New York-based designer and illustrator Sophia Chang is transfixed by icons. The bulk of her playful and lighthearted illustrations tell entire stories through the use of simple symbols that are able to take the viewer on a visual journey. That use of attention-grabbing iconography stems from growing up in the busy streets of New York City, a city famous for its sensory overload. “It’s a super busy city, there are all these visuals, pictures, colors, sounds, everything is calling for your attention… I’ve always been very inspired and mindful of the moments when I stop in my tracks and look at something.” One of the icons that stops Sophia in her tracks is Nike’s Air Max, a sneaker silhouette that both satisfies Sophia’s interest in futuristic design and her admiration of cultural staples.
In this episode of Uproxx’s Studio Visit — created in partnership with Foot Locker — Sophia takes us into her studio for a behind the scenes look into her design process, which usually begins with pen and paper. She also shared her thoughts on the sometimes impenetrable gatekeeping of modern streetwear and sneaker culture, with the Air Max and Foot Locker acting as a way into the exclusive world and something that sparks nostalgia for her.
“All throughout high school and onwards a lot of our creative inspirations came from music, arts, illustration, graffiti, all kind of tied into how we wanted to leave the house. A retailer like Foot Locker opens doors for how we express ourselves.” Like her art, Sophia’s personal style is a reflection of the city she calls home, making the Air Max not just the perfect stylistic attention-grabbing icon to wear on her feet, but a functional piece of fashion that speaks to Sophia’s way of life.
“Growing up in New York, you’re always on the go, you’re always on the move, you want to be comfortable, but you also want to look fly and make sure you’re leaving the house looking good… There’s a phrase called ‘feet first’ which basically means we judge you by what’s on your feet first and foremost. If you wear black head to toe, but you still got some fire kicks on? You’re good.”
To learn more about Sophia Chang’s design process and her exciting collaboration with Foot Locker, check out the new episode of Discover Your Air above.