New Balance’s footwear designer, Sam Pearce joined us today in the GFW Live! Talk Space for a conversation with Size?’s Alex Vos and Cameron Poole.

Starting with the opportunities that GFW offers graduate students, Sam discusses his past as a student in a world without a concept of youth culture. “As a kid I spent most of my time doing sports more than studying or doing anything else and that’s how it all started, ending up in sportswear. I started designing everyday sneakers, and now I work for a super progressive brand like New Balance, and I have an incredibly productive team that helps me combine my two main passions: fashion and sports”.

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Speaking about his choice of studies he reflects on his life at De Montfort University and how the Olympics helped him develop his concept.

Thanks to The Pencil Program, where students have to submit a pencil drawn portfolio, Pearce has been able to make his way into the industry and work in the program with Nike. He describes that period of his life as inspiring, because he had the chance to work “alongside people from all backgrounds and age groups. The youngest person being 12 years old, to the oldest being 40 years old”.

Cameron reflects on how useful what you learn in university actually is: “there are skills that you learn during the years in university that are incredibly transferrable”, and Sam agrees that “people should make the best out of the techniques learnt when studying, because they will be the basis for whatever you’ll do in life”.

Moving on to discuss the topic of sustainability within the footwear industry. Sam says: ”the industry is finally starting to realise that clothes can be recycled, and that can and should happen in footwear as well. Consumerism is teaching people that is ok to throw away goods, and despite technology and quality improving, we are using things half the time than we used to”.

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New Balance has been working on making shoes from recycled plastic. The brand is one of the few footwear brands that are manufacturing their products domestically. Everything is sourced within 100 miles of each factory around the world, and some pieces have been designed to use as little material as possible.

Whilst the footwear industry is starting to consider sustainable options, such as the use of mushroom leathers and vegan shoes, New Balance is looking to improve the production process, setting the bar, of what can and cannot be used in production, high.

Written by Sara Liberati

Photography by Nicholas Kristiansen