We all know that feeling; you've found the perfect sneaker silhouette, not too high, not too low, with all of the details and fabrications you've ever wanted. The leather quality is perfect, the toebox shape just right, and the quality control is flawless – but you can't find the right colorway to throw into your rotation.
It happens time and time again, great sneakers; lacking palettes. Without color designers, history's most celebrated silhouettes would be forgotten – imagine the Nike Air Jordan 1 without "Bred" or "Royal?" The Air Max 1 without “University Red” or Kanye's Air Yeezy 2 or 350 without "Solar Red" and "Turtle Dove?"
Whether or not we give enough thought to the impact that color design has on our perception of sneakers and sneaker history is up for debate; Salomon Sportstyle's color design finesse is not.
Thanks to Salomon's color and material design team, its high-performance silhouettes such as the XT-4 and XT-6 have been on a seemingly unstoppable hot streak, keeping them high on the lists of fashion's hottest retail buyers.
So who's behind the scenes piecing together the palettes that have ensured Salomon's continued success? Members of the brand's Color and Material Design team, Myriam Cordoba and Julien Leigneil, talk us through the ins and outs of color design.
Where do you find inspiration when creating sneaker colorways?
Myriam: personally, I really find a lot of inspiration in street culture, we are living in an era of extremely rich individual and collective aesthetical expression. Thanks to social media and the internet, everyone can share their micro-universe and have access to others, and it's in this cultural medley I find all the creative nourishment that drives my work.
Julien: As Salomon HQ is based in the middle of the Alps, nature and all the activities links to the mountains have a huge impact on the colors and fabrics I use. Of course, social networks play an important role to stay informed about what’s happening in footwear and design culture but also seeing how the communities reinterpret Salomon’s DNA.
Is there a particular part of the shoe you begin with when creating the palette?
Julien: Not particularly, it’s more of a global intention. We have the story and the color harmony in mind, and we try to express it on the product with a balance between design language and distribution.
Salomon is, in the end, an outdoor athletic brand; this makes our models have a lot of technologies, and since it is something very core to Salomon’s DNA, we try to always highlight them.
What is the most difficult part of creating a new colorway?
Myriam: I found the most difficulties when colorizing classic models, it is tricky to create new colorways while respecting the original design expression.
Julien: Creating newness while keeping the design language of the model in mind is maybe the complex part of our job, this is why I like to create different material iterations like the "Mindful" pack we launched this season. That allows us to bring more richness and push the boundaries of the color stories.
Are there any overarching or key themes you've worked with for Spring 2022?
Myriam: Yes, every season we have a theme that drives the aesthetic of the collection. SS22 was built around the idea that “change can only be made when you understand the true essence of things”, we wanted to deep dive into what makes Salomon unique, and understand our roots to be able to create the future of Salomon's expression.
This is why the collection is composed of original colors such as the ones on the ACS PRO, but also, we explore new blockings on classic models like the Skyline pack of the XT-6.
The XT-6 showcases some of the strongest palettes Salomon has to offer, are there any elements of the shoe that you like to draw particular attention to through the use of color/contrast?
Myriam: XT-6 is one of the most complex but more gratifying models to work on. It is a very technical sneaker, there are many parts with limited colors we can use on. The fact that its silhouette is so iconic makes bringing newness a challenging task, but the design is so elegant, equilibrated, and rich in details that gives me plenty of room to tell different stories every time.
The key parts to highlight on the XT-6 are the Sensifit and the Chassis as those really draw and emphasize the characteristically fast silhouette of the model.
What is your favorite colorway(s) you've worked on?
Myriam: Probably the ones that haven’t come out yet. This season my favorite is the Skyline Moonscape; it makes me think of the sunset on the mountains we see from Annecy.
Julien: I feel really nostalgic when I see the first colorway of the XT-6 we launched for the Sporstyle range in FW18. At this moment the team was really small, and we did not expect all the enthusiasm we create around our category.
Which is your favorite silhouette to work on, and which has you found the most difficult?
Myriam: I love doing colors for the XT-6, It just feels natural. I think for every color you see in the stores I had a hundred different iterations and colorways –– also the XA PRO 1, there is something about the asymmetry and the outdoor vibe that really inspires me.
The most difficult one will be no doubt the ULTRA RAID. Finding balance on that shoe is annoyingly hard.
Julien: The ACS PRO is one of my favorite silhouettes, the model is super rich in terms of layering and textures which means the playground is super wild.
On the other hand, the most difficult to work on is the RX SLIDE 3.0 due to the construction. Even if the materials and the textures are interesting, in terms of color blocking, expressing different styles is challenging.
A lot of people think Salomon craft the industry's best sneaker colorways – how does that make you feel?
Myriam: well, it is a real pleasure to see all the appreciation for our work! It makes me feel blessed, all I always wanted was to create pieces that help people tell their own stories, and within Salomon, I have found a team full of people with the same objective.
Julien: We see the hype of the communities for our kicks on social media and magazines, but for us, it’s still the same as at the beginning, we want to stay true to our codes and the environment that we live in. Our color stories reflect this spirit and I think this is what people are looking for in our brand.
If you had to use one color in every palette, what would it be and why?
Myriam: It's very hard to say, but black is always a good choice as it's versatile, timeless, and a great color to use as support or main. But shades like "Rainy Day," "Vanilla Ice," or "Bleached Sand" are the ones that can never miss on my palettes – they bring an effortlessly casual vibe that I love.
Julien: The one I use the most is certainly "Vanilla Ice," it’s an off-white shade with a touch of yellow. This color is super versatile, it works well with dark shades like browns or greys to create contrast and also to sublimate lighter colorways.