words, images & interview // Nick DePaula:
After lacing up his newest Curry 5 colorway over the weekend, Stephen Curry helped to carry the Golden State Warriors to a dominant Conference Finals win in Game 3. While dropping 35 points in just 34 minutes, his barrages from deep and finishes in the key swung the series in the Dubs’ favor as they look to battle off the Houston Rockets at home.
Naturally, the latest addition to his signature line is dubbed “Welcome Home,” featuring a white based knit collar, a sleek and sculpted chassis, and a graphic-based Anafoam support rand that wraps around the shoe in a function-driven form.
To hear all about Stephen’s newest signature model, we caught up with Dave Dombrow, Under Armour’s Chief Design Officer. Read ahead for a look inside the design process of the Curry 5, and how the brand worked in tandem with Stephen to achieve his request for a lighter and lower look this time around.
Nick DePaula: Before we get into the design, I’m curious about the timeline here. The 4 debuted in the Finals and didn’t come out til the Fall, and now the 5 is basically moved up into the Spring here. What’s behind this sped up timeline?
Dave Dombrow: We’re always looking at a macro, when we’re talking about footwear, apparel and accessories. We’re always trying to get more efficient, and get faster when it makes sense.
In this case, we had some pre-work already started and we were able to quicken the cadence a little bit. With that, we were able to time it with his birthday and also have it run into the playoffs.
NDP: With this being launched for the playoff window – what were some of the biggest asks from Stephen early on?
DD: Steph is great and has really become part-design thinking and heavily function thinking as well. With this one specifically, he was thinking about weight and how do we get lighter. He was also thinking about how do we possibly get lower.
With getting lighter and lower, how do you keep him locked in? We had to make sure we optimized traction to keep him really feeling connected and efficient on court. That’s from a function standpoint.
From a design standpoint, we really wanted to go a little deeper. He’s this very unique athlete and he’s wired differently than everyone else in many ways. He exceeds expectations that everyone puts on him. We wanted to play on that and used that to really inspire the design language. His birthday being 3/14 lined up with Pi, which is this crazy, impossible number that breaks mathematical norms. It’s very unique in that sense, and in an interesting way, it reflected Stephen.
As we dug deeper, we found that it had a lot of connections to circles, and there’s an expression around ‘squaring the circle,’ which is an impossible concept. When you see the design, you can see that circle design language coming through. There’s hints of circles, raised touches of five marks in different spots and the Pi symbol all throughout the shoe.
NDP: The first thing that sticks out on the 4 and 5 is the sleekness and sculpting of the midsole. It’s a big upgrade from the 3 to me and gives the shoe a quick stance. What influenced how you guys looked to incorporate more of a mix of materials with the knit, and also that added sleekness?
DD: A lot of that went back to Stephen and his game. We wanted to get a more glove-like fit, and knit was the perfect outlet for that. What we found with the 5, was we loved the knit and where we were on the 4, but we’re able to go a little bit lower on the knit here by adding the Anafoam reinforcement for more support.
We took some pieces where we were on the 1, and then mixed that in with what worked really well on the 4. We wanted to combine those elements and get the optimization that Stephen was looking for.
NDP: So, should we be expecting Anafoam on the odd models then?
DD: No, don’t expect that. [laughs] But in this case, the Anafoam allowed us to get the lockdown that we wanted, so it definitely serves a big purpose.
NDP: A huge shift for the 5 is of course the lower height – can we expect that direction going forward, or will you continue to play with different silhouettes?
DD: Yeah, definitely. We want to go lighter and not always necessarily lower, but if lower is achievable and that’s where Stephen is pushing, then we’ll try and do that.
Another big thing is the 5 is designed to integrate and work with his brace. He’s going to wear those, and we want to make sure that the shoe he’s wearing becomes a system for him.
This is really where we’re pushing. We’re in that low territory, which was really important to Stephen and in many ways will bring us a new silhouette for him on court. He’s one of the most active players, and as he gets lighter and lower, it makes him more efficient.
His game is all about speed and creating space. From a function standpoint, if we can make it lighter but still give him that same support, when it comes to the 4th quarter, he’ll be able to create that space for his shot.
NDP: What was the process behind the scenes in terms of making sure the shoe worked in tandem with those braces?
DD: There was a lot of work. The team spent a lot of time working with him and making adjustments on the fly. We didn’t have it right at first, and we had to make some adjustments and change some shaping to make sure that it was going to work. We got to a great place where he has the lockdown he needs.
NDP: Last year, he debuted the 4 in the Finals in white and black with gold accents. How important was it for you guys to have this shoe available for fans to buy it at the same time he’s wearing them?
DD: It’s crucial. We know that what he wears makes a huge difference. We wanted to make sure that our timing works as well. Sometimes it’s great to show stuff and have it maybe not be as readily available, but our goal is always that anyone who is a fan of Stephen Curry and Under Armour, we want to make sure that our product is available for them.
On cue, the Under Armour Curry 5 “Welcome Home” colorway is available now on UA.com.