Luxury details in new Melbourne sneaker label, Kingdom

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Published:  March 18, 2016
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Designed by collectors, for collectors, Kingdom Sneakers is a limited-edition run of luxe sneakers.

The first signature Kingdom sneaker in white is the product of a handshake (over a couple of beers) between brothers Paul and Ross Meeuwsen and their close mate Greg Harris.

Sadly, prior to the release of the first shoe, Harris lost his life to mental illness, leaving the brothers vowing to continue his entrepreneurial legacy.


Hailing from Melbourne, the guys from Kingdom have certainly not compromised on craft, with each of the 990 pairs individually numbered and laser engraved. They also feature rare earth magnetised straps, electroplated gold accessories, full grain premium leather and a luxury cushioned innersole.

Paul Meeuwsen, creative director of Kingdom Sneakers, talks through the process of designing and manufacturing a sneaker from the ground-up.

WORDS BY
Paul Meeuwsen
Creative director, Kingdom Sneakers and The Cutaway

Kingdom_Sneakers

Kingdom Sneakers. Photography by Patrick Rodriguez.

Kingdom_Sneakers

Kingdom Sneakers. Photography by Patrick Rodriguez.

The background

We love, live and breathe sneakers and always have. Sneakers are part of our personal history. They are linked to highs and lows of adolescence and, in part, they determine one’s status.

We were inspired by years of poring over catalogues, staring at the shelves of sneaker stores during the 1980s and 90s stocked with Nike, Adidas, Puma, Reebok, Troop, K-Swiss, British Knights, SPX, LA Gear, Converse and Fila.

We collected everything we could get our hands on, though unfortunately we didn’t keep everything.

Our interest in sneakers has always been about design. The shapes, lines, colourway and innovation always captivated us – from the introduction of the Nike air bag ‘Visible Air’ designed by Tinker Hatfield in 1987, to the Reebok Pump system designed in 1988 by Paul Litchfield and Design Continuum, all the way to the 2005 Adidas 1 with its embedded computer, which automatically and continuously adjusts the shoe’s cushioning. One thing we always felt was great about sneakers is that you can customise them. Make them more exclusive. So when we embarked on this journey we felt it was fitting that our product was exclusive and luxurious.

Kingdom Sneakers

Kingdom Sneakers. Photography by Patrick Rodriguez.

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Kingdom Sneakers. Photography by Patrick Rodriguez.

Design and prototype

We designed the first Kingdom sneaker from the ground up. Our main motivation was to push and evolve sneaker design, and to make a product we, as sneakerheads, would love to see on the market. Replacing Velcro with magnets may seem simple, but this innovation has been a challenge. We looked how things are done and thought, ‘How we can do them better?’

We scribbled initial concepts and designs on the back of an envelope (Frank Gehry style) before embarking on the mission of sourcing a supplier, until we found a team who could achieve the standards we wanted for the brand.

We spent four years prototyping and sourcing materials. The first phase involved getting the sole developed to our specifications. Three-dimensional printing didn’t exist when we started this project so it was a manual process, moving through a series of technical drawings to realise our design. The second phase prioritised getting the rare earth magnetic strap right. The first iteration looked like two Daleks procreating. The strap was being iterated upon right up until we pushed the button on production.

One of the biggest challenges in terms of materials and manufacture was creating a brand that actually felt luxurious. We were hyper sensitive to the customer’s initial reaction to putting on the kicks and walking around in them.

It took countless hours of wear testing to ensure the midsole composite mix was right – to feel like you’re walking on pillows. Another innovation is the innersole, the quality of which is traditionally available only as an accessory. We’ve made it a new standard.

Kingdom Sneakers

Kingdom Sneakers packaging. Photography by Patrick Rodriguez.

Kingdom Sneakers

Kingdom Sneakers packaging. Photography by Patrick Rodriguez.

Branding luxury

The brand’s visual language is something that definitely evolved over time. If you look at all the brands in this luxury space, simplicity in design is probably the number one aspect. Stripping the design back to all white with electroplated gold accessories really allowed us to achieve a sculptural approach to footwear design, letting the shapes and lines create the language around the brand.

The packaging is a massive driver for the customer experience, and we were committed to the details – from the Fort Knox Gold Bar-inspired outer case, to the inner travel bag with lace closure and gold aglets. Plus, like a photographer’s road case, the product is encased in foam. We wanted to cover all the aspects one would expect from a luxe brand.

The minimal design aesthetic enables the tone of voice to be strong and clear. This has translated into some welcome feedback from our design heroes like Stefan Sagmeister who said, “It is incredible! Incredible. The packaging alone creates the most theatrical opening experience since a certain phone.”

The model for the business is a true limited-edition brand. We only release 990 pairs of each design and, like an artist’s print, we only produce one run. Currently these are distributed through our online store and we are working on a small retail footprint of high-end fashion and footwear stores.


See more at kingdomsneakers.com.
This article was first published in the February / March issue of desktop.

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