- Footwear is both a complex product lying between industrial production and fashion, and a very complex industry with a high threshold that needs to be challenged.
- Small companies will have more flexibility to create innovation. We are not only focused on technology-driven innovation, we care a lot about all the other factors that will mix to create innovation.
- SCRY’s innovation framework including design and technologies could become an important branch of footwear in the future, not the whole, but certainly the most interesting and diverse one.
Zixiong Wei of SCRY believes the future of footwear is hyper-customizable, AI-aided, and recyclable all at once. SCRY is the brainchild of Zixiong Wei, a footwear designer with a penchant for contemporary technologies, sustainability, and innovation. Wei is looking to revolutionize all pillars of the footwear industry, from the way the product is designed, to the way it's produced—not to mention the way shoes can be recycled. The footwear industry has moved at a snail-like pace for decades, even when debating innovation within the realms of sneaker culture, footwear design, or “fashion shoes,” as Wei calls them, have remained stagnant for many years. It is this nerve that challenged Wei to create a brand that obliterates tradition and feeds off innovation.
For this interview, Madeleine Holth dug deeper into the young tech-cum-fashion brand startup to learn more about the technologies designers have yet to explore when it comes to production, design, and manufacturing.
MADELEINE HOLTH: Why did you feel the need to start your brand SCRY?
ZIXIONG WEI: The reason why SCRY was founded is based on my own vision of the future of footwear: a brand-new footwear ecology. I think footwear is both a complex product lying between industrial production and fashion, and a very complex industry with a high threshold that needs to be challenged.
MH: What was the turning point that made you say “Yes, I’m finally doing this?”
ZW: I’ve been trying to construct a whole process of design and manufacturing that diverges from the traditional way of making shoes. As I gradually figured out the solution for each point and problem, I said to myself “it’s time to start!”
MH: SCRY is a lot of things, but can you explain it to someone who isn’t of the internet age?
ZW: SCRY is a footwear laboratory trying to build a diverse and low-threshold footwear ecology.
MH: Your business is 1-year-old, how would you say your market has changed over the course of the past, dystopian 2020?
ZW: We went through almost all of it in online-mode, and luckily, the way we work is very much in line with the digital world. We have always maintained good communication with customers through social media, which is very important for us as we have no offline stores today.
MH: Where does your interest in footwear come from? Is it historical or extraterrestrial perhaps?
ZW: Both. I was fascinated with sneaker culture before, and my passion for sneakers influenced the pursuit of a design career. I think shoes are symbolic, many technologies and methods I study can not only be applied to shoes, but I always use shoes as the vessel for testing out.
MH: Working at the intersection of art, design, technology, and sustainability, what would you say are your key sentiments as a company?
ZW: Staying focused on the trade-offs that underlie the business model. This point is very important. Sometimes in my mind, there will be the voice of “don’t be persistent, it will be easier to compromise.” At this time, I need to keep my original mindset, so as to avoid the company gradually going to the middle.
MH: What challenges do you meet as a new brand, with new technology?
ZW: I think it is the construction of the entire Digital Embryo framework because it’s different from the traditional technology, which comes with specific functions. Digital Embryo is a whole collection of different cutting-edge technologies and a complete design and manufacturing flow. The difficulty is actually very high. If any link from design to manufacturing cannot be perfectly connected, the integrity of the frame will be destroyed, leading to that the shoe style cannot be actualized. So the construction and development of the Digital Embryo is actually the most difficult task the brand has overcome so far.
MH: What discoveries have you made when working on the Digital Embryo project?
ZW: The biggest discovery was to see just how powerful digital technology is. Under the framework of Digital Embryo, no matter additive manufacturing, AR fitting, private customization, virtual shows, or even AI-aided design, all digital-related technologies and industries can be connected by data to form different and more interesting shoe ecosystems.
MH: Has footwear innovation been slower than, let’s say, fashion?
ZW: It’s an interesting question, and it seems that the footwear industry has changed less than fashion. As you can see, the number of footwear brands as a whole is smaller than the number of fashion or apparel brands, largely because footwear is a relatively conservative industry with high barriers to overcome, which discourages many designers who want to make a difference. In this regard, the influence on sneakers is bigger than fashion shoes.
MH: You have created the world's first pair of integrated additive manufacturing footwear that can be worn. What sparked this idea, and how did the project challenge you or surprise you?
ZW: In fact, for me, the core of the all-in-one additive shoe is all about integration. The integration SCRY pursues is not really from the design style, but based on the concept of “easy to recycle.” The current realm of footwear features a very complex combination of various materials, and such products in the recycling stage are very difficult to separate. On the other hand, the concept of integration also comes from our minimalist production process. We want the shoes themselves to be made once, without having to go through a complex assembly line. When the design came straight from the computer in two hours through additive manufacturing, the shock was indescribable, like something out of a science-fiction novel.
MH: How has the feedback been from the industry?
ZW: We have good customer feedback, and we have good cooperation plans in the works. What I want to say is that small companies will have more flexibility to create innovation. Also, we are not only focused on technology-driven innovation, we care a lot about all the other factors that will mix to create innovation. Exploring and emphasizing the particularity of the brand will be a good way for small companies to make their voices heard. I like this idea of a tectonic shift in the world of fashion and footwear where there’s room for improving technologies regardless of the brand size increasing, however not all brands are eager to change the status quo.
MH: Where do you place SCRY in the realm of fashion?
ZW: It's very important, especially in the current human and social environment, more and more people begin to dream about the future of humanity. I can almost see a resurgence of futurism, and there will be more interesting and radical brands coming out in the near future.
MH: SCRY presents ideas of ultra-high customization capability and rapid design technology, this idea of customization and quick turnover cycles have been on the rise for a while, is this something you have personally advocated for? What is your stance on the current cycle of footwear?
ZW: Yes, this is the shoe ecology that I advocate. Sustainable, low design threshold, custom-on-demand footwear ecology.
MH: Can SCRY technologies be the footwear technology of the future?
ZW: I believe SCRY’s innovation framework including design and technologies will become an important branch of footwear in the future, not the whole, but certainly the most interesting and diverse one.