Who is Joe Carson?
Joe Carson, 22 years old, a current Senior at the University of Maryland who will graduate in May with a Bachelors in Graphic Design. Ever since I can remember, I have always had the same dream. It started forming at an early age, of course its requirements change and it faces new challenges, but I am determined to accomplish my goal. My goal is to become a lead footwear designer at a top brand, helping to change the sneaker culture and help create the future of footwear.
How did you end up in the sneaker industry?
I have always had a passion for footwear. My mom always tells me that when I was really young I would spend hours at the mall looking at shoes. Going from store to store, trying to find the perfect pair to buy for school. During my Junior year of high school is when I really started to collect shoes and when I turned into a big “sneakerhead". I would camp out for shoes, trade shoes, and go to sneaker conventions. I was always the kid who wanted a pair of shoes that nobody else had. This passion for footwear and my artistic talents soon collided during my Senior year of high school when I established “@CarsonCustomKicks”.
CarsonCustomKicks has been an outlet for me to create innovative colorways, graphics, and stories for footwear. I've had the opportunity to create custom shoes for friends, family, and even famous artists like G-Eazy. This little start-up in my garage is what slowly increased my curiosity to learn more about footwear design. That is when I decided to apply to the Pensole Footwear Design Academy. I received a scholarship to Pensole in January of 2016.
How was your experience with Pensole?
Pensole was one of the best and most important experiences of my life. I can strongly say that Pensole is the true foundation of my footwear design career. Receiving a scholarship to fly out to Portland, Oregon and compete with other aspiring designers at the age of 20 was very humbling and a great learning experience. I traveled across the country for the first time on my own and I was learning a whole new side to design. We were taught the brand design, footwear design, and color/material design processes of the industry in an intense two week course. Working on something you are passionate about is one thing, but when you can work with a group of people who share the same passion as you, to me that's priceless.
During this two week course, we had the opportunity to collaborate with Under Armour. This connection with Under Armour at Pensole is what also helped me receive a summer internship with Under Armour as a designer in 2016. If you are interested in footwear design or apparel design and haven’t experienced Pensole, do it. It will be one of the best learning experiences of your life.
You ended up 8th in the World Sneaker Championship 2017. How important was that for you?
Back in 2016, I entered the 2016 Pensole World Sneaker Championship. I ended up placing in the Top 64, but did not progress onto the next round. This early elimination is what motivated me to come back in 2017 with a stronger design, a stronger story, and a stronger social media presence for marketing. Last year, I entered the 2017 Pensole World Sneaker Championship competition and ended up finishing Top 8 in the world out of hundreds of aspiring designers. Finishing Top 8 in the 2017 World Sneaker Championship was a big accomplishment for me. It allowed me to showcase my skills and it showed me that anything is possible with a little bit of hard work, dedication, and creativity. I am grateful for each and every person who supported me throughout that competition.
Did you decide immediately that you wanted your shoe launched? How did you make it happen?
After the competition, I didn’t want my journey to stop there. I wanted to take my experience and my ideas to the next level. I had a goal, and with my very motivative mindset I decided to follow through with that vision. I knew that I had created something totally different. Something that isn’t currently sitting on shelves. I knew that if I was going to take that next big step, now was the time to do it. The support that I gained from the competition, my friends, and my family is also what ultimately pushed me to take the next big step, manufacture my design, and develop my own lifestyle footwear brand.
How did you get to know Portugal Footwear?
I ended up purchasing the 2016 Pensole WSC footwear design created by Maxwell Lund. When I received the shoes I noticed the logo and website, PortugalFootwear.com, on the insole. This small detail is what led me into the direction of Portugal Footwear. D’wayne Edwards, the founder of Pensole, was also very supportive in helping me connect with Portugal Footwear.
Why did you choose Portugal Footwear?
I chose Portugal Footwear because I had the opportunity to view their work in hand when I purchased the 2016 WSC shoe. The authentic quality and the handcrafted aesthetic that they create is what I was looking for in my design. I also chose Portugal Footwear because they are very supportive in helping young, aspiring footwear designers make their way into the industry.
How was your experience in the development of your shoe?
These past 8 months of designing, developing, and manufacturing my footwear design has taught me so much. Not only did I get to see my design go from a render to reality, but I learned a lot along the way, while also being a full-time college student. Throughout this process I have taken on several design roles including footwear design, brand design, and graphic design. Being able to take on this entire process by myself has really allowed me to take full control, understand the requirements, and truly appreciate the process. I am grateful for the experiences and opportunities that I have had over these past 8 months. I have been able to learn the ins and outs of the entire footwear design, development, and marketing process.
Was the distance a problem when developing shoes across the Atlantic?
Long distance can always be challenging. There will always be difficulties, whether it's the change in timezone, the change in currency, the lack of communication, or just not physically being there to be a part of the process. But, with a great team and the right amount of dedication anything can be done. Developing shoes outside of the U.S. was definitely a big step forward for me.
Your brand is Bacara. And this style is Blade. Tell us a bit more about that.
Bacara is a lifestyle footwear brand that is all about aesthetics. We step out with style. Our brand is passionate about designing creative lifestyle silhouettes that allow people to express their style in a new way and disrupt the norm. We focus on quality craftsmanship, innovative silhouettes, and exaggerated style.
Bacara’s aesthetics are to make a statement. Style that speaks for itself. We want the footwear culture to recognize our products by its disruptive and innovative style, not by a big logo.
The Blade is my first lifestyle shoe. You’ve never seen a shoe like this before, I consider it the new-age loafer. The Blade was actually inspired by a 3M respirator painting mask, which was the first piece of equipment that I purchased when I first started “CarsonCustomKicks” back in high school. Constantly wearing the mask while painting, I noticed the unique construction of the mask and its interesting aesthetic. The unique strap system on the mask is what inspired the innovative lacing system that became the hero of my Bacara Blade footwear design.
What can we expect of Joe Carson and Bacara in the future?
At Bacara, we are building a creative and refined aesthetic. Our brand is working to become a well known competitor in the lifestyle footwear market. As for me, I am constantly pushing myself to the next level. I am eager to learn all that I can, so that I can be the best designer I can be. I can’t predict the future, but I can tell you that this is just the beginning.
When and where can people cop a pair of your “Blades”?
My first lifestyle shoe, the Bacara Blade, will be available to Pre-Order on April 21st at for $175
This is the first time that the Bacara Blade will be available to the public. This release will be limited to only 500 pairs total and you must pre-order to secure your pair. The Blade is available in two different colorways, the “Shark” and the “Shadow”.