We were invited to the launch of Under Armours HOVR range, quite possibly the best performance sneaker release by the brand to date, and we were lucky enough to take the opportunity to talk with Dave Dombrow, Under Armours Chief Design Officer and the man behind the new range and its innovative HOVR design.
As a leading designer in the sportswear industry, with pro athletes such as NBA superstar Steph Curry on speed-dial, as well as every major sports brand, either wishing they had you or trying to outdo everything you do, you’d imagine perhaps a slight ego to be present during any conversation. But, what we actually found was a likeable, humble and chatty individual who just wants to be the best at anything he does. Put simply, Dave Dombrow may just be the nicest guy ever. We talked all things Under Armour, Steph Curry and why HOVR has set the benchmark.
First things first. How did your career start?
How’d I start my career? I’ve been honestly been obsessed with footwear my whole life, whole life. So I started in footwear and I’ve always been that guy building things, you know? Architecture, all that. And so at one point, I thought I was going to go into architecture. Because I was always doing that kind of thing and then I found out about design and my love of shoes, so you know I just combined all my interests and thought ok, this could be interesting and it’s turned into something pretty nice now.
Can you explain some of the processes behind the design and development of the HOVR range?
Let’s see, you have the bottom [ of the shoe] which we worked on for quite some time. We actually worked in partnership with Dow Chemical, they’re a leader in material science in order to get the HOVR cushioning itself. On the uppers, one upper has a single layer flat knit, so really really breathable and light. And then on the other one, the Phantom, we took inspiration actually from a cycling shammy. Sometimes we look at other industries to get inspiration you know to get new insights on performance. And we were looking at the comfort of shammies and we like, can we build a shoe exactly like a shammy? And so that’s what we did on the Phamton. When you put it on you’ll be like “oh yeah” that’s because there are layers of foam and silicon built much differently, and the fact its built in an apparel factory which no one else is doing either.
In terms of technology and design do you believe the Phantom and Sonic have set the standard for the future of UA and its sneakers? And are pro athletes always at the forefront of your mind when designing a sneaker?
Yeah I mean I think they’re at the cutting edge for sure, because of how we’re building them and I think when people try them they feel that sensation too for different reasons. We even think of the Phantom as a luxury car and we think of the sonic as a sports car basically. And I think the phantoms always built for performance first, but it tends to have a very lifestyle cut with the knit cuff and so it goes after something a little different than the sonic and the sonic is really this high-performance runner and its become our go-to running shoe both internally and externally with our athletes at UA. Everything we do from a running shoe perspective athlete performance is always first. And then we tweak things as we go along if we want the silhouette to start going more towards fashion and style. But we’re always elite performance first.
Favourite athlete of all time?
I’m going to go with, er, because I like the guy, Stephen Curry. And I know him you so you? He’s a great guy!
If you had the opportunity to develop a sneaker with one famous individual, dead or alive who would it be and why?
I’m going to go with the greatest of all time, Muhammed Ali. I think that would be a great parallel between Anthony Joshua now and Muhammed Ali in the past.
Essential reading? Career-related or not.
I don’t know if I would single out a book, but for me, I’m hugely into biographies because I want to learn about people. But then I’m also hugely into business. So the marriage of business and biographies that where I’m like yeah. And I feel like I want to learn and then I want to apply that to whatever I’m working on, you know? Even if it’s somewhat unrelated, it’s still related you know?
Finally, You’re one of, if not arguably the best sneaker designer in the industry, is that something you’ve always strived for?
There are many good footwear designers out there [but] I’ve always strived to be the best at what I do. Anything I do. Actually, that’s advice I would give to anybody about anything, I think you should always strive to be the best at what you do.