Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Fashion Designer Reimagines Footwear Landscape with 3D Printed HERON01 Sneaker

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Move over Adidas, Nike, and New Balance, Heron Preston is here to disrupt the 3D printed shoe game. The fashion designer is well known for his avant-garde creations, and from partnering with the New York Department of Sanitation to upcycling counterfeit items from his signature Heron brand, Heron Preston has now entered the footwear world with his HERON01 sneakers.

Heron Preston has partnered with Zellerfeld, a technology company and relative newcomer to the shoe market. He saw an early 3D printed prototype they were showing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and saw a chance to reimagine the footwear landscape.

Zellerfeld has been carrying on research and development of its 3D printed shoe since its founding in 2015 by a group of engineering students. It sees additive manufacturing as a way to disrupt the sneaker design and manufacturing process in which shoes can be created without traditional factories and supply chains. The HERON01 is the company’s first foray into fashion footwear, where Heron Preston is channeling his design ethos into a higher concept of innovating through technology and circularity.

Preston refers to the HERON01 as “just the beginning – with additive manufacturing, the potential is unlimited. I was able to design & print functional and evolving prototypes in hours — with traditional manufacturing, this would have taken months. I can’t wait to print more shoes and updates.”

Heron Preston for Zellerfeld, the HERON01, in Milan.

The shoe derives key design elements from the Heron bird. The sole impression is of the bird’s claw, with textures that mimic the scales and other details found on its feet. The HERON01 is available in 3 colors, white, black, and orange.

Previously, Adidas, New Balance, and Nike have all ventured into additive manufacturing shoe wear. Adidas teamed with Carbon to 3D print the midsoles of their 4DFWD line, New Balance partnered with Formlabs to revamp their classic shoes, and Nike designed a shoe with Jamaican Olympian sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. What sets the HERON01 apart from the rest of the market is that it is said to be the first one to be entirely 3D printed, having no seams, stitching, glue, or other weak points. It is printed using a variety of internal lattice structures, which allows for countless ways to design elevated fits, breathability, and cushioning.

Most of the initial design renders came about over a year of transatlantic WhatsApp conversations due to the worldwide pandemic. Having the ability to design shoes without the rigid traditional footwear methods or supply chain issues freed up the ability to revolutionize the workflow process.

The HERON01 launched first on the StockX’s Campaign for a Cause, where participants could donate $10 to enter a raffle to be part of the Beta program. The proceeds went to the Global March, a charity which is combating child labor in supply chains.

The Zellerfeld’s Beta Program gave the raffle winners exclusive access to wear the HERON01 shoes, then trade them in, have them reprinted, and updated to a new version after the beta launch. Because of their single material method, the shoes are fully recyclable and each beta member are entitled to one free update in the future.

It’s safe to say that after the HERON01’s successful beta program, 3D printed shoes will likely continue to disrupt and upend the global design and consumption of shoes. Judging from the response, sneakerheads the world over are in for quite a treat.

(Source: Forbes.com / Images: Zellerfeld)

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