In the fast-paced world of footwear design, the only constant is change. One individual who has embraced this mantra is a seasoned designer with an illustrious career that spans continents and high-profile brands, bringing innovation and creativity to the forefront of the industry, right here in Los Angeles.
From his early days in the shoe space, Omar Bailey found his design philosophy being shaped by a single revelation: anything is possible in the realm of footwear. This epiphany was catalyzed by his time at Yeezy, where he began to look at design through a different lens, venturing into the far corners of creativity and ideation. He realized that the possibilities within the footwear industry were truly endless; it merely required exploration, experimentation, and relentless innovation.
At the helm of the Innovation Lab at YEEZY/Adidas, he faced the daunting task of executing the brand’s vision from conception to physical creation. Amidst the deep media scrutiny and numerous external distractions, the team’s focus remained unflinching, delivering high-quality, innovative shoe products consistently. Their superpower lay in their ability to keep their eye on the prize, regardless of the chaos around them.
As an industrial designer with experience in a prototyping lab, he learned to balance the creativity of design with the practicality of manufacturing. He created his own boundaries, pushing them as far as possible while remaining grounded in the realities of cost, materials, and feasibility. His approach involves shooting for the moon while keeping one foot firmly planted on the ground.
While his career led him to diverse cultural hubs like New York, China, and India, he discovered the importance of understanding and respecting differences in style, pricing, and market construction. In India, for instance, he had to consider the functionality of a shoe beyond its aesthetic appeal. He explains, “A shoe priced at 800 rupees needed to be durable, lasting the consumer at least a year.” Such experiences taught him to incorporate design cues that signaled durability and longevity, further refining his approach to footwear design and the value of understanding consumer behavior.
Omar’s inspirations are as varied as his experiences. From peers who paved the way in the industry to titans of business, he draws inspiration from those who remain unapologetically authentic, pursuing their passion with unwavering dedication.
For aspiring designers looking to make their mark in the footwear industry, he emphasizes the importance of seeking opportunities over monetary gain. The focus should be on understanding your “why” in the field and letting your passion shine through. This passion, coupled with hard work and the right attitude, can open doors to incredible opportunities.
Today, Omar’s focus is on FCTRY Lab, a Los Angeles-based sneaker lab, revolutionizing the footwear industry with its innovative approach to shoe creation. A black lead team of industry experts, aiming to disrupt the long-standing status quo in an industry where large sneaker brands often profit significantly from the creative power of minority designers, athletes, and influencers. They also offer a unique co-ownership and co-development model where they collaborate with clients to co-own and co-develop the next generation of footwear lines. This collaborative approach empowers creators with more control and ownership than ever before.
What’s more impressive? FCTRY Lab outperforms traditional timelines. Their lab enables clients to design, prototype, and manufacture footwear in just 1-3 months, a significant improvement from the usual 8-12 months. This rapid turnaround time allows brands, celebrities, or athletes to quickly capitalize on trends and meet consumer demand.
Looking ahead, FCTRY LAb is poised to establish its position in the industry, delivering unique products at a high level. With exciting new designs and collaborations on the horizon for 2024, they’re just getting started. The future is bright for those willing to push boundaries, embrace challenges, and stay true to their passion.