Portland, Oregon is known for a few things: Craft beer, biking, and a history of unfortunate NBA draft picks. One thing that often flies under the radar about Portland is that it’s a capital of the shoe industry. Adidas and Under Armour both maintain bases in Portland, and Nike’s headquarters isn’t far away. Portland is also home to one of the premier footwear design schools, the Pensole Footwear Design Academy. Chris Dixon, Designer of Special Projects at Pensole, stopped by DT Daily to talk about Pensole, his unique journey up through the footwear industry, and more.
Dixon began creating shoe designs back when he was in seventh grade, “Just because,” he explains, “I didn’t get the ones I wanted. I got two pairs of shoes for the whole year.”
Dixon went on to study graphic design at Harding University, where he also played basketball. In his senior year, he assembled a design portfolio, and got an audience with a major sports figure, Serena Williams, whose cousin was a friend of Dixon’s. Williams brought Dixon in on a project, although it wasn’t what he envisioned back in seventh grade.
“It was women’s fashion,” Dixon said, “so it was one of those things where it’s like ‘Have you ever designed high heel?’ and I’m like ‘No. But let’s try it.’”
Despite the success of the clothing line, Dixon still pursued opportunities designing basketball shoes. He entered Nike’s Future Sole design competition, where he not only won but received an invitation to join Pensole by the academy’s founder, D’Wayne Edwards.
Dixon’s latest achievement is winning the 2017 World Sneaker Design Championship, a fierce competition he likens to “the March Madness of shoes.” The top 64 designs are put in a bracket and voters choose which ones they think are superior. Dixon isn’t resting on his laurels, however, building his own brand, “Constant Development.”
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