Heiko Desens, Puma Global Creative Direction | Footpatrol Meets

07.08.20 Footpatrol MeetsGeneral

For our Footpatrol Discussion we always aim to give more insight into the footwear industry as best as we possibly can, to create a better understanding of the hard work these creatives do. What better way to continue that than with Pumas Global Creative Director, Heiko Desens.

Heiko has been in the footwear industry for over 15 years covering all aspects from sportswear to luxury. Since making a return to Puma, Heiko has worked on launches such as the famed RX series, Puma Muse and many more. 

We sat down with Heiko to talk about all things Puma and his involvement with the brand.

FP: Heiko, it’s always a pleasure to have the Puma family spend some time with us, for the Footpatrol community could you give us a brief introduction into who you are and what you do for Puma? 

Heiko: The pleasure is on my side. I am responsible for the global product Creative Direction with a team of Creative Directors focusing on individual product categories. Also leading the Innovation team where we look for state of the art engineering and performance innovation. 

I am a passionate product person and have been moving between sport, fashion and luxury with the result that sports wear definitely is my biggest love. 

FP: Over the course of your career this isn’t the first time you worked with Puma, could you tell us a bit about your role previously and your journey that’s brought you back? 

H: It was an amazing time being the Creative Director for PUMA Sportstyle when Puma Platform, Puma Muse, RS-0, RS-X launched and also working with an incredibly passionate team. 

One of my other passion, however is bags and accessories and once the opportunity came along to work for MCM i took the chance to experience and get insights to the luxury market. When I heard that PUMA wants to merge Creative Direction and Innovation and is going to emphasize performace in all aspects even more, it was clear that I need to be part of it. 

FP: What drew you to the sneaker industry in the first place as a designer? 

H: Actually I am not a footwear designer, my background lies in fashion engineering. My first professional touch points with sneakers were when the second wave of Sports X Fashion sneakers started to bubble up. It was during my time with Y-3. Only after when I worked for the german designer MICHALSKY i was responsible for the full scope of FTW. 

Since you have been back with the brand you brought back the 80s Running System technology and released the rebooted RS-O. Did this release go as well as you guys thought it would? It’s hard not to see someone walking around not wearing a pair of the recent RS series. 

We were convinced that the RS franchise is going to do great for PUMA but i doubt that at the starting point any of us expected what was ahead of us. So, it went well. Extremely well in regards to several aspects. PUMA is great in many other product segements but with the RS franchise we were speaking to a consumer we haven’t been touch with for quite a while. And we could manifest our position with a young trend driven consumer. 

It’s interesting, when you think of Puma you think classic with a lot of heritage behind it and a passion for innovation. A lot of people may not know that Puma paved the way for the modern day sneaker collaborations in 1997 with Jil Sander. 

FP: How important is it to maintain that consistency in raising the bar within the industry? 

H: Looking back this was a genius decision to pair Sportswear with fashion and it created a whole culture ….or industry segment. 

Going further i see this a key to success but in a general crowded market, space aspects like the connection of well being/health and sports becoming more important and pushing limits in regards to sustainability. Whether it is through partnering up with brands, organisations or emphasizing innovative ideas from within. 

FP: You still to this day have been pushing some strong fashion collabs with the likes of ADER ERROR, Han Kopenhagn, and the most recent project with the young chinese brand Attempt. 

How do you go about deciding on the brands you choose to work on your collaborations? 

H: The wheel of collabortions is turning fast these days. More then ever it is important to partner up with influencal brands, people or organisations and go beyond just a logo swapping exercise. We want partners to inspire and influence traditional ways of product creation, give us insights in subcultures/cultures we haven’t got access to and most of all we want to have fun, createing a positive energy and products consumer will love. 

FP: I wanted to touch on the Puma Suede as we are approaching its anniversary and is one of the most recognisable models from the brands archive. Could you share with us a bit of the history of the model and how it came into fruition? 

H: When Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on the podium of the 1968 Olympic Games on October 16, Tommie had his PUMA shoes standing by his side, while he raised a fist into the air and made (sports) history. The shoe next to Tommie Smith was called the PUMA Crack, the only suede shoe in PUMA’s line up by the time. In 1972 the PUMA Crack was replaced by the PUMA Clyde – same material, but named after basketball legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier. A few years later, the contract to name the shoe “PUMA Clyde” expired, but the model stayed the same. With only a slightly modified silhouette, PUMA continued to sell the shoe in a large variety of colors and named it “Suede”. Obviously, the Suede and its similar-looking predecessors, the Crack and the Clyde, were intended to be universal training shoes for indoor and outdoor sports. But the lifestyle trend had other plans for the Suede, turning it into a timeless classic street shoe. 

FP: It was a hugely popular Bboy shoe especially within New York during the 80s/90s do you think this movement helped solidify this model into sneaker history? 

H: With a sleek suede upper and thick rubber outsole, the Suede was the perfect fit for breakdancing, making it popular in bboy culture. This movement certainly helped solidify the popularity and legacy of the suede. 

FP: It was also one of the first all suede trainers for the time no, essentially a comfier Puma Basket no? 

H: This was the first suede shoe in PUMA’s lineup. The PUMA Suede and the PUMA Basket are very different shoes, with different materials and soles. 

FP: There is no doubt that the model still continues to be hugely popular with brands such as Bape making their own renditions of the Suede. What do you think it is about this model in particular that has been able to stand the test of time? 

H: It is unique to combine a sports shoe silhouette with a material what is perceived as luxurious and high quality. That makes the SUEDE a rather versatile shoe bridging sports and street. 

The clean and timeless branding showing most of our brand assets…CAT….PUMA…FORMSTRIP make it authentic and our most beautiful brand representative. 

FP: For recent weeks we have all been stuck indoors and at home. Could you share with us some of your go to pairs for the below: 

Working out – …..well, I am outing myself to wear pair of Tsugi Evo Knit for non cardio work outs, a shoe I stocked up on a few years ago because it is the most comfortable shoe I have ever been wearing. 

Casual Everyday – Future Rider Lux white 

Impressing someone – RHUDE Ralph Sampson 

Staying home – OBEY leopard pattern jacquard sox 

FP: Thanks again for being here Heiko Before you go do you have anything you want to let the Footpatrol family know surrounding Puma and the rest of 2020? 

H: As I am a peoples person I am hoping to meet the Footpatrol family in person sometime soon as in current times I am missing the personal exchange and conversation about our favourite topic, SNEAKERs and style. 

Meanwhile stay safe and stay connected!

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