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EXCLUSIVE: Reebok’s Director of Design Talks Classic Kicks and Celtics

Celtkicks October 2, 2012 CeltKicks 3 Comments

Growing up in the 90′s, I always wore Reeboks. Reebok played a major role in some the biggest memories of my formative years. I distinctly remember Dee Brown pumping up his shoes on his way to winning the 1991 Dunk Contest.  From that day forward, Massachusetts playgrounds were covered with kids wearing Reebok Pumps.  Flash forward to 1996, who can forget when a young Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan.  In high school I only wore Iversons.  Needless to say, I am still a huge Reebok fan, so you can imagine my excitement when I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Heller, Reebok’s Footwear Design Director for Classics and Basketball.  We discussed the brands recent resurgences and most importantly,  Boston Celtics basketball.

CeltKicks: Tell our readers a bit about your background and how you ended up at Reebok?

Matt Heller: I studied industrial design at Syracuse University, and have always been passionate about the sport and footwear industry. That said, I spent several years learning the ropes in New York City at a product design firm, working for brands like Gatorade, General Motors and the US Olympic Team. From there, I joined Reebok for the first time, helping drive the design of the RBK brand, creating footwear for both the classics and sport space, as well as ones that blurred the line between the two. After a terrific few years at Reebok, I took a bit of a hiatus to join Continuum, one of the top design firms in the world — I helped lead their product design group, working for great brands like Samsonite, Pepsi and American Express. I recently made my way back to Reebok, and I’m thrilled to be back.

CK: What exactly does your role as Footwear Design Director from Classics and Basketball at Reebok entail?

MH: As Design Director for Classics and Basketball footwear, I’m responsible for defining the future design vision for our Classics and Basketball collections — not only crafting a distinctive look and feel for our footwear, but pushing the envelope to create innovative functionalities and new icons that move the needle. I’m lucky to have a super design team to keep things moving in a great direction.

CK: Reebok has experienced a huge resurgence over the past few years. What can we expect from the brand in 2013. Specifically in terms of the Basketball and Classic lines.

MH: We’ve got some amazing concepts in the pipeline right now for 2013 and 2014 on both the Classics and Basketball sides, innovative in so many different ways. Moving forward into 2013 and beyond, we’re identifying fresh ways to tap into our archives and retell the stories that make the Reebok brand special. With our rich history in sport, the Basketball and Classics brands are closely intertwined at Reebok — we’ve got a long and valuable history here that will resurface in some really unexpected and innovative ways.

CK: A few weeks back, Reebok unveiled the ultra-light Sublite Pro Rise. Discuss the design process behind the Sublite Pro Rise?

MH: The Sublite Pro Rise is light. Really light. Toby Birkinhead was the lead designer on the project — he designed it with a “function first” mindset: removing the things you don’t need, and leaving only what you do. We rethought traditional basketball shoe construction and replaced it with 3 key elements: 1. A FuseFrame upper creates a minimal, stitch-free structure to provide lightweight support around the foot; 2. For the midsole, we used our proprietary 3D Ultralite, a lightweight blend of foam and rubber that combines both cushioning and traction in one material; 3.  And lastly, instead of a heavy rubber outsole, we’ve place localized rubber inserts in key traction zones.

CK: What does the Sublite Pro Rise weigh?

MH: Sublite Pro Rise weighs 9.7 oz

CK: What NBA Stars can we expect to wear the Sublite Pro Rise?

MH: Jason Terry, Jameer Nelson, Dionte Christmas, Maalik Wayns, Isaiah Thomas, Ramon Sessions and Willie Green will all be sporting the Sublite Pro Rise this season. We spent a week with the guys here at Reebok HQ in August, talking design, brainstorming new concepts, what they liked, and how to improve things they didn’t. It’s always amazing to sit down one-on-one with the guys to get real, firsthand feedback to inspire and inform our designs.

CK:  Our site is heavily focused on the basketball sneakers that the Boston Celtics wear. Explain your feelings on Jason Terry. What can we expect Jason to be wearing this season?

MH: We’re thrilled to have Jet here in Boston — one of the most savvy players in the game right now. From his time at Arizona to playing with the Mavs, Jet knows how to win. He’ll be wearing the Sublite Pro Rise this season, and maybe a few other surprises.

CK: Reebok has taken a trip back in time in recent years and revisited some classic silhouettes. Explain what Dee Brown means to Reebok? Can we expect any future collaborations with Dee?

MH: Our history is one of the things that really sets us apart from the competition, and it’s something we hold in high regard. So the stories and people that are a part of it are invaluable to us, especially Dee Brown. We’re preparing for the 25th anniversary of the Reebok Pump, so you can expect some great stories to resurface in exciting ways.

CK: What would you say to kid is a Nike loyalist, that may have preconceived notions about Reebok?

MH: Some brands are everywhere, if you want to blend in, those brands are for you — other brands are a bit more unexpected, they’re not everywhere, they’re rare and special, but still authentic. Those are the ones I prefer.

CK: What is your favorite sneaker project you have worked on?

MH: We’ve got some amazing concepts in the pipeline right now for 2013 and 2014 on both the Classics and Basketball sides, innovative in so many different ways — if they wrap up anything like they’re planned, those will be at the top of my list. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you guys next time…

Keep in mind that Matt Heller has worked on some of Reeboks best-selling released including RBK Jay-z line. The future looks bright for Reebok. Keep an eye on Gar for the Reebok logo this year

To check out Reeboks latest Designs visit Reebok.com

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