If there was any doubt that 3D printed shoes are now a “Thing,” this should put those doubts to rest: musician Chris Brown has partnered with shoe 3D printing marketplace and manufacturer Zellerfeld to release a pair of 3D printed sandals. Also collaborating on the product are streetwear firm The Auracles and 3D printed shoe designer Nos Ailes.
Dubbed the NAMI Slide, the footwear is the first to be made from the company’s new ZellerFOAM material, meant to reduce material usage and printing time, translating to lower costs. This first product is meant to test the properties of ZellerFOAM so that the company can enhance surface finish, feel, and material quality.
Outside of major manufacturers like adidas, the most developed manufacturer of 3D printed shoe components, Zellerfeld is arguably the furthest along in entirely 3D printed shoes. The company is backed by the team behind Tesla, SpaceX, PayPal, StockX and, while it supports a number of independent designers, Zellerfeld made its biggest splash when it 3D printed a pair of boots for Ye.
Given that the boots were unveiled at the time when Ye was experiencing his biggest backlash to date, it should be no surprise that the German-US shoe printing company is unafraid of partnering with Chris Brown. The latter artist is not only seen as problematic for his admitted abuse of singer Rihanna but, more recently, for possibly getting in a bar fight in the U.K. and supporting the notorious Bloods street gang. Another Zellerfeld designer is Heron Preston, who has previously faced heat for selling t-shirts featuring the face of Vladimir Putin.
One individual who shares ties with Tesla, SpaceX, and PayPal also happened to acquire Twitter last year, which some have argued has seen an increase in hate speech since Elon Musk took over the social media site. Zellerfeld actually 3D printed a pair of sandals for Musk’s son with Grimes in 2021.
Cornelius Schmitt, Co-Founder and CEO of Zellerfeld, suggested that the company was not biased in terms of the designers it serves, saying, “Zellerfeld welcomes brands, celebrities, and online creators of all sizes, empowering them to design and print their own unique 3D-printed shoes using our technology. Our growing list of collaborators offers a glimpse into how the future of fashion and footwear will integrate sustainability and innovation, and we’re excited to be in the driver’s seat of this industry-wide revolution.”
If the footwear company is deliberately giving #cancelled celebrities a venue for selling their merchandise—the same way washed-up actors sold direct-to-video films at drug stores in the 90s and 00s—it could align with Musk’s own agenda, which he describes as advocacy of free speech.
While many can surely criticize Zellerfeld for the artists with whom it chooses to collaborate, we can’t yet know if the model will be a successful one. It’s hard to think of a celebrity who garners more attention than Ye. At the time that Ye’s Zellerfeld boots made their public debut, 3DPrint.com Macro Analyst argued, “if Ye is 3D printing footwear, we’re all going to be wearing 3D printed shoes soon enough. The controversies he creates simply make the subsequent ubiquity of his influence easier for us to ignore.”
So, even if Zellerfeld isn’t able to build its market on the backs of Chris Brown and Ye alone, other shoe printing endeavors may assist in the process. This includes FCTRY LAb, led by the former head of Yeezy-Adidas Innovation Lab, as well as Dior, Reebok, and others. The NAMI Slides are available for pre-order for $185 on Zellerfeld.com via a 24-hour early access before a global launch in late June.
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