By Tim Newcomb
November 17, 2014

adidas has let the buying public in on a little secret: the ability to step into a production line with their own shoe design.

With the new miZXFLUX app that launched this month in the U.S., opens up their production process to the creative — and paying — folks who want to transfer their own images onto their feet.

Torben Schumacher, adidas Originals Vice President of Footwear, told us the timeline to open up their technology was short — only about five months from “idea to launch.”

The concept started when adidas began promoting their own product with satellite images of cities such as London, Moscow and Berlin. “The design team was really amazed by the quality of the prints, which led to lively discussions about what other prints we could create,” Schumacher says. “This sparked the idea for an app.”

The ZX Flux was chosen for its simplistic design and materials, offering the most space for our best images and designs (or selfies, as the case may be).

The only difference between an adidas-created shoe and one built on the customized app is the “opening up of our systems to allow our customers the same level of design that we have,” Mac Russell, adidas Global Digital Manager, said.

In the app, users select a photo—uploads need to be at least 115 dpi—and position it on a butterflied image of the shoe upper, complete with laces and stripes.

“We work with our back-end partners that when the image gets uploaded to the server it is upscaled and sharpened and when sent down into the factory they do another sharpening so it is crisp,” Russell says. “We actually improve the photo from the phone and final production is 300 dpi printing quality.”

Production occurs in the same Vietnam factory and production line as the other ZX Flux adidas shoes. “They only thing that is different is that the customer is allowed to put whatever picture they want,” Russell says.

The one-piece upper is made of synthetic leather that takes the special dye and ink mixture. “We use a large wool printer that prints off these shoes at size,” Russell says. They keep the synthetic leather thin to properly take the print, and then it gets protected and sealed.

The creativity of customers has delighted adidas officials, especially as customers embrace the simplistic ability to design with whatever (legal) image they choose. “A number of customers have created bespoke graphic designs specifically for the ZX FLUX, which are very cool,” Schumacher says.

With excitement surrounding opening the process, Schumacher says to expect plenty more intense customization to come.

Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb

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