Alphonzo Rawls: Covers and concepts
Josh Kalis pro model, DC Shoes
If you've been in a skate shop or a skatepark in the past decade, you've seen Rawls' work. He's designed successful shoes for Duffs, Fallen and DC Shoes, to name a few. His history as a skateboarder has played a key role in his success as a designer.
Thrasher cover, 1992
"Those times in skateboarding were amazing because everything was still new," Rawls says of the start to his career in the late '80s and early '90s. "There was so much undiscovered territory. Any time a video would come out, you'd see something new being done. It was definitely fascinating to have grown up at such a time of evolution for skateboarding."
Rising Sun, Fallen Footwear
"Alf's great," says Jamie Thomas, pro skateboarder and founder of Fallen Footwear. "He's super professional and always brings a fresh perspective to whatever project we're working on. He seems to adapt his style to suit the project. I think what makes him unique is the fact that he likes to experiment with how far he can take the direction of each project, and although we don't use all of his suggestions, it's great to see all the options he puts forth."
Lynx HE, DC Shoes, 2001
Although he had no formal art training, throughout his professional skateboarding career Rawls has had a hand in design. "All the while that I was skateboarding, I was involved with the brands that I represented," he says. "Whether it was doing ad layouts, board graphics or clothing designs, I've always been creatively inclined."
Transworld Skateboarding cover, 1996
"You ask any skateboarder: The first time they saw somebody do an ollie usually is a hook, line and sinker. It grabs your curiosity and makes you want to skate, and that's exactly what happened," Rawls says of his introduction to the scene. "I saw these guys ollie, and I was just amazed at the fact that you can get the skateboard to jump up with you, on your feet."
Spec sheet: Circa Unim
As the design process moves forward, sketches gain detail and the shoe begins to take real shape. This spec sheet for the Unim model Rawls designed for C1rca lays out materials, dimensions and the elements that make the product unique.
Rising Sun, Fallen Footwear, exploded view
"I think you'll start seeing shoes with more technology designed into them," Rawls explains. "I don't foresee vulcanized [construction] going away, but I think you'll see a lot of cupsoles and probably more multipieced outsole construction that lends itself to more functional features."
Alphonzo Rawls signature model, Kastel Shoes, 1996
In the mid-'90s, destiny called, and Rawls was approached by a burgeoning footwear company, Kastel, that was looking to launch its line with a young pro. "They called me and asked me if I wanted a signature shoe and to represent their brand," he says. "It sounded like an offer that was too good to pass up, so I took it, and that opportunity gave me the chance to design my signature shoe."
From colorways to purpose, Rawls' wide range is easy to see in this collection of footwear he's designed with C1rca.
Early in the design process, Rawls often presents placeholder sketches to illustrate potential concepts to clients. The Alfalfa model never made it to production but makes for an excellent diagram of the components of a skate shoe.
Rawls' heart may be in skateboarding, but he's designed a wide variety of footwear that rides the spectrum from soccer shoes and snowboard boots to casual and women's shoes. His collection of sketches for Macbeth shows off his range in style.
18-stair frontside boardslide, 1998
In terms of contributing to the evolution of skateboarding, Rawls' humility is evident: "The opportunity to make a living, to have gone from one dream career of professional skateboarding to now designing shoes ... I'm blessed to be able to utilize my creativity and surround myself with the people that I grew up with."
Liberty, Fallen Footwear
While most footwear is meant simply for general public consumption, sometimes a designer is charged with working with a pro athlete to develop his signature shoe. The Liberty was the product of collaboration between Rawls and pro skateboarder Jamie Thomas.