Design: It’s All In The Shoes — Rich Tu on The New Air Max 270 React

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When the new Air Max 270 React dropped, let’s just say the guys at adobo Creative Hub were beyond thrilled to share the news (and photos, let’s not forget about that). After all, a few months ago the team had met its creator Rich Tu, who also happens to be the Vice President for Design at MTV as well as Viacom.

The multi-awarded designer recently collaborated with Cultivator and Nike By You, who teamed up “to help bring creator stories to life on a much bigger platform.” The limited-edition sneakers is inspired by Rich Tu’s passion project called First Generation Burden, a podcast he hosts that shares immigrant stories of individuals from all walks of life.

I caught up with Rich to discuss his journey and process towards the Air Max 270 React:

You used to design sneakers for Nike and seems like you’re back at it with this new collaboration. Can you tell me how the collaboration between you and Nike come about?

For sure, let me just say that I worked for the Swoosh for about two years, and I had some of the best experiences of my life, creatively and otherwise. I stepped away from the company (never stopped being a sneakerhead though), and then one day a friend of mine was like, “I think you’d be interested in this Nike Cultivator thing”. Then I had a couple of conversations, and that was it. 

The biggest difference between now and then is that this co-creation process was about my personal story, which is the story of being a First Generation Filipino-American, and the podcast I host called “First Generation Burden”, which is about sharing the immigrant stories of a lot of amazing individuals from all over the world.

Your theme for this collection is the First Gen, which is the podcast you created. Why focus on this as the inspiration for the design?

It happened pretty organically, I pitched the idea of telling a First Generation story, and the Nike team was very receptive. And thankfully, because I’m well versed in telling stories through various mediums, the connections made a lot of sense and resonated.

Also, I’m at a point in my life where I won’t invest my time and energy into something I don’t believe in, especially when it comes to a project like this. So I’m glad that it all came together.

What’s the story behind color scheme of the shoe?

The colors are based in oxidized metal, which is present in the Philippines and a lot of countries around the world. That’s why the oranges and teals blend into each other, and the shoe has a blended and multi-layered aesthetic. Also, the construction of the Air Max 270 React is a great canvas for storytelling like that, because of the complex panel structure on the upper.

What would you say is the cherry on top of this design?

I would say The Statue of Liberty (which itself is oxidized copper) or the wavy Swoosh. Those are the kind of details that make a design iconic.

How different is designing shoes from your current job at MTV?

MTV, and by extension ViacomCBS, is a great organization to be a part of. The main difference tho, is that MTV isn’t really in the sneaker business lol. Most of my time at MTV is spent overseeing a lot of design, branding, and campaign visuals for their various programs and events on the various platforms. It requires a broad creative vocabulary that spans design, illustration, photography, etc., as well as managerial skills that help manifest creation on a large scale. For me, sneaker design was always a hobby that somehow became my job for a time. The MTV experience feels more like being both a Professor and a Student at all times (which I love).

What can we expect from First Generation Burden in the next couple of months?

Season 4 is wrapping up very soon, and there’s a live event with Benjamin Evans, the Inclusion Design Lead at AirBNB on September 12 at Parsons in NYC. I’m gonna take some time off for a few weeks (believe me, it is EXHAUSTING having a podcast and a full time job), and then try to come back with two more seasons leading up into the 2020 American Presidential Election. 

 How to best wear these shoes?

Proudly and in your own style. That’s the wave.

The Air Max 270 React is available only until September 1 and a cut of the proceeds will go to the American Civil Liberties Union. For the latest on Rich Tu and his projects/adventures, follow him on Instagram at @rich_tu.

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