A Look At The Man Who Drives Nike Shoe Innovation

How freelance shoemaker Mike Friton leverages new craft methods for experimental results.

Mike Friton is a Portland-based innovator who’s been collaborating with Nike for over 30 years. Getting his start at Nike’s Innovation Kitchen, he was given the license to explore the margins of footwear design.

A lot of what I do is about finding new paths or new concepts and ideas. I’m always curious in exploring all the various fringes of everything related to the subject I’m working on. And from that you develop a bigger palette of things you can pick and choose from.

The short video below from Cineastas profiles the sculptor/weaver/designer as he works, leveraging craftsmanship to explore and define the future of footwear. The profile video features extreme close-ups of the materials and patterns he’s introduced. It also highlights Mr.Friton’s history and the tools he’s used to enrich Nike’s product line.

Given his multi-disciplinary approach, where he mixes different weaving and construction crafts, Friton generates unpredictable design results. Note how he was given the title ‘innovator’ over other titles such as ‘engineer’ or ‘designer’. This is because he probes the textiles he works with in a deep manner and applies his analysis to design and product challenges that are based on arising consumer needs; in other words, he brings together design and engineering as an innovator. In his interview, he also addresses the importance of manipulating what is given and tinkering with its structural makeup.

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