Woody: Freak of Sneaks

Boss man of one of the first ever publications dedicated to sneakers, Simon Wood aka Woody is a shoe connoisseur to say the least, collaborator and founder of Sneaker Freaker Boogazine. A whopping ten years ago, Woody wrote, produced and shot the first entire issue in just one week! Being no stranger to producing some epic collaborations with a host of the most notorious brands, Woody has notched up another epic sneaker in the form of the Puma x Sneaker Freaker Dallas Bunyip, making waves in recent sneaker history, finely crafted from its rockin’ crepe sole to its goat suede uppers. JUICE waxed lyrical to the head honcho on his history with PUMA collaborations, why it took three years to release the Bunyip, what it takes to design a sneaker and uh… what the hell a Bunyip is!

Congrats on approaching Sneaker Freaker’s 10 year anniversary, could you please explain to our Malaysian readers what exactly a Bunyip is and why you chose this mythical creature?
The Bunyip is a mythological creature which when people ask me what a Bunyip is and I tell them it’s a mythological creature and they ask me to explain what exactly it is. So at the same time that it exists, it doesn’t exist. It exists in people’s imaginations and in their memories of being children and being told this folklore story. The best way to describe it really is that it’s the same as the Yeti or the Abominable Snowman or the Lochness monsters. It’s a thing that people want to exist and it’s a sort of figment of their dark imagination. If you were a kid and had a little creek in your area, you would think that’s where the Bunyip lives and it’s kind of scary.

What was the inspiration for this collab, and how did the concept come about?
This was a project that initially the brief was to do something that told a local story, into the Asian-Pacific region. Telling a local story is really interesting for the local consumer, because it’s something we all know. But I think it’s more interesting for the people outside of Australia. In fact, I think everything in the world can be described by or answered by Google. And when people have googled Bunyip, they still don’t understand, because it exists in books and mythology and oral storytelling, and I think maybe now the shoe itself will overpass the legends of the Bunyip, in terms of how Google searches archive things. I guess it suits the darkness of the shoe, although it’s a dressy sort of shoe, it has a lot going on but is quite subtle. The Bunyip is also quite mysterious and we felt it was a nice way of referencing a local story.

Sneaker Freaker has had history with banging out kicks with PUMA, with the Blaze of Glory and the Trinomic models, why did you choose the Dallas this time?
Primarily because the Dallas was being re-introduced, so since that shoe was around a while ago, we’ve had a little a bit of a delay in getting things here. See, we could do runners all day long. We feel really comfortable in that area. This was more of a design project for us to show what we can do with something that’s not normally in our domain. For ten years we’ve been looking at shoes, every day. In actual fact, there’s not much left of the Dallas in the Bunyip at all. If you put the two shoes side by side, they don’t look anything alike. We have a different sole, the panelling is kind of the same, but the shape of the shoe is totally different, so the Dallas is really the starting point and the Bunyip is really different.

Considering it has taken about 3 years to make this shoe, do you think you’ve strayed much from your original concept?
Not really. The usual issues arise when you try and create something new, that’s just a little bit more difficult than just putting colours and materials onto an existing shape. I think this was a challenge for the shoemakers. If you look at the first sample when it came back and to see how beautiful the shape is, it really is just an incredibly handsome shoe, that’s the best way I’ve been describing it. It looks like a PUMA, but it doesn’t. It doesn’t look like a sport shoe anymore, that’s for sure. I think it’s as useful at a sporting level as the Dallas, if you look at all the details [picks up the shoe] the crepe sole is the most obvious, it’s built on a leather platform, with goat suede, nubuck, it’s all leather lined so you don’t need to wear them with socks, they’ll live forever. A little bit of red webbing which is on all of our PUMA collabs, and our name is kind of hidden. I think overall it’s a lot of subtle details that elevates the shoe.

What is your personal approach to designing a shoe and what is the most important detail in design?
If you look at the Blaze of Glory compared to this shoe, they’re so different in era, in style, in functionality. You want to create something that is sympathetic to the shape that you’re working with. You look at the shoe, you can apply the same colours to any shoe, at that level, it’s kind of simple. But you want to do something that adds up to be more than the sum of its parts. With the Bunyip, it’s just incredibly subtle, it’s not screaming at you, you have to look at it for a while to realize there’s a bit going on. I think with the Blaze of Glory, it’s hectic. There’s four of five colours, there’s crazy branding, it doesn’t have a Puma stripe on it so you can’t tell even which brand it is. I think that’s stood the test of time. I think if we’re going to do a collaboration, I don’t see any point in doing something simple. You want to do something that’s pushing things forward. Whilst the Bunyip is a very subtle shoe, I think we’ve done something new.

Following your slew of Aussie animal themed collab concepts, what can we expect next – possibly koala/wombat/possum themed kicks?
I wouldn’t rule anything out! [laughs]. I think we draw the line at something that would be corny, we would love to use koala fur but they’re an endangered species unfortunately. I think if we wrote a letter to Julia Gillard, we could ask if there’s a few stray ones. That’s the knack isn’t it? I think some people look at theme shoes and they don’t always turn out great, there’s no doubt that the outcome could turn out kind of corny or silly. They don’t need to be totally literal, and that’s the danger that sometimes you might have scaly leathers, you don’t always need that. I think we like to tell a local story, but it has to be really well chosen. In the past we’ve referenced mythical creatures, films, we’ve used animal leathers, so as long as we keep that inventiveness going without being corny, I think that’s the key.

Thank god the end product wasn’t Sneaker Freaker x PUMA Koala!

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