The fifth issue of Shining the Spotlight highlights freelance footwear designer and Creative Director of Ethics, Brett Golliff. He discusses the creative process of Ethics and Langston Galloway’s first signature shoe, the LgONE. Brett Golliff also expands on the unique path Ethics is taking as an independent brand to mark their space in a “saturated and opinionated” basketball market.
Brett Goliff first met Langston Galloway at Sneakercon in late summer 2018. They would later start talking and hanging out more in the spring of 2019, when Langston Galloway’s contract with Q4 Sports expired. “He was in the midst of negotiating a few shoe contracts and he wanted to do his own thing” Golliff explains, “At that point I had about 13 years experience of creating footwear and 13 professional years of creating footwear, and we just decided to go on our own path”. Although they didn’t have a name for the brand at the start, their goal was clear, “make a basketball shoe that was more affordable and ethically made”. The brand was later named Ethics, embodying Langston Galloway’s vision and values.
“make a basketball shoe that was more affordable and ethically made”
What separates Brett Golliff from the majority of sneaker designers in the industry is his knowledge and awareness of the manufacturing side of sneakers. Being in the industry for so long and working on various projects, it is safe to say he’s a jack of all trades. His learnings at work and as a freelancer has allowed him to build up the experience and network to be able to orchestrate the design and production process of a sneaker from top to bottom. His business minded side would come from his role as Global Manager at Chevrolet. “From automotive, the creatives are very involved in that (the business side)” Brett Golliff explains, “I was very involved in that side of stuff. So that gave me a foundation to understand the business and to understand where to start”. Golliff adds, “Footwear isn’t that different, it’s just the scale of the object that’s different and the cost of it”.
With Chevrolet providing the base for his business mind, his freelance experience allowed him to grow and expand his ability. Through working for small projects and big brands for 13 years, it gave him the connections and knowledge on “how to get moulds open, how to work with freight, how to work with suppliers, how to source materials”. In the end, when he was working with Ethics to produce the LgONE, he had the foundation to not only sketch and provide a tech pack, but to manage the business side of the brand as well. “I really honed in on trying to understand the entire business side of things and being able to make sure that this thing didn’t just die as a sketch” Golliff explains.
“understand the entire business side of things and being able to make sure that this thing didn’t just die as a sketch”
With Ethics being Langston Galloway’s brand, Brett Golliff would spend time talking with him to materialise his vision. “From day one, it was very clear that Langston had an understanding of what he wanted to do and what he was trying to achieve,” Brett Golliff explains. With Langston Galloway’s vision for the brand, the combination of the COVID pandemic and the NBA’s lockdown would ultimately give Brett Golliff and Langston Galloway the opportunity to talk more often. “We were able to talk just all the time and really hone in and focus on what we wanted to do” Brett Golliff explains, “When we had prototypes, we got real feedback to really be able to test and prove these ideas out”.
Driven by their vision, the two would focus on “creating a beautiful well-crafted basketball shoe that met the performance of it”, rather than getting bogged down on using the LgONE as a method of storytelling. But being an independent brand entering a mass market, cost was also a factor of consideration. With the task of balancing beauty, cost and performance, the solution Brett Golliff came up with was cut and sew. “By the time that we started on the LgONE… I learned a lot as to ‘how we are going to do to scale this affordably and what are we going to stay away from’” Golliff explains, “I wanted to really hone in and focus on doing cut and sew”. With the exception of the moulded heel, cut and sew significantly reduced the manufacturing costs of the LgONE. Giving Brett Golliff the leverage to use premium materials to put together a minimal and elegant upper and focus on its performance aspect.
“creating a beautiful well-crafted basketball shoe that met the performance of it”
In terms of performance, Brett Golliff started with the fit of the shoe. “We had a mentality of ‘how do we get the fit of a perfect basketball shoe?’” Brett Golliff explained. That drove the process of perfecting the last in the early design stages, making sure the shoe didn’t lose its fit through the layers from cut and sew. Considering it was Langston Galloway’s shoe, Brett Golliff made sure that the LgONE could accommodate Galloway’s flat foot and his personal insoles; adding the midfoot TPU plate and designing the shoe to “enable a level of customizability for any player”. Other performance details made up the LgONE’s movement on the hardwood. The dual density midsole cushion system was set up to have a firm responsive feedback on the forefoot and a soft cushioning on the heel. And “removing weight in key areas” allowed for its lightness. “We were focused on creating a shoe for the court” Brett Golliff explains, “What was really cool about that shoe was it made its way to the NBA Finals, which was really unique”.
For most emerging brands that enter the basketball market, it’s already an uphill battle to be able to establish themselves in such an opinionated market. Without the billion dollar backing like the major brands, independent brands have to strike three birds with one stone: looks, quality and price. And most often, brands fall short of satisfying all the criterias. So, it speaks for itself when the LgONE ticks all the boxes. It shows Brett Golliff’s ability as a designer to create a beautiful shoe with quality materials but also as a businessman, ensuring the product stays competitive in terms of price. But the brand doesn’t stop there to separate itself from the rest of the pack.
“There’s a reason for having the product. We have a reason for why we believe this needs to exist”
What Ethics is working towards isn’t a brand that produces millions upon millions of shoes every year, it’s much more sophisticated. Brett Golliff best describes their vision as being a farm to table restaurant. “If you think of a restaurant that grows or has access to its own ingredients and other pieces like that, it’s to scale it to the right amount of people” Brett Golliff explains, “There’s a reason for having the product. We have a reason for why we believe this needs to exist”. Ethics with Brett Golliff will continue to pave their own way, operating with purpose, producing what is “needed”. For Brett Golliff independently, he’ll continue to expand his work as a footwear designer.
“As for myself, I’m full time footwear, the creative director for a company called Snibs, and it’s another startup. I love working with some of the products that we’re creating. For Lang, I’ll still help the Ethics brand and a few other brands I’ve been a part of as well over the past couple of years. So from that side, I’m always working, always creating, and always pushing. My main thing is that I have a vast experience of how to create brand products, hone in on a consumer, and also understand cost and then tile in the art and the function to that. And I have a unique path that I’m able to achieve and work with, basically with my clients. So for me, it’s going to continue to build that and also just continue to push creativity and understand how to actually take that creativity and make an executable product.”
Image source via Ethics, Brett Golliff