There's nothing more fascinating to us here at Daily Grommet than the stories behind inspired and inventive products. So when we find someone like Darin Hager, a passionate footwear designer turning his industry on its head, we want you to know about him too. Darin is the creator of Heyday -- think functional workboot meets urban, high fashion sneaker, then just toss out all of your expectations (this is a guy who used to hand paint his Chuck Taylors in High School; he's talented and creative, with a great sense of humor).
Today he takes us inside his studio and introduces us to what he calls his "thoughtfully designed footwear with an original point of view":
I started Heyday because I just didn't find what I wanted at retail; I had the means, connections and understanding of how to do it; and I have always had an entrepreneurial streak. I had been a corporate designer for 10 years working for Hi-Tec Sports, Puma and Sperry Top-Sider and found that while designers may be willing to push the design envelope, the product that winds up at retail is usually a highly diluted version of the designer's vision. Many retailers can be understandably timid when it comes to trying something new, especially when what they have had is selling. This results in the retailers with the biggest orders dictating product direction. This is not the way to get fresh and exciting designs to market! As a designer who is now on both sides of the coin, I understand the financial case for sales vs. innovation; but as a designer, I feel that I can walk the line between what is a fashion forward and design-driven brand, and what is commercially successful.
Are you planning to challenge the biggest sneaker brands, or is Heyday more for the "specialist"?
A bit of both I suppose. Our distribution strategy has focused on getting placement in trend-setting, buzz worthy retailers, and building the Heyday brand through word of mouth, social media, and traditional media. After 2 years on the market, we have been able to segment our product line and distribution to cover the independent boutique market as well as giving the more mass market channel an exciting alternative to other sneaker/footwear brands.
What's been the most fun part about building your own business?
Seeing people on the street wearing my design, and no longer having to beg stylists to look at my product since they now call me to place Heyday on celebrities and in magazines weekly. My favorite part of building my own business can be summed up in a quote by pioneer industrial designer, Raymond Loewy..."The most beautiful curve is a rising sales graph."
What's your prediction for the future of product design?
The trend now is for everyone to "design" their own product as evidenced by the relative success and popularity of DIY design site like NikeID, Zazzle and Cafe Press. While it's very interesting (and challenging) from a supply chain and development standpoint, I feel that just because you can do it, doesn't mean everyone should. There is tremendous value in a design education and experience in creating successful and innovative products, brands, etc. that no amount of DIY design websites can replace.
Ok Darin, if you were a sneaker ... what would you look like?
I'd have a big tongue, a lot of straps and "break necks" with my good looks while walking down the street! (NICE!)