EA PUMP Vintage Mid

Reebok : Emporio Armani Collaboration (FW 2010)

165 Euro

mike kirtley.co

These were literally the first, lets call them scribbles... for this project. I did several others, but kept coming back to these initial ideas. We already knew the story of the collection was about the idea of a technical Reebok "skeleton" with an Armani "skin" stretched over it. Inspired by our concept shoe, the PUMP Mega.

This little drawing seemed to capture everyone's imagination and set the early direction for this product.

(read its story here)

  • intro to the Reebok | Armani collaboration

    In 2010 Reebok and Armani announced that they would partner to produce a collection of apparel and footwear. I was fortunate enough to be involved from the beginning, working with senior leadership from both brands to help to define and lead the direction of the collaboration, and ultimately was responsible for designing the majority of the footwear and overseeing the remaining shoes (working in close partnership with the Armani team).

about contact portfolio

First though a quick detour: when I work, I mix up my process a lot. I draw by hand, I draw small, bigger (rarely big), with fat pens and fine pens. I draw digitally. I am often just trying to communicate a construction idea or I am sketching out problems and solutions. The way they look is mostly secondary. I like some of my sketches a lot, some - not so much. Even the ones I don't particularly love serve a purpose, including the ones that seem completely unrelated.

I will often have many random things living on a page together, in some way they influence one another and allow for unexpected trains of thought and the discovery of previously unseen or unmade patterns.

This is a very useful creative mechanism for me, so I included this little hotrod - which was hanging out on the same page as the sketches above - I don't know what role it played in the story of this shoe, but it made a cameo none the less.

Ok, now back to the shoe...


The brief for this product was to develop both a mid and low  "classic" court silhouette, built around a hybrid sport/fashion last with a subtle dress-shoe toe shape. We would be using bladder P-196, a heel and collar system that had been used in some iconic Reebok basketball models. The plan was to reveal the bladder through the use of unexpected, shear materials. We would also build leather versions, so any construction would need to work with multiple materials.


I started with this idea of an outer "shroud" that would wrap around the shoe, covering the Pump bladder and midsole technology. I made these drawings to explain this idea and to use to start prototyping.

The shroud would actually never be as detached as shown here, but this was where we started.

These are the design drawings or "line art" that we used to start first samples. There were two key areas to the construction:

1. The "shroud" construction, with the Pump bladder visible though a semi-transparent textile.

2. The translucent crystal outsole, with branding visible though the repeating concentric circle tread pattern.

The outsole design drew heavily from the collections lead shoe, mirroring the eagle graphic and also using concentric circles, which serve as a geometric reference to the iconic Pump technology found in the uppers of these shoes.


The key concept in the collection of revealing elements of each brand through the other is visible here as it is in the upper of the shoe. A TPU eagle is injected through the outsole leather, meaning the branding also provides function by improving traction. The PUMP Vintage outsole would also have the branding reveal itself in a subtle way though the tinted, translucent rubber.


I wanted the depth of the grooves created by the concentric circles to get shallower as they moved towards the toe, this put more rubber in the higher wear areas and reduced material everywhere else. This means the outsole should be durable but also as light as possible. The Eagle, behind the crystal rubber, should have an almost lenticular style shift when viewed from different angles.

The different depth grooves also gave a hidden, tactile sensation; the noise and texture changing as you drag your finger across the surface.

It is these details that I love the most, maybe because there is a good chance no one else will ever notice them, or that those who do will somehow share that experience with me.

The original outsole technical drawing

This was our first sample and I was happy with this as our starting point. Not all first samples look at all like you expect them to, but all the elements we wanted were executed quite well, and the pattern, for being so simple, looked to be on the right path to achieve our goal. There were some construction issues, mostly involving the eyestay placement/pattern in relation to the bladder. This was easily fixed and would result in a more visible eyestay structure behind the outer mesh, which actually looked better. The leather version would get an external eyestay following the same pattern.

We decided however, that the upper shroud was going to be too costly in production and would mean we would have to sacrifice the quality of materials used on the rest of the shoe. We really did not want to do this, so we revised the design to utilize a less complex cupsole design.

I will never argue against using a cupsole, they are such a simple, timeless outsole solution.

And if the rest of the shoe came together the way we hoped (and I envisioned) then the shoe would still work without the complicated shroud construction.

Simplified design with all the focus going into executing the upper materials/Pump construction and refining the transparency story in the outsole.


Revisions including, outsole and PU casting blueprints, upper shell patterns and construction notes (like the ones below) were passed to the factory so they could make our final samples.

Here is our pre-production sample, no changes were made other than finalizing colour and material specifications.

We were passionate about trying to deliver the most well finished and thoughtful products in this collection. We took all parts of the products seriously, including the design, materials and construction of the inside of the shoes. This was also an opportunity to tell the story of the collaboration, branding the left and right shoes separately and telling the story in Italian with Armani branding in one shoe and in English with Reebok branding in the other.

This was a nice little reminder of the cross-cultural nature of the collaboration and one of the subtle details that became a constant across the whole collection.

Anyone who knows me, probably knows how much I like these shoes. I don't mind admitting that. Even now after a few years, I still wear them all the time. I am very lucky to be sample size, which means I often got a pair of the shoes I worked on, but I was fortunate to "test" a few more pairs than normal of these ones. As a designer you are often not the target consumer, so whether you would wear them yourself is not an issue. When I do wear my own designs though, it is a strange experience, it makes me almost bashful. It is not that I'm not proud of my work, I am, it is just much more rewarding and humbling to see other people wearing them. But having been through the experience of bringing these  shoes to life, having invested time and emotion into them, and then finding that you actually really like them and want to wear them...

what more can you do but rock the hell out of them and enjoy having them be part of your life?

check out the ones i wear here #shoesiwear

check out Reebok | Armani press coverage here

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