Upon finishing up our first year at RISE, it was clear that introducing new brands to our audience was going to be a major focus. However, we wanted to be absolutely certain that whatever new merchandise entered our house would fit appropriately and work well alongside the goods we already pride ourselves on offering.
Enter BrandBlack. A California based company which peaked our interest immediately. Their unique aesthetic mixes a dark and mysterious ambience with a forward thinking approach to performance and quality.
As we gear up for the launch of their latest creation — Jamal Crawford’s signature, J.Crossover II “FutureLegends” — our team recently had the chance to speak with BrandBlack’s founder and creative captain David Raysse about his vision and gain insight into his background.
BrandBlack J.Crossover II “FutureLegends”
Launch: Wednesday, January 21st
RISE: David, our team at RISE is familiar with your earlier work at Fila and adidas. Some of your past designs have included work on signature silhouettes for Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady and Kobe Bryant. Not to mention the work you’re presently doing with Jamal’s on-court footwear with BrandBlack. It’s quite an impressive resume. Can you explain the process of working with an athlete to produce a signature style?
David Raysse: “First off thank you, I’ve been lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time!
The process starts with thinking about who that athlete is, in terms of their style of play, their size, age, etc…
Those are the functional criteria that above all else the shoe must meet. I’ll look at the athletes game and their current shoe, whether its one of mine or a competitors and start to direct what they like & what doesn’t work. From there you can decide what the shoe will be like. Will it be a lightweight shoe for a slasher? A beefy shoe for a power forward? Will it be a mid or a low? etc…
Next we can think about what new technologies to add to a given shoe, we don’t force technologies on our athletes that aren’t appropriate, that’s something I feel is becoming the industry norm as marketing departments get further and further up their ivory towers and away from the athlete’s true needs. For instance the J.Crossover II’s knit upper was not a result of us wanting to do Knits because that’s the new trend. Instead, it was a direct result of Jamal Crawford’s needs. He wanted a breathable shoe that felt broken in from Day 1, that’s what led us to a knit forefoot. In addition, using our ‘Force Vector’ technology was a result of trying to create a highly cushioned shoe that didn’t suffer lateral instability.
The final wrinkle is the flavor and aesthetics of the shoe. This can come from anything, the athlete, the brands direction or something completely random like a car or a plane. As we speak, I’m currently hard at work on the J.Crossover III, that shoe is going to be a futuristic fashion sneaker, that’s the vibe, the materials and details are the result of the function though. Early samples were made from butter soft leather, that unfortunately was about as stable as butter, HA! So we made some adjustments, the materials had to be changed, but the guiding feel is luxury sneaker that won’t get lost in the mix as we continue make to refine it based on function.
We usually go through 3-5 rounds of samples, we continually hone the function and aesthetics until the shoe is 100% ready to go to production.”
RISE: We’ve read past interviews where you mention that you chose the name BrandBlack because you wanted a name that "spoke to what the brand is about — sort of this dark, mysterious brand”. In terms of aesthetics, that is undoubtedly something our RISE audience has resonated with. How do you find that translates to the performance arena?
David: “As I mentioned before you can make something look many different ways without compromising the function. So long as you stay true to the function and your sensibilities. The details we use, parametric patterns that have very aggressive texture to them, or the palatte of dark somber colors imbues our aesthetic. We don’t do neon or fun, other brands do that well. I think most of the performance world appears clustered around one aesthetic, so it becomes sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. Performance looks the way it does because collectively, that’s what these brands are making. For us, we’re aiming to show that we can make shoes that function at the highest level yet look completely different. That’s why performance reviews from people like Nightwing (@nightwing2303) or NY Jumpman (@NYJumpman23) who’re wear testers mean so much to us, it validates everything we’re trying to accomplish.”
RISE: Talk to us about this latest drop, the J.Crossover “Future Legends”. This colorway is unique, so different from what we’re seeing from the rest of our brands.
David: “BrandBlack is the intersection of fashion & performance, so I wanted to create a colorway that was the opposite of the neon walls we see in most stores. I believe strongly in letting great materials do the talking, so this colorway features Nappa leather with a molded parametric pattern. We’ve been working for almost a year on molding fine leathers, most people are shocked when they feel the collar area and it’s also rich leather. Like I said earlier, I try to let the materials dictate the design, I feel like genuine leather wants to be in rich, warm colors… hence the saddle color used on ‘FutureLegends’.”
RISE: We can tell instantly that your attention to detail is very, very high. Which is something we feel customers will appreciate in a major way. In terms of technology, give us some insight into your “Jetlon” tech.
David: “It might not be the sexiest thing in the world, but it is a better foam, and man does it work! Of all the things that matter to a baller, the most important are stability, cushioning & traction, in that order. Jetlon is a new formulation of EVA that gives us much better rebound so we can make the midsole softer yet it doesn’t lose it’s cushioning. Pair it with our ‘Force Vector’ technology — which keeps the sidewalls super stable — you experience a great balance of cushion & stability.”
RISE: What’s the direction moving forward? Can we expect more signature silhouettes from additional athletes? Could you see BrandBlack aligning itself with a musician or other non-athletes?
David: “We are pushing very hard into the amateur basketball world, we want to be THE brand there, that brand for kids coming up. We’re doing some big things I can’t talk about just yet with some very well known AAU squads and a couple of extremely well known tournaments in big cities. After that, we’ll definitely sign another pro, someone on the come-up as we have the NBA Legend covered in Jamal Crawford, he never ceases to amaze me! He’s an All-Star. When it’s time to play he steps up and shows them up.
As for non-athletes, as I said we are the intersection of fashion and sport, so I see no reason why we wouldn’t do a deal with a non-athlete if they seemed like a good fit for the brand. That said we would never just sign some celeb and hope their celebrity helps us sell shit, that’s so corny and old! If we were to do a deal with anyone, athlete or otherwise, you’d better believe they’re someone who’s wearing the brand when no money’s involved… or else why do it?”
RISE: That makes complete sense. Is there anything else you’d want to put out there for those new to BrandBlack?
David: “I’d like to echo something our creative director, and PNC (for you Smif-N-Wessun fans) Billy Dill said. FutureLegends isn’t some delusional tagline we just made up to sound cool. Its a sensibility, something we aspire to, but know we might never attain. Its what drives how we design and work on everything. Its also what we think our customer aspires to, be they an athlete, musician, or accountant, try to be the best, work to be a future legend.”