For this month’s issue of Shining the Spotlight, we were able to get in touch with Quintin Williams, the co-founder and Chief Global designer of Q4 Sports. Together we discussed his design process of performance footwear and the brand’s future within and beyond basketball.
“we like to say Q4 Sports is the athlete’s brand”
As the co-founder and Chief Global designer of Q4 Sports, the direction in which Quintin Williams operates the brand is certainly unique. Rather than the brand coming first, Q4 Sports takes the approach of prioritising the athlete. “Internally we like to say Q4 Sports is the athlete’s brand” Quintin Williams explains, “It’s their brand, we are just the guys in the background that help them get it out to the public”.
The brand’s athlete-first mentality was what convinced NBA players such as E’Twaun Moore and Darius Langston to sign with Q4 Sports, despite the brand’s short history and relatively small size. “Having a business model that gives and lends itself to them having an entrepreneurial mindset and understanding that I can build my brand in a way that I can’t with the other guys, that was the difference” Quintin Williams explains.
“It is to think about… issues and problems that you want to solve for the athlete”
Quintin Williams’ philosophy of focusing on the athlete is also reflected in his design process. His main area of focus when designing his shoes is performance, “It is to think about the athlete, and issues and problems that you want to solve for the athlete” Williams explains. During the initial launch of Q4 Sports, Quintin Williams’ original idea was to consider every position on the court. He considered the types of bodies that tend to be in the specific position and the different attributes that followed with each position. “Weight, speed, agility, support, and all those things I thought about when I went into the design process”, Quintin Williams explains “I wanted it to be tailored toward a certain type of player, obviously the player gets to choose, but the initial mindset was to make sure every position was covered within the 1 to 5 spots”.
The design process also involves the consumer and the athlete to develop and improve the shoes. This relationship is highlighted between the first and second generation of Q4 Sports products. For example, the 495 LO SP from the second generation features the upper of the 495 LO of the first generation and the tooling of the Specialist. “While the consumer, they loved the styling of the 495 LO, the tooling so-so, only because of the decoupling and the weight distribution of the tooling didn’t work as well as the SP.” Quintin Williams explains, “So we used what they told us and enhanced it”. The size of the brand also works in his favour, allowing them to absorb feedback, implement it, and put it in the market within 6 to 8 months. “What I love most especially being a designer is to be able to get that direct feedback and be able to listen to what you guys want, what you prefer, and make a switch pretty quick and get it to market quicker” Quintin Williams says.
“the inspiration is the athlete”
While the design process is focused on performance, the inspiration behind the designs comes from the athlete. “The inspiration is the athlete” Quintin Williams explains, “their story, what inspires them”. As a designer Quintin Williams’ job is to work with the athletes to capture the “inspiration embodied in the athlete” and telling the stories through the shoe. For the case of Langston Galloway, it was his Tribal Yellow and Black Dashiki colourway and his bible verse on the back of his pull-tab. These details unwrap themselves to tell where they’re from and what inspires them. “That’s the cool thing about what we do, it’s less about us, it’s more about them”, Williams adds.
Looking ahead, Quintin Williams is continuously looking to develop and innovate Q4 Sports within performance and outside of it as well. Under the subject of development, Quintin Williams talks about the modern game which has become more or less positionless. “It’s very interesting, because back in the day it used to be, the bigger the guy the taller the shoe” Quintin Williams explains, “Now the norm is basically less weight, more agility, and you’re still over 250 lb”. Apart from what requires from a design standpoint, Quintin Williams also highlights the significance of the use of materials. “At the end of the day it has to be manufactured” Quintin Williams explains, “Really the engineers along with the designers have to come together to figure out how do we structurally make something sound, for these big bodies moving at fast pace and the durability and the longevity, still be there”.
“idea of being able to customise your comfort level or your performance level”
Another innovation Quintin Williams is focusing on is granting the consumers the ability to customise their comfort level or their performance level. Quintin Williams believes what will separate brands in the future is the ability to personalise your experience. The real challenge is being able to implement the idea on a mass market scale, within the footwear conversation. Quintin Williams hints at the idea of 3D printing, “(but) at the same time it’s still not scalable, just yet” Quintin Williams explains, “So that in between time to be able to figure out a way to personalise performance experience is what I am working on in the background”. A product that gives a taste of Quintin Williams’ vision is the BIYU Slides, slides that allow you to interchange the midsole foams for different situations.
Q4 Sports is also looking to go beyond athletes and provide a platform for influencers. Just like the brand gives athletes the key to controlling their brand, Q4 Sports wants to help influencers to monetise their followership, their brand and network and “attempt to do something different”. “I think that’s the trend and I think it’s only getting bigger” Quintin Williams explains, “especially in the consumers that buy these niche products, they want that”. With upcoming athleisure line giving an opportunity for influencers to boost their own brand, Q4 Sports is only getting bigger, sharing its success with the individuals involved.
“And that’s what I see, I see it growing over the years and it’s already grown tremendously since we launched in 2017, so I only see us getting bigger, and I know that to be true, because we are now starting to get calls from some of the bigger retailers of the world, and they’ve noticed us. And not just domestically, so it says a lot. So I’m excited to get some new products out, because I know it’s been a while, COVID has slowed a lot of things down, but it’s only going to be up from here, I’m sure.”