When HOKA ONE ONE founder Jean-Luc Diard realized he needed a new approach to creating innovative shoes and gear, he devised Deckers X Lab.
The revamped innovation department is where the brands under Deckers can crash test more ideas with the understanding it’s okay to fail. The first products to emerge from the Lab are footwear mashups that combine cushioned running shoes and lined slippers. The results are eye-catching.
And the Lab comes with a new ethos. Its stated goal is to create new products based on improved comfort standards, performance, and “better products for a better planet.”
Freedom to Tinker
Deckers X Lab is a label, not a brand, and thus boasts it isn’t “limited to one type of product, application, or environment.”
The Lab even employs different kinds of testers, using freestyle athletes like breakdancers, gymnasts, and free runners to test new shoes with an array of dynamic movements.
What the Lab produces could spark a trend or, at least, inspire future gear. For designers, the Lab is like a sandbox to test the form and function of new concepts, learn from them, and try again. In short, a “place to fail until they succeed,” as the label puts it.
Part of the Lab’s creation process is customer feedback, which informs the design of the next iteration of products. The label operates on a short development timeline of about 3 months (rather than 18) so it isn’t beholden to re-creating the same shoe.
The label’s initial run will be a “limited edition” because the next run will incorporate changes.
In addition, Deckers X Lab’s mission includes a commitment to being more mindful of the ecological and human aspects of its production process.
A Kinder Supply Chain
The Lab states that its sustainable development goals target seven areas where it can make the most impact by 2027: “Waste, Water, Materials, Chemicals, Climate & Clean Energy, Human Rights, and Gender Equality & Quality Education.”
Footwear manufacturing is a dirty business. The industry’s preference for the cheapest production costs can lend itself to poor labor conditions and using materials with a high impact on the environment.
Deckers X Lab chooses materials with an eye for sustainability. The animal hides it uses are byproducts of the meat trade (not raised solely for their hides) and certified by the Leather Working Group.
What’s more, the Lab has built a library of sustainable materials for its design team to work from and sends guidelines to partners that source materials on its behalf.
Take a Closer Look at the X-Scape Low
Deckers X Lab’s design and production philosophy come to fruition in the X-Scape: “a blend of a runner, slipper, and casual sneaker.”
In short, it mixes sneakerhead high-top style around a more modern, lightweight running chassis, and lines the uppers with looped wool for next-to-skin feel and temperature regulation. The intent is to offer stability and comfort both on and off road.
The HOKA ONE ONE heritage is evident in the Meta-Rocker shape of the soles. However, the “swallowtail” heel shape is an entirely new look.
The shoe’s midsole is made from a proprietary running foam, and the thin rubber outsole places tread in common contact areas. Targeted heel cushioning protects the Achilles and prevents sliding.
In areas where fit trumps support, the shoe uses elastic Lycra to stretch and rebound to your foot shape. This material also makes the shoe easier to put on and take off.
Deckers X Lab X-Scape Low
- Anatomical fit
- Internal H brace support
- Meta-Rocker sole
- Thin, high-abrasion rubber outsole
- Asymmetric lacing
- Drop: 6 mm (19-25mm stack height)
- Fit: Gender-specific medium width and running last
- Upper: Paneled EcoTan Nubuck leather
- Midsole: Ultralight PU foam wrapped in protective TPU
- Interior lining: Looped wool (80% wool, 20% recycled polyester)
The X-Scape also comes in a mid version. The high-top style provides a larger canvas to show off the contrasting materials and looks more like a hiking sneaker.
This first releases from Deckers X Lab represent not only a new take on everyday footwear, but one with the intent to alleviate the impact on the label’s workers and the Earth.