LAVAIR’s Lacey Gray on the collaborative design process behind the sneaker firm’s SEGA Mega Drive collection

Lacey Gray, Chief Marketing Officer at LAVAIR, talks us through the design process behind the SEGA Mega Drive range.

Earlier this month, designer sneaker firm LAVAIR debuted its first ever brand collaboration in the form of a SEGA Mega Drive collection.

We spoke with Lacey Gray, Chief Marketing Officer at LAVAIR, about the design process behind the range – and what the team does to help fuel creativity.

Lacey Gray, LAVAIR

Hi Lacey, great to connect. Before we dive into the new SEGA Mega Drive collection, let’s look at LAVAIR. For anyone new to the brand, what does LAVAIR specialise in?
We launched LAVAIR in December 2019 as an alternative in the designer sneaker market. We’re about luxury applications that employ traditional dress shoe making techniques in a streetwear format; aiming for RRP under £300.

Great stuff, and what are some of LAVAIR’s key brand values?
We base our work around style, fit and substance on all facets of the business, from marketing to product. In a nutshell, this boils down to operating with integrity and striving to evolve.

For example, season on season, each new collection takes a step towards more environmentally friendly efforts, be that though our production techniques, the factories we align ourselves with or choosing fabrications that attempt less impact.

Similarly, we’re constantly streamlining our efforts to produce content with greater efficiency and working on reducing our packaging footprint; basically, having less waste than the sum total of many competitor brands.

That’s great to hear. Now let’s dive into this collaboration with SEGA on the Mega Drive collection. How did the partnership come about?
We had just been named number one trainer in the world that week by GQ, as well as other notable mentions, and decided it was time in our brand life-cycle to decipher who we would partner with for the first of our anticipated LAVAIR X series.

We have some lifelong SEGA fanatics on the team. Working with SEGA presented an opportunity to celebrate an innovative and iconic leader of the Eighties and Nineties game console space by way of reinterpreting recognisable design cues into a luxury wearable icon. It had substance and was an authentic fit.

Lacey Gray, LAVAIR

Let’s look at the product range. On paper, translating a games console into footwear sounds like a challenge! What did those first few creative steps look like in figuring out the design of the shoe?
It sounds as though it could be a challenge but as a brand, we understand exactly what looks and feels LAVAIR, and weave this common thread into each season.

We started by selecting one of our most technical and highest performing silhouettes. From that foundation, we built the piece between both teams, allowing each to infuse authenticity into the collaboration. We dissected the Mega Drive and cherry picked key elements that represented the console in a way that was stylish and fit the EXO unit.

My small contribution was the 16-bit reference which ended up as a contrast yellow printed ribbon. Every feature was a contribution by each party, so it really is a creation of many minds coming together and carefully remoulding concepts until they authentically fit the LAVAIR and SEGA format.

Lacey Gray, LAVAIR

The 16-bit nod is a lovely one! What other key design elements of the range do you feel really capture the Mega Drive brand?
Lets talk about the base unit – Exo. It boasts full thermoplastic eye-stay and a weather resistant toe guard. It’s a durable, adaptable unit to endure all seasons and sits atop of our outsole, which has a streetwear feel combined with trekker detailing. It’s a reflection of intelligence and originality… Perhaps what we imagine the SEGA gamer and LAVAIR consumer to embody.

Other great features include a heel resin domed TPU SEGA Mega Drive logo, a moulded Power-On TPU silicone front panel and a circuit board printed inner sole which isn’t obvious until you discover it!

Lacey Gray, LAVAIR

You mentioned the LAVAIR X series earlier, so is this the first of many brand collaborations in the pipeline?
Yes, in terms of brand collaborations, this is the first and part of wider strategy that will take on many forms in the months ahead. We launched our brand just as the world fell into unknown chaos, so to be a newer brand, still standing and – in fact – standing in good company with SEGA… It’s a good look!

As Covid hit, we promptly analysed and adjusted our approach and today remain rooted to progressing this lifestyle movement, albeit on a windier road than expected. In fact, we see the launch of our eagerly anticipated apparel and accessories this coming AW21.

Great. And without giving too much away, what sort of brands are you interested in working with moving forward?
Brands that claim dominance in their field is a prerequisite. We are nimble and relatively new kids on the block, so exploring old staples feels like an interesting place to start.

We’d want to explore how we could redevelop old staples with new vision and purpose… How to take an idea of someone or something and translate it into wearable and collectable treasures that make sense for LAVAIR.

We have conversations in early stage for what’s to follow. Ultimately, we are partnering with ideas that illuminate culture creators; brands and individuals and movements that are driving innovation and carving their own cultures and sub-cultures.

Lacey Gray, LAVAIR

This has been great. Before I let you go, how does the LAVAIR team fuel its creativity?
Our working approach has always been pretty dynamic. A few of us on the design and marketing side work remotely and that could be from home, from a shared workspace or more creatively inspiring places. We see evidence of this working now for many post Covid, but we already thrived in this efficient and flexible set up. I think some bigger companies had this down already too, like Nike, as well as other creative agencies.

Creativity needs space and flexibility to be discovered. Inspiration doesn’t easily strike nor breed freely from rigid routine, while stuck in four white walls. So, for those of us who need this canvas to create, we have the freedom to operate as best helps us.

We watch trends of course and garner inspiration from the usual places you might expect designers and creators to pull from aesthetically to reinterpret as we see fitting with the brand.

Being a nimble team, our ideas are heard, and we are pretty open to experimentation, so this also helps to create and respond to effectively and with dynamism.

Lacey, this has been fun. A huge thanks again for making time and I look forward to seeing what’s still to come with LAVAIR X.

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