Good Content from: Chris Mahoney, VP of Design
Designed by kids and built by Saucony, our Shoes With Soul Collection benefiting Boston Children’s Hospital, features six limited-edition designs, each one illustrating the dreams and personality of a Boston Children’s patient. We spoke with Saucony’s VP of Design, Chris Mahoney, to learn more about what it was like to work on this incredible collaboration.
How did this partnership and collaboration come to life?
We had established a previous relationship with Boston Children’s Hospital and, through that experience, we started to explore the idea of doing more. Rather than just a donation, we wanted to create an experience and a moment that would not only raise money, but also awareness to highlight all the amazing work that’s being done at BCH. Specifically, we wanted to give some of the BCH kids an opportunity to share their story and their talents with the world.
Our partners at BCH identified six patient-artists from their programs and, since many were local to the area, we brought them into our headquarters to get to know each other. We started by giving them a tour of our facilities and explained to them some of the different processes that each of our products go through before they make it into production and ultimately out to consumers. From there, we broke into smaller groups where members of the Saucony team asked some questions, so we could identify favorite colors, songs, characters, movies, etc. We also had material books, markers, paper and color swatches readily available so that every artist could identify elements they liked, and ones they didn’t like. The Saucony team took copious notes so that in the days and weeks after our meetings, we could start to formulate all the information into a theme, or an aesthetic, that could be applied to our products. In some cases, we were even able to incorporate the patient-artist’s own artwork into their gear.
After some preliminary internal creative sessions, we designed mood boards that incorporated inspirational imagery related to the kids’ favorite things. We also started to identify material swatches, prints, patterns, and colors that could be used. Once we felt confident that all the details aligned with what was shared during our meetings, we started to tastefully combine all the elements together to create personalized concepts.
It was around that time, that we reconvened with the artists and their families in our Saucony showroom to present individual mood boards, swatch cards, and designs for each of their projects. I know, for the Saucony team, it was a very nervous and exciting evening. With each presentation and concept unveiling, we were on edge. We hoped (and prayed) that all our notes, insights and experiences were spot-on, and that they would love their designs. Luckily, we saw lots of smiles and excitement when the kids got to see their designs on the screen. It not only made them and their families feel great, but it also allowed the Saucony team to exhale and equally enjoy the moment with them.
After that, our design and development teams proceeded to take these concepts and begin making the products you see today.
These kids are incredibly strong with what they have gone through, especially at such a young age. What have you learned from them/how do they inspire you?
I think in our industry there is often a very similar set of consumer ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’, so to have a free moment where you shelve everything you think you know, and instead ask these kids to create something that expresses what they like is really amazing. It wasn’t about trend. It wasn’t about commercial viability. It wasn’t about business. It was all about them – about what they liked, and about what they thought was cool and relevant to their lives and their experiences.
Personally, I enjoyed the detachment from the norm, and appreciated that my bosses, in this situation, were these kids. It was up to the Saucony team to make sure we delivered on the promise of telling their story. And their story isn’t only about what happened to them before, it’s about where they are today and where they want to go tomorrow. They have a past that’s different than most kids, but I never got the impression that it was something that cancelled their future. If anything, they proved to us, and I’m sure to their families and friends, that they are on track to do great things going forward.
We appreciated the opportunity be a small part of telling the world about what great kids they are and all the amazing things they want to do in the future. Our products were empty canvases and we asked them to help us fill them up with all the things they love, and the things that make them happy. When you see the designs, there’s an immediate energetic and fun-filled vibe to each of them, which definitely reflects what we witnessed in the kids.
The Saucony team would like to extend a very big ‘Thank You!’ to each artist, their families and friends, and also to the amazing team at Boston Children’s Hospital for introducing us to each other, and of course for their continued efforts in helping all of their patients return to health.