Interview: Prestology and Sneaker Lab Release 3 Limited NIKEiD Presto’s

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This week, we caught up with Australian sneaker aficionado and Nike footwear designer Leon ‘Prestology’ Witherow to talk about his recent collaborative efforts with Sneaker Lab who describe themselves as a “group of designers, technologists, and sneaker freaks who are always looking for new ways to experiment and make shoes more meaningful”. Sneaker Lab have certainly lived up to their name by inviting 5 sneaker influencers/designers to try their hand at creating a grip NIKEiD releases, which have now dropped via their webstore.
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THX – So Leon, for those who aren’t familiar can you give us a brief introduction on yourself?
LEON – I was born and raised in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne (Blackburn represent!). I fell in love with Nike at a very young age and started collecting sneakers as soon as I was old enough to afford them. After doing an Industrial Design degree at RMIT, I started working for Nike Australia, and then after four years I packed up my life (and a few pairs of Prestos) in to a suitcase and moved to Holland to study Footwear Innovation. From there I was spotted by a few Nike designers on Instagram and as they say, the rest is history. I now work as a footwear designer at Nikes World Headquarters in Oregon, USA. Throughout all of this, the Presto was really the shoe that fuelled my passion for footwear and design. I figured that if I could one day design anything even remotely as beautiful as that shoe, then I would be content in life.
THX – What is it about the Presto in your opinion that separates it in an era of iconic Nike Sportswear designs?
LEON – I think what’s special about the Presto is that it created a complete paradigm shift in footwear; a completely new understanding of the way shoes are designed, constructed, marketed, distributed and branded. It was based on this idea of deconstructing a shoe down to it’s most essential components instead of overbuilding it like almost all shoes were at the time. It was almost intentionally designed to challenge the status quo, and I think that’s pretty special.
THX –  How did this idea come about? Did Sneaker Lab approach you?
LEON – SneakerLab originally approached me and 4 other artists/designers/creatives with the goal of answering the question: “What is the next level of sneaker customisation for the consumer?”. I think the long-term consumer trend in footwear is really heading towards a more bespoke/tailored/customisable approach and so the whole SneakerLab concept was to test that idea to an extent. The team at SneakerLab felt that having ‘influencers’ create these collections would be a really new and fresh approach to this new era of sneaker customisation. Being a diehard sneakerhead, I just couldn’t refuse the offer to participate.
THX – Have you ever worked with any of the other designers working on pairs for Sneaker Lab before? Did you know them?
LEON – I actually hadn’t worked with or heard of any of the designers involved in the SneakerLab program, and hopefully they hadn’t heard of me. The SneakerLab team wanted to approach this project in a slightly more ‘grassroots’ way; so instead of using super high-profile, insta-famous, celebrity artists/creatives, they reached out to individuals who already had a presence in some way, but were still up-and-coming.
THX – The obvious choice for you was always the Presto, was there any other silhouette you would have liked to try your hand on?
LEON – I  was really close to adding a couple of Air Max 1’s in to the mix because I love that silhouette with all my heart, but I thought it would be interesting to release a collection that used the same shoe interpreted in a variety of different ways, just to see how many stories I could tell with the customisation options available to me.
THX – Inspiration for your 3 pairs?
LEON – The inspiration for the collection really just came from being surrounded by American popular culture as a young kid growing up in Melbourne. When I reflect on that time, so much of what I saw either came directly from America or was influenced by that culture in some way; The Simpsons, wrestling, X-Files, South Park, Micro Machines, Grand Theft Auto, Hot Wheels, Biggie, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Wu-Tang Clan……the list goes on and on. I wanted to translate these influences in to a collection of three shoes.
 
THX – This could be like asking you to pick a favourite child but do you have a favourite out of the 3?
LEON – That’s a tough one. I have soft spot for the Wu-Tang colorway, but I think my overall favourite is the ‘American Dream’ colorway. It combines a whole bunch of different influences. Imagine taking GTA: Vice City, Miami Vice, a 1980’s Korg synthesiser, a 1960’s Ford Mustang and a brick of cocaine from the Scarface movie, and throwing it all in a blender. That’s where that colorway came from.
THX – Did you conceptualise any other designs? or was it always going to be these 3?
LEON – I had about 15 designs in the beginning which I had to painfully narrow down to the chosen three. Right now we are only have the color/material/graphic options that are available on NIKEiD to create our collections, and that has proven to be an interesting challenge. It’s a limitation but it also means you can refine your story a lot. Being a sneakerhead, I often dream of the day that I can just create my own Presto with no limitations on color, material, construction and budget………….maybe one day.
THX – What’s next for you? Any other little side projects in the oven right now?   
LEON – Right now I just want to keep learning and trying to be a better footwear designer and keep hunting for those rare pairs of Prestos. Both of these things are never-ending projects. I also feel an obligation to be the best ambassador for Australia and its sneaker culture as I can be because the amount of support I have received from the crew back home is heartwarming. It keeps me going and makes it a bit easier to be 13,047 kilometers away from home.
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We’d like to thank Leon for his time and effort sharing these answers with us and look forward to hearing more from him soon. If your not already, give him a follow on Instagram here for all things Air Presto.
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