a goal. This is an expression of who you are. We are looking into…limited editions…and not [just] colors, different fabrics, different shapes…it could be also on-demand printing…the ability to customize and tailor-make your own design so that this is an expression of who you are…we definitely have some things in the pipeline, making sure that each and every system can be tailor-made to your needs and your personality or the message that you’re willing to spread.”

PLAYR’s message is clear. They are serious about quality and performance and it is reflected in every detail. From the product itself to the packaging and even down to the Instagram pics. They are about high quality and performing at a high level all while looking good. 

OP ED: MLS & ADIDAS TEAM UP W/ PARLEY FOR THE OCEANS

Google “ocean plastic” and you’ll be taken down a disturbing wormhole of images of whales that starved and died from plastic ingestion, trash-riddled waves, and something called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. You don’t have to be an internet sleuth to figure out that plastic pollution in the oceans is a serious problem. Parley for the Oceans is looking for ways to combat the problems facing our oceans. From their website, “Parley is the space where creators, thinkers, and leaders come together to raise awareness for the beauty and fragility of our oceans and collaborate on projects that can end their destruction.”

Parley for the Oceans is looking for ways to combat the problems facing our oceans. From their website, “Parley is the space where creators, thinkers, and leaders come together to raise awareness for the beauty and fragility of our oceans and collaborate on projects that can end their destruction.”

Parley has already partnered with adidas on a number of sneakers made from repurposed ocean plastic and even collaborated with MLS last year creating kits for four clubs made from technical yarns using Parley Ocean Plastic.

This year MLS and adidas link up with Parley once again just in time for Earth Day with an even more expansive collab. This year’s partnership, in conjunction with MLS WORKS Greener Goals, is part of the League-wide efforts on and off the field to highlight MLS’ commitment to environmental sustainability. All 23 teams will feature the adidas’ MLS Parley kits during Earth Day weekend, Friday, April 20 through Sunday, April 22. The 2018 edition comes in two colorways, non-dye and carbon, differentiating the two teams in each game.

This year’s kits maintain the classy, muted color palette employed in last year’s models. The subtle colorways devoid of major design embellishments that will be seen on all of the kits worn by MLS squads this weekend bring a sense of unity. For this weekend the attention will be shifted from individual design elements putting the focus on Parley and the great work they are doing. An added bonus of the understated kits is their accessibility and extreme wearability. It is easy to rock a gray or white shirt with pretty much any fit. Picking up the Parley kit of your favorite club is a way to keep it clean, both in terms of style and your impact on the ocean.

We applaud the work adidas has done with Parley and continues to do. Hopefully, as technology advances, we will see Parley Ocean Plastic used in more and more products. There seems to be no shortage of supply of plastic in our waters that can be repurposed for something positive. Make sure to catch an MLS match this weekend and see your favorite players rocking their environmentally conscious threads. Head over to mlsstore.com to get a Parley x MLS kit.