In the first of a series of interviews profiling Design District’s tenants, we talk to the designer, sneakerhead and all-round basketball obsessive about collaboration, community and the joys of concrete floors.
Having collaborated with global brands such as Timberland and Adidas, as well as legendary artist Takashi Murakami, Daniel Bailey — founder of footwear research programme, Conceptkicks — is well on his way to becoming an industry MVP. As Daniel and his team warm up for the move to their new studio in building C1 this summer (yes, the one with the rooftop basketball court), we took the opportunity for a little courtside chat.
Design District (DD): Welcome to the neighbourhood Daniel, it’s great to have you here. Conceptkicks is now close to a decade old. Tell us about its origins — what were you up to 10 years ago?
Daniel Bailey (DB): The idea for Conceptkicks actually started much earlier, when I was introduced to the world of footwear design by a close friend while studying just outside of New York City. I wanted to learn more about all these incredibly talented creatives in the industry, but was finding it hard to get more info. Eventually my frustration led to me creating Conceptkicks as both a design studio and footwear research programme for sharing the work of designers. The website launched in 2013 and we registered the company a few years later.
DD: You were a basketball player before making the move into footwear design. Did this feel like a natural progression to you?
DB: It did. I think basketball and footwear really go hand-in-hand. Every one of my friends I played with was obsessed with the latest performance sneaker that would help us play better (or at least look better!). Ever since I can remember, I’ve been drawing and trying to come up with ideas. I even had my own imaginary basketball sneaker brand back in school… this whole career has been many years in the making.
DD: One of the biggest challenges of working in the creative industries can be finding the support you need. What kind of support do you wish you’d had more of starting out?
DB: I think more of an understanding of how to run a creative business. Balancing projects and bank accounts is tricky, especially when most of the projects are international.
DD: What have been some of the biggest obstacles you’ve faced?
DB: One of the biggest issues has been having access to facilities for developing my ideas at a high level. When you’re an independent you’re creating complex designs that you want to produce in low quantities, which is the exact opposite of what factories want to do for the most part. It’s going to be great having access to all the Design District facilities. I’m definitely looking forward to using the 3D printers, as well as the photostudio and the workshops in general. I’m sure we’ll find a use for all of the facilities eventually.
DD: And the highs… what have been some pinnacles of your career to date?
DB: My collaboration with Takashi Murakami was definitely a highlight — getting to work with someone like that is pretty special. It was also the first time I was able to flex my creative muscle in a public format as most of
my work up until then was behind the scenes. And growing my team — I’ve always been very careful about who I surround myself with and I couldn’t be happier with the group of people I have working with me everyday — everyone is super-skilled and, most importantly, a good person. Sometimes you don’t realise the progress you’ve made until you’re able to share the journey with other people.
DD: You’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to showcasing the work of others through Conceptkicks, providing an inspiration destination for not just sneakerheads, but all kinds of creatives. Is building this sort of community important to you?
DB: Very important. I think sharing the work that inspires you is an important message to send. It can also give a designer we’re showcasing a much needed morale boost and access to more opportunities — an amazing thing to be able to help facilitate.
DD: Your new studio is in building C1, which just happens to be crowned by Design District’s rooftop basketball court. Was that a factor in your choice of workspace?
DB: When we were looking for a studio there were two main criteria: concrete floors and high ceilings so we could have a basketball hoop in the studio. When we saw that C1 had not only polished concrete floors, but also a rooftop basketball court, we couldn’t believe it! We’ve already got plans to start a 3-on-3 tournament and to potentially hire interns to rebound for us during lunch break shootaround sessions (jk!).
DD: Now that you have a new physical HQ, what’s on the horizon for Conceptkicks ?
DB: Continuing to elevate the Conceptkicks platform, and working on projects that inspire us, both as Conceptkicks and through my design alter-ego, Mr. Bailey. We have some upcoming projects I’m really excited about but can’t share just yet. Being based at Design District will mean getting to interact IRL with my team, making for a more natural creation process. And it will mean clients and friends passing through will get to experience Conceptkicks in a physical space as opposed to just online. We’re also looking forward to being surrounded by a community of super-talented creatives on a daily basis.
DD: Where can people see your work?
DB: Our websites, conceptkicks.com and mrbailey.co.uk, and on Instagram it’s @conceptkicks or @mrbailey. I’ll also be showcasing the collaboration sneaker I did with Adidas last year at Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street at the Design Museum.
Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street is showing at the Design Museum from the 28th of May until the 21st of October 2021.