Meet Mr. Bailey — The sneakerhead paving the way for the next gen of footwear designers

HUNGER catches up with the creative Mr. Bailey on his passion for sneakers and the tight-knit community formed by his research programme and platform.

Daniel Bailey, better known as Mr. Bailey to fans of his work, is the founder of CONCEPTKICKS – a research programme he had conceived over 10 years ago. An ode to all things footwear design, he has racked up over 185k followers on his business Instagram account as a platform dedicated to exposing the latest developments and exciting new practices in the industry. 

But what remains at the forefront of Mr. Bailey’s work is the community of creatives that have formed thanks to this shared mindset and genuine passion. A support network for the industry and those trying to break in, he has cultivated a shrine to footwear with his design studio and research programme. But this platform isn’t just deconstructing high-end luxury brand footwear either, as he scouts for the next best footwear designer and shines a spotlight on up-and-coming talent. CONCEPTKICKS’ research programme aims to look at every step of the design process to be completely transparent, from sketches to failures to prototypes to successes – it all matters to Mr. Bailey. 

And his studio space only reflects this passion as well, situated in the Design District which is a collection of sixteen buildings designed by eight architects that has grown into a home for creative businesses. Between his office basketball sessions (yes, it has a rooftop court), Mr. Bailey is slam dunking with his own collaborations, including with sport giant adidas, fashion house Zegna, cult classic Timberland, and contemporary Japanese artist Takashi Murakami

HUNGER catches up with Mr. Bailey to get straight to the sole of CONCEPTKICKS, as well as what we can expect from the ingenious minds of footwear’s next gen…

Why did you choose to design footwear? Where did it all start?

I studied Product Design (which has been described as “Architecture for products”), so I was initially interested in designing everything from furniture to concept vehicles for movies. But I eventually landed on focusing on footwear as a vessel to get my thoughts and ideas out into the world in a tangible and time-efficient manner. As an object, they offer up quite a few unique challenges. It has to function with the body so ergonomics are obviously an essential factor, but they’re also objects of beauty where silhouette and proportion are fundamental. They’re functional and emotional objects – utilitarian sculptures.

What’s the premise of CONCEPTKICKS, and how did you build a community around your craft?

CONCEPTKICKS is a design studio and footwear research programme. It is a place where we’re constantly learning new processes and questioning from a place of creative curiosity. These learnings are then turned into products, articles, or interviews and shared on our platforms. Our socials (specifically Instagram) are used as a curative tool to project an ethos of embracing and celebrating excellence, regardless of brand affiliation or the level of industry experience by a creative. It’s a unique platform where a student’s graduation project can find itself next to a high-end luxury house’s latest footwear collection, and be viewed and

appreciated on the same merits. We’re particularly interested in sharing transparent processes, and how these objects came to be; sketches, renderings, prototypes, failures etc…often we find these to be just as interesting, if not more, than the final product.

After collaboration with brands like adidas, as well as artists like Takashi Murakami, who would you say has been your favourite and why?

I don’t know if I can say who’s been my favourite, as I’ve learned a lot from each collaborator… Takashi showed me humility and gave me his platform to showcase my abilities. Zegna graciously opened their entire Italian factory to let my team and I explore any construction process we wanted. Adidas allowed me to explore highly technical, moulded components with them, and Timberland enabled me to work alongside a new group of creatives each year. So it is hard to pick just one from that group as they are all very different.

What inspires you on a day-to-day basis?

Music, travel, and meeting people that are creating in different industries and seeing how they approach and solve issues.

What has been your favourite project so far, and why?

My favourite project is the one I’m about to launch. I’ve been slowly working on my own product-driven art project. It’s something that took shape during the lockdown as I had so much uninterrupted time on my hands, and it being such unprecedented times globally. Normally everyones busy, but this pause seemed like the opportune moment to invest in creating something new with a small circle of close friends from across the globe while we were connected at this moment. The product itself will probably be my most personal yet, something that resonates wholeheartedly with my tastes and approach to product design.

If you could pick one person to wear your shoes, who would it be and why?

David Attenborough, no explanation needed.

Why do you think it’s important to promote young designers, and are there any success stories that have come from the CONCEPTKICKS community you have been proud of?

I think it’s important to promote ideas, regardless of where they come from. Naturally, a lot of those refreshing concepts tend to come from young designers, and I’m happy to be in a position to give them a platform, similar to what Takashi gave to me. As far as success stories I suppose it depends on the definition of success. There have been many talented designers we’ve featured go on to secure jobs at top brands or excel independently. However, I’d never claim we took part in their success – they did the work and we just thought it was interesting and shared it.

What can fans of the avant-garde sneaker expect from you next? 

We’ve recently started our own product journey with CONCEPTKICKS that help to facilitate a creative flow state. The first product is an incense we created with a ‘nose’ here in London. It’s the start of a product programme I’m excited to see evolve and grow over the next few seasons. Outside of that, I have a few unexpected collaborations through Mr. Bailey, as well as the aforementioned product-driven art project.

WriterElla Chadwick