Lakai Footwear design director and former pro skater Scott Johnston is known for his great skating style. Now every Monday to Friday, he gets to transfer his personal aesthetic to the rest of the skateboarding world.
Since his last interview on XGames.com four years ago, the footwear landscape in skateboarding has changed vastly. In this interview, Johnston talks about how these changes influence his approach to his design projects. He also tells two remarkable stories in one -- how he got his start designing shoes, which coincides with getting first pro shoe. As far as what's upcoming, skateboarders want to know when they'll see the next Lakai video, and fans of "Fully Flared" will find Johnston's answer exciting, to say the least.
XGames.com: When did you get your first opportunity to design a shoe? At that time, did you think you would have a future in shoe design?
Johnston: My first computer was one of those colorful bulb iMacs. I would play with Illustrator and would draw shoes just for fun. One of those early drawings ended up being my first pro Lakai shoe. One day, Mike Carroll was over my house just looking at it on the screen and asked me if I wanted that to be my shoe. That's how I found out I was even getting a pro model. Carroll has the best way of delivering info.
Did you go to school for design?
I was self-taught mostly. I did take an online course to learn all the tools in Illustrator, but the best way was shadowing Lakai designers. They would give me pointers from time to time.
How was it transitioning from a pro skater to a shoe designer?
You know, it was actually seamless. One day I was a pro, and then on the first day of 2007 I went into the office and became a designer. It wasn't a slow transition. I went straight to full 9-to-5 status, and then two months later we had our first child. It was a big change, but I was looking forward to it. It was all really planned out a year in advance.
What are some key changes you've made over the years in the way you design shoes?
Now I pay closer attention to the price and what the market will pay for certain constructions.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge for a skate-only footwear company in skateboarding today?
I don't know where to begin and I really don't even want to get into this because it will make me sound bitter against the larger brands, and I'm really not. It just comes down to the fact that the playing field has changed, and I accept that challenge to step it up.
When it comes to footwear, do you see major differences between shoes today and shoes from the '90s?
Yeah. The shape in the '90s were oversized with padding and off-the-wall patterns. We were a bulky version of the tech Nike trainers that were going on outside our market. Now all the shoes are in a really narrow design focus. Buyers are dictating the market based on sales history. Nobody is really taking a risk with buys, so design isn't as risky. I am happy with the detail from fit to shape though.
Industry-wide, shoe companies are putting more riders on flow programs instead of being on the actual team. Has Lakai taken this approach, and as a former pro, how do you feel about it?
Yeah. Lakai is adding more kids to the flow program because it's such a global industry. But really Lakai has always tried to hook up skaters. Also, everything is instantaneous now with social media. Kids are basically building themselves up.
"Fully Flared" was the most talked about video from the last decade. When is the next Lakai video coming out?
It's coming out in one year.