For Dwyane Wade’s fourth signature shoe from Beijing-based Li–Ning, the Way of Wade 4, he wanted something with “new transformation.”
“He gives me up front goals, up front visions that he sees his shoes becoming,” Eric Miller, Li-Ning’s Way of Wade designer, tells SI.com. “This year, with the WoW 4, he said we needed a new breed of product, still a premium shoe that was cool on and off the court, but he wanted them to be modern and new and up to speed for 2015.”
To get Wade where he wanted, Miller says he embraced the premium materials Wade’s line is known for—look for carbon fiber throughout the Way of Wade 4, and a healthy dose of mesh and lightweight breathability, all within the modern design of origami.
“Origami has a lot of delicate visual features,” says Miller, who designs from an office in Portland, the athletic shoe capital of the world. “That was the dual play I was balancing, the duality of a story that looks visually lightweight, but with an elevated level of stability and security and overall biomechanics-feel on the court.”
But that duality of story Miller always reaches for played out in origami. “It is super relevant in modern architecture,” he says. “The folds, a lot of that visual language is harnessed as a visual cue in the sculpting of the midsole, the visual fold to the carbon fiber shank. Origami was really the big (design) thing.”
The first Way of Wade 4, Liberty, launched on Oct. 23 and Lucky 13, Wade’s opening night shoe, launched on Oct. 28. In the Lucky 13 style, Miller says he wanted to celebrate that this is the 13th time Wade has strapped on a pair of sneakers for the start of a NBA season. Using a bold red, Miller included graphics to help tell the dual theme of lucky on an unlucky number.
There’s plenty more coming. More than 15 in total. We’ll see a Veterans Day color available on Nov. 11 and Miller teases the annual "Team No Sleep" colorway, a design inspired by Wade’s support team he named because of their lack of sleep while keeping him performing. There’s also a Silver Jubilee colorway for the company’s 25th anniversary set for late November.
“We always have a creative twist that pulls back to Dwyane,” Miller says. “Sometimes it stands out.”
Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, sneakers and training for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.