Inside the design process of J. Cole’s Puma RS-Dreamer Proto shoes

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How does J. Cole actually make his Puma sneakers? Jeremy Sallee, head of basketball shoe design at Puma, says working with J. Cole on the RS-Dreamer series is both easy and refreshing. So easy, in fact, he enjoys the chance to visit Cole, sit down, and discuss the colors, materials, Dreamer’s stories, and release schedules.

“J. Cole is a good guy,” Sallee says. ” We are chatting. He’s one of the easiest assets I work with. He’s not wrong about it, he’s learning all the time and it’s refreshing to work with someone when they give you the reins and let the experts be the experts and learn along the way and become an expert. .

The RS-Dreamer series, a summer 2020 launch, was an instant hit, both at the feet of NBA players throughout the bubble – Sallee still loves Kyle Kuzma’s buzzer-beater in the version “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” – and at retail, where colourways sold out quickly. Sallee calls immediate success a surprise, but attributes a perfect storm to a good shoe, a great collaborator, and an even better, authentic story about dreaming and achieving your goals.

Puma RS Dreamer
A sketch of the Puma RS-Dreamer Proto. Image via Puma

Sallee remembers the first time he knew the Dreamer had resonated, and not just because NBA players begged the brand for player exclusives. He was at a FedEx retail site shipping a package. When the employee heard that Sallee worked for Puma, his first question was whether the box contained any dreamers.

“He just asked without seeing what was in the box and that was a day after they were released,” Sallee said. “It was in the middle of Indiana, and he was asking if a random packet contained Dreamers. When you reach the masses, it means you did something right.

With so much success in just a few months, Puma abandons the original RS-Dreamer colourway on April 2, dubbing it the RS-Dreamer Proto.

“I’m excited,” Sallee said. “We surprised some people with this. I think with 2020 underway, all the delays we had in the original release and we’re super surprised at how much it sold, sold well and sold out, we always talked about this colorway that we didn’t not do what we did first. ”

The original shoe brief brought together Sallee and J. Cole, both new to the brand at the time. The plan, Sallee says, was to build on the momentum Puma had gained from its RS-X franchise and bring in a ’90s aesthetic, archival material, and design language, but brought into the modern era with something aggressive.

“We weren’t trying to be safe,” he says. “We wanted something portable off and on the pitch. It was the same with the colors, something neutral, but aggressive at the same time.

While the drawstring lacing system, ProFoam midsole, RS-Foam heel and high abrasion rubber outsole have remained the same from the start, this original white-based colourway has been cast aside. before launch. Inspired by the idea of ​​a neutral base with pops of color, Sallee wanted an aggressive design that remains neutral and wearable. For the initial fall, they took the formula and used a black-based design, “a similar story, but just a different way of doing it.”

“It’s just nice to go back to the original,” Sallee says. “It rarely happens. As a designer all concepts are that first and you love it and you want to add touches to it and make it follow a certain story, so it’s good to get back to it.

Puma RS Dreamer Proto
The Puma RS-Dreamer Proto. Image via Puma

Working with J. Cole has been different from working with young athletes who often lack business experience and only want what makes them feel comfortable. J. Cole was looking for something different. He was always open to Sallee sitting down with him and composing colors on the spot. “He had a suggestion and we would put it on screen and make up a story,” says Sallee. Once the colors were designed, they would work on creating stories to suit Dreamer’s themes, then halt the releases.

“One meeting, I brought the Proto with me and Cole immediately stuck his foot into the sample, which was three sizes too small, looked in awe and had a ‘He’s the only one’ moment,” says Hall. “From that point on, he was on top. We got right into storytelling and color design. The rest is history.

With Puma Basketball not even three years old, Sallee says the success of the Dreamer line indicates that we can expect more from Dreamer, from the field to additional models and even clothing. “J. Cole is good people. My team is made up of good people, ”says Sallee. “We’re trying to get things done with good stuff. “


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Billie M. Secrist

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