In Conversation with James Arizumi on the Janoski OG+
Coinciding with the second colourway release of the Nike SB Janoski OG+, Flatspot catches up with Senior Footwear Design Director of Special Projects at Jordan Brand James Arizumi to discuss the design inspiration and creative process behind one of the most popular Nike SB skate shoes to date. A key figure behind Nike SB since Sandy Bodecker founded the brand in 2002 with roles including Innovation Design Lead and Global Footwear Design Director, Arizumi’s creative direction inspired a number of iconic releases including the Nike SB MF Doom Dunk High, the Nike SB Supreme White Cement Dunk Low and 2007’s Nike SB ‘What The Dunk’ Dunk Low Pro. Paying homage to its 2009 origins, we discuss technical decisions, influences and personal references behind the Nike SB Janoski OG+.
Photo Credit: Jerry Buttles
Flatspot: As a designer, what was it like to work with Stefan, an athlete who had an artistic point of view and an aesthetic in mind?
James: Stefan is a true artist/athlete/creative through and through. He was very involved, brought lots of passion and emotion to the project, and everything he wanted was based on a feeling he had, that I had to artfully translate into a piece of product.
Stefan didn’t know what his shoe would look like, he only knew how he wanted it to function and feel like, both aesthetically and emotionally. He [Stefan] was also great to work with as an athlete in our SB roster because he was very different in his personal style and skating style, and that I believed it would result in a very original and iconic shoe.
Flatspot: Stefan had a strong point of view when it came to the first sample, how collaborative was the design process?
James: There was a steep learning curve for us at the start of the process but from that, I knew I had to channel his inner energy, style and vision into a new creation that no one would have ever expected from Nike SB. I created a mood board and had a list of functional requirements that he was adamant on which was low profile simple shoe, flexible out of the box, as minimal materials as possible, a Swoosh that wasn’t another piece of material stitched on so it would not tear and come off, and maximum boardfeel.
Flatspot: Did Stefan provide any drawings, inspiration or other shoes as samples for what he wanted his signature shoe to look like? What were they?
James: This is one of the great myths of the shoe, that Stefan came in with a sample from somewhere and said that he wanted his shoe to look like this. Having done this for a long time and having worked for other skateboard shoe companies this is how it worked sometimes where an athlete would come in and bring a shoe they were vibing on and wanted to make a skate version out of it. For Stefan’s shoe this was not the case.
I designed and engineered, with the help from Brian Linkefield the developer, this shoe with his functional requirements in mind, as minimal panelling as humanly possible to provide maximum boardfeel on the upper as well as durability as there would be less panels that would tear off. Minimal panels would also allow more flexibility and a lighter weight shoe. So in short, it was all based on the philosophy by architect Louis Sullivan, “Form Follows Function.” The function resulted in a minimal beautiful designed piece of performance footwear.
Flatspot: What were your team’s thoughts on the use of vulcanised construction? Is it true that the Janoski was the first SB model to use that technology?
James: Vulcanised construction was very controversial for a signature model at the time. The entire portfolio of signature athletes across all the sports at Nike were using the latest and greatest innovations and technology such as flywire, air, dual injected technology, etc. Vulcanised construction is a 100-year-old plus way of building shoes, so for us to put that on a new signature model was certainly going against the grain. We wanted to stay true to the Nike Maxim “Listen to the Voice of the Athlete” and the Louis Sullivan philosophy of Form Follows Function and justified that vulcanised construction would give Stefan’s shoe a flexibility and boardfeel that no other construction could achieve.
Stefan’s shoe was not the first Nike SB model to use Vulc, we had the Blazer SB at the time and before that Stefan was skating another shoe I worked on that was vulcanised which was the Harbor, it was almost like the pre Stefan Janoski SB. The Harbor was also the shoe that gave me the insights to try vulc instead of a cupsole for his model.
Flatspot: The shoe has, correct me if I’m wrong, what reminds me of a “boat shoe” upper. Was this an idea you came at, or was it a suggestion from Stefan?
James: That is another misconception of the origins of the shoe. I’ll be completely honest there was never a reference or suggestion from Stefan to do a “boat shoe”. The upper was designed to his exact specifications of what he needed in a performance shoe. The toe is clean low and sunken into the vulc tooling, another reason we went with vulc because you are able to achieve this low profile vamp, to reduce abrasion of the toe cap and vamp of the shoe. This was a direct request from Stefan, for the toe box to be low profile and “sunken” as well as to allow the sidewall of the shoe to take the abrasion to create a more durable shoe.
The stitching on the vamp was applied to help skaters with foot placement and centering, the perforations for breathability. The quarter panel was pulled back to improve flex on the shoe and to move that panel away from the abrasion areas, it then had a binding added for better durability and finishing. The quarter also wraps around the back of the shoe to improve the heel cup shape and have better heel lockdown.
The cork sockliner was a nod to Stefan’s family owning a winery and his love of wine, it also functions as a natural impact absorption material as well as aids in antimicrobial properties, but most importantly I've never seen it in a performance shoe and it was a nice nod to Stefan and his aesthetic/taste.
Flatspot: How did the Janoski influence other SB franchises as shoes started to become slimmed down?
James: The Stefan shape and slim silhouette had a huge impact on SB as well as the industry as a whole. Skaters wore them religiously and when athletes were in talks for new models they’d say ‘how do I get something that everyone wants to skate and looks like this?’, (said skater) holds up the Stefan Janoski Nike SB.
Flatspot: Colourways. How were they chosen? Was it more Nike SB or Stefan who gave input? Do you have any personal favourites?
James: It was a combination of both the Nike SB product team as well as Stefan who had input on the colorways of the shoe. We had fun with it and made sure we always had something fresh coming out. My favourite was the digi floral camo colorway. It was designed at the time as solids were everything in skateboarding and the industry at large and I wanted to work on an all over print. I came up with the idea of using a retro-style wallpaper print with some camo mashed in and then on top a digital overlay.
Flatspot: How do you feel about the return of the Janoski? Can you expand on what it means for skateboarding?
James: For me the Stefan Janoski SB never went away. I see it almost everywhere I go, it’s the only shoe I see Stefan wearing even when he’s at the gym working out with his wife. It’s a gym shoe, it’s a skater’s shoe, it’s a kid’s shoe, it’s a gen x,y, z shoe, it’s a dad’s shoe, it’s an executive’s shoe, it’s the people’s shoe.
Stefan’s shoe was a moment in time and lightning in a bottle, no one would have ever thought or predicted what it became and will forever be in the sneaker world. It is a shoe that transcended skateboarding and touched everyone everywhere. It is a shoe that broke all convention at the time and became a new classic. It is a shoe that has been skated in and beloved by skaters everywhere for its performance and low-key sensibilities. It is a shoe that I have been honoured to be a part of and proud of what Stefan, the SB team and myself were able to gift to the world.
The Nike SB Janoski OG+ Green Gorge, Copa, Action Green will be available online at Flatspot on Saturday 20th May 2023 at 08:00AM (BST).
Shop all Nike SB at Flatspot.