By Maurice Merrell
When Pensole Academy footwear and special projects designer Chris Dixon was a kid, he'd look through copies of Eastbay, the popular sneaker catalog, and pick out his favorite shoes. Not for ordering but for inspiration.
Spending tons of time drawing shoes he loved, he soon developed a passion for creating shoes he'd never seen before. He didn't know it at the time, but he wasn't just developing his future design aesthetic—he was also laying the foundation for his approach to branding, creating something substantial through unconventional executions.
After winning 2017's World Sneaker Championships, Dixon's earned a reputation as a disrupter in the footwear industry. Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi hired him to create a shoe to fit its workers' needs. And after 10,000 pairs sold, Dixon's belief in creating kicks in unexpected spaces has proven prosperous.
Inspired, the North Carolina native, who moved to Portland to work closely with Pensole soon after winning the WSC, realized he was onto something with his creations. Enter the CD Brand—or, as Dixon calls it, "Constant Development."
"As designers, as people, we're always looking for new ways to improve ourselves," he says. "So I wanted to create something that spoke to that—something that everyone can relate to."
The letters C and D are the constant theme, not only because of Dixon's initials, but his brand ethos of "culture and diversity." Dixon says he's conveying an important message about gaining new experiences to learn more about yourself and the world. There are also "conscious designs," he says, as the brand will always have a story, purpose and meaning. And being "creative and disruptive"—not following industry trends—are all elements to the CD brand.
With he's learned from his success with Xiaomi and belief in bucking the traditions of the sneaker industry, Dixon is launching his footwear line with collaborations from both his home state of North Carolina and his new home here in Portland. Deadstock Coffee, Wacom Experience Center and Sneaker Week will all launch versions of the brands' first shoe that relate to their connection to sneaker culture and the city itself.
"These collaborations mean a lot to me," Dixon said. "I've been a customer at Deadstock since Ian [Williams, Deadstock's owner] just had a cart. To start something with someone whom I've supported since they were just starting says a lot about how much we believe in and support each other.
"With Wacom," he continues, "they've supported me and had me teach classes for a long time now, which has opened up unorthodox opportunities to collaborate, which is what the industry needs more of. As for Sneaker Week, I wanted to do something new. That week's dedicated to sneakers, so why not do something that connects to it and is inspired by Pensole?"
Slated for release during Sneaker Week in late August, Dixon says he feels great launching a new product that will show aspiring designers here are more avenues to explore as long as you think out of the box. With a portion of the proceeds going to fund a Pensole scholarship, Dixon hopes the CD brand will help push sneaker culture forward.
"Everyone thinks you have to be a part of a big brand to make something happen," Dixon says. "But to network with people who believe in your vision and bring to life something that people support, not just because it's a cool product but they connect to the story and why you're doing it, is an amazing feeling."