Elevated. Rich. Luxurious. All words Peter Ruppe, senior vice president of footwear, uses to describe the first iteration of the Curry Lux, a premium expression of the Steph Curry signature on-court sneaker from Under Armour.
“Performance gets elevated as an expression for street culture,” Ruppe tells SI.com. “I think for us, where we are in our maturity in footwear, it is time for us to compete in that broader footwear market.”
To enter the fray, Under Armour grabbed onto its most recognizable athlete with its most recognizable signature sneaker, aiming to “elevate it, give it that nod that we know how to really craft great footwear for performance that you can wear other parts of your day.”
Instead of designing a completely new off-court Curry model, Under Armour took the popularity of the Curry One and gave it a new experience. “The Curry One was such a sudden hit for us, but it didn’t get much penetration,” he says. “We didn’t sell that many of those and the market hasn’t experienced this shoe as much as we would like it to.” The Curry Lux, then, became a literal translation of the Curry One, just with a new style of materials, from nubuck leather, split leather, full-grain leather and suede.
With the goal of giving basketball-playing kids an off-court option they could still wear on court if they wanted, Ruppe says the design ethos didn’t stray far from the original intent of the shoe, leaving the branding marks in the exact place, for example, and simply providing a richer expression through use of materials. For now, that has been leather and will remain so, albeit with different treatments, come spring. By summer, though, Ruppe expects different packages of luxurious textiles could enter the Lux line.
“Everybody really loves a beautiful leather shoe and we wanted to bring that in here,” Ruppe says.
Moving forward, Under Armour designers have already started playing with Curry’s upcoming and yet-released on-court model on the Lux side. Expect to see some minor adjustments to the pattern that allows for color tweaks. “We will be pivoting and doing a couple of minor adjustments to create a slightly different language with it,” Ruppe says. “We will do some elevated things on branding and pattern work to keep it fresh.”
And it all comes with the blessing of Curry. “We want him to tap into everything we do that carries his mark, his identity in any way,” Ruppe says. “He is really enjoying it.”
With Curry’s straightforward personal style, Ruppe says the goal of the first Curry Lux was to mimic the man with a straightforward approach that kept in line with Curry’s fashion sense. That plays into colors too, both keeping the Lux within the wearable trend colors—expect plenty of black, gray and white—and fitting within his personal palette.
“With the first iteration we wanted to be able to be pretty straight up with what is happening on trend,” Ruppe says. “Hitting on the wearable colors, playing into current trends in the market, but also making it a really simple thing with versatile colorways guys would be attracted to.”
The Curry Lux serves as Under Armour’s first foray into mixing performance and style. Ruppe says the Curry Lux gives his team confidence—“we can do this and we know how to do this and we will continue to do it at a high level”—to keep designing. So as we continue to see Curry on the court and the continuation of the Curry signature performance line, expect to also experience a growing presence of the Curry Lux.
Tim Newcomb covers sports aesthetics—stadiums to sneakers—and training for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.