Known for its uber lightweight and comfortable designs, Rollie Nation is the stylish and playful go-to footwear brand for frequent travellers and style-seekers.
Born in 2012, brand architect Vincent Lebon, has taken Rollie Nation from stride to stride. His latest success? First place at the prestigious Pensole Footwear Academy Master Class in Oregon, USA.
Having won a scholarship to the ‘Future Footwear’ Master Class at Pensole Academy, Lebon was one of 18 aspiring designers from around the globe who stepped under the reign of visionary shoe designers, D’Wayne Edwards (an Issue 35 interviewee) and Suzette Henry for a three-week course to learn the ins and outs of sneaker design and understand the entire footwear design process; from inspiration, concept-development, design, problem solving, materials, marketing, business, networking and branding.
“I had high expectations and it definitely exceeded them. It wasn’t just about footwear design which I thought would be the focus but it was about design in general,” describes Lebon. “I think the best part was being able to work with like-minded people and the idea of being mentored by leading professionals.”
Pensole founders D’Wayne and Suzette have been coaching and spawning shoe superstars since 2010 and, having worked for brands like Nike and Sketchers themselves, it’s no wonder they attract the quality of talent that we can see in their alumni; with many currently employed by the likes of Nike, Dolce & Gabbana and Adidas.
Brands like Underamour, Levis and Asics consider Pensole a rich source of inspiration; emphasising the level of talent offering stiff competition. So for Vince, “to come first place [was] another level.”
With a refreshing attitude, the shoe-visionary regarded the experience, as a “personal design sabbatical.” “It’s broken down barriers and reminded me that anything is possible,” he explains.
Since the masterclass concluded, Vince has kicked into gear, applying new-found skills and a reinvigorated outlook to his business and design approach. He describes his biggest takeaway as “the importance of a customer persona, the importance of story-telling through a product and being able to have a laser focus to design for a person in mind rather than a type of person.”
His (ahem) sole effort? “As soon as I came back, as a team we sat back and spent a whole day narrowing down customer personas for Rollie. Since then, the brand now has a clearer focus that we can all work towards as a team, with the muse in mind at all times!”
Humble until the end, much like the contrast of his simplistic shapes, bold colours and textures and super lightweight functionality; Vince was very open and relaxed about the experience.
“I wasn’t there for a competition at all and it rarely crossed my mind whilst I was there that it was a competition,” he explains. “Knowing that I’d be surrounded by leading professionals and to have the opportunity to create with them and work at that level was amazing. My main objective was to challenge myself as a creative and hopefully gain a mentor”.
What’s next? “Right now, my main focus is to keep working with like-minded creatives through collaborations to help expand the brand and the Rollie culture and storytelling”, explains Vince. Lucky for Rollie Nation, taking out the top prize Pensole Academy includes an offer to have designs sold exclusively at Foot Locker under the Asics brand. As they say, watch this space.
Vince was a speaker at our first Kick. Start. Smart event in Sydney. The next one takes place on Friday 7th October – find out all the details, including the line-up of inspiring speakers here.