Stria Sport is a Chicago-based sports brand that recently launched their first basketball shoe this fall. As a brand that was founded by athletes for athletes, the brand’s visionary and former collegiate player, Eric Porter’s inspiration was to create a performance based athletic shoe that is extremely comfortable, lightweight, and accessible to the masses. In a time where the industry is starting to focus more on flash rather than function, he wanted to incorporate all the aspects of an elite performing sneaker and give it a very sleek aesthetic.
Together with footwear designer Peter Backus, they did just that, successfully launching the Stria 107 Series which was released in 8 unique colourways and will be worn by 60 professional athletes across the NBA, G-League and overseas.
Curious to learn more about Stria Sport’s fully performance based basketball shoe, we arranged an interview with footwear designer Peter Backus to talk about the design process behind the Stria 107 Series.
For our readers, can you give a brief introduction of yourself and what you are currently doing as a designer?
Hi, I’m Peter Backus, I’ve been doing footwear design for quite a while. I’ve worked for Nike and AND1; designing basketball shoes and training shoes and a variety of categories, sports and outdoor for other footwear companies. I also do accessory and pack design as well as product design, but my main focus is footwear.
How did you end up working with Stria Sport to design their first basketball shoe, the Stria 107 Series?
Eric and his father Mark were looking for a designer. Eric had an idea, he has a passion for basketball shoes and Mark supported him and they contacted me. When I met with Eric, our passions collided when it came to our likes and what we gravitated to and the performance characteristics of a basketball shoe. The more that we spoke with each other, the more we connected. We found out we could work really well together. We feed off each other really well.
As you’ve mentioned you’ve previously worked with Nike and AND1. How did your previous work influence the design process of the Stria 107 Series?
I think gaining knowledge of performance, performance of basketball shoes, performance in footwear in general. Experience in designing footwear and how to pull it all together, how to design the outsole, the midsole and the uppers of shoes to give it the optimum performance.
Previously working with larger brands like Nike and AND1, what were the differences working with Stria Sport?
The difference is, we really connected on what we wanted this product to be right from the start. That was our goal and we’ve stayed true to that all the way through to getting the production product. It was simpler than working in a corporate design situation in that there were only the two of us working together. We bounced a lot of ideas with each other and I did the design work and iterations. We would look at them, look at the possibilities and reviewed and I went back to the drawing board to refine. So, it was really quick and very organic working with Eric and we just seemed to connect. We connected under performance, I knew how to achieve performance and he knew what performance was and what it meant to him as an athlete. That seemed to always resonate between us. Once we started creating samples, we would tear them apart, we would cut the shoes up and we would refine. We didn’t have any time restrictions, although we had a vague goal on when we wanted to launch, we wanted to get it right. So, that’s how we approached it.
Were there any sources of inspiration behind the design of the shoe?
The inspiration was to create a great no-nonsense basketball shoe. We didn’t want any extraneous details, extraneous bells and whistles on the shoe. We looked at every component of the shoe in its simplest form and that’s how we compiled the design. We tore apart the marketplace and we looked at a lot of different basketball shoes. Eric performed in them and he had some other basketball players perform in them too. He received feedback and we took that feedback and we kept refining on what our shoe should be and how it should perform. I just kept going back to the performance of it. Just the knowledge of how to build a good shoe and knowledge of what you need in a basketball shoe. For example, our shoe has a forward momentum design as we call it. That was derived from looking at some running shoes. Instead of having a flat heel, it has a slightly curved heel kick and a neutral position instead of going off to the lateral side, along with optimal the toe spring of the last. Once we kept refining and building samples and testing, we realised we achieved what we wanted, which was a really nice smooth transition when you are running down the court as well as lateral transitions with the shoe.
Stria 107 Series is the lightest basketball shoe in the market and its comfort allows for everyday use, as a designer how did you approach this challenge of achieving this?
We started from an additive design process, we started with zero and we only added elements that we purposely wanted in the shoe. We didn’t overbuild it. We figured we can always add more in certain areas if we needed to. We worked with suppliers to supply us with the right tuned midsole, the Stria Foam midsole. The dimensions of the outsole, we minimised as possible, while still allowing for great durability. The upper components, the bonded TPU film on the upper gives it great strength, but is super lightweight. The internal foams and the collar we used are the lightest we could find and we minimised and sculpted those areas and optimized materials where we needed it.
The Stria 107 Series also emphasises itself as being multidirectional, it can be used for everyday use and other sports apart from basketball such as tennis and volleyball. So, how different was this design process compared to your other projects where you focused on designing a shoe for a specific task?
This shoe is primarily a basketball shoe, but it translates really well into volleyball and other court sports such as tennis. It just kind of happened. It’s one of those serendipitous moments where we just realised it worked really well and there were opportunities in other court sports. So, it was kind of a bonus for us. The forward momentum design it provides a really great running gate and is comfortable to train in as well.
Did you face any other challenges when designing the shoe?
The challenge is everybody else out there. The challenge is all the competition and we realised there is just a ton of great products out there from a lot of different companies and we’d like to acknowledge that and be aware of it. So, the bar is set really high for us. We wanted this shoe to perform excellent not only from a court perspective, but from a durability perspective as well and have great comfort. Not just when you go to the store to purchase a shoe and put it on, but lasting comfort. And it has a very nice style to it.
As someone who designs a wide range of shoes, could we expect to see more basketball shoes designed by you after your recent project with Stria Sport?
I probably will, I think Eric and I have a lot more work to do moving forward but I like variety in design, that’s what keeps it interesting for me. I’ve done a lot of work such as golf shoes and innovation for Oakley and other companies. I also do a lot of work in the outdoor industry as well, hiking, running, trekking, so it’s kind of wild. I’ve done everything from designing women’s leather fashion sandals to extreme arctic expedition boots. To me it’s all design and it’s all a challenge, and it all starts with the original intention of what we’re trying to get after, what a team is trying to achieve. So, it’s a step by step process and I just try to immerse myself in whatever environment I’m designing for and then just go from there. Design is a life long journey, it really is, I love what I do and I love challenges. There’s a lot of things that challenge me and I’m always willing to take those on.