A small stroke of genius

Norwegian illustrator Esra Røise has designed two special pairs of Supergas for the Scandinavian market. Their next collaboration will be launched worldwide.

She used to dream of a pair of white sneakers when she was little. Preferably from Keds, like the ones she’d seen in the women’s magazine available in her hometown. It wasn’t the most practical footwear for a girl growing up in the countryside outside of Oslo, but Esra Røises had developed a love of fashion even then.

– When I finally got hold of a pair, they weren’t Keds, but a couple of cheap tennis shoes we bought on holiday in Turkey, where my dad is from. We were five siblings so we couldn’t all have Levis and Supergas.

Today she’s wearing snakeskin boots, jeans and a blue blazer when we meet in a bar at Tøyen, the Oslo neighborhood where she lives. And then there are all those tiny little details that make Esra become Esra: A star-shaped tattoo. Four different kinds of earrings. Small and large rings on her fingers. It could just as well have been a baseball cap, a fur jacket and sneakers. The white shoes she owned as a girl she wore to pieces. Now she has designed two pairs of shoes for the Italian shoe manufacturer Superga, founded in 1911.

– One of the things I like about the brand is that is has such a long history with lots of old shoe models that still look really cool. They’ve also collaborated with many different people in the past, so I knew that they had a lot of experience with this. I felt confidence that they would look after my design and present it in the best possible way.

One of the two designs Esra Røise has made for Superga’s shoe model 2750. Photo: Julie Pike.

The idea came from Blender Agency, who represents Superga in Scandinavia and suggested Esra Røise as a design partner for the Scandinavian market. Although she has previously made patterns for clothing for the Norwegian designer Veronica B. Vallenes, this is the first time she’s worked with shoes.

– It’s very different. But I chose to start with what works on paper and then Supergas design team transferred it to the three dimensional shoe. They gave me no restrictions, so I could work freely without having to worry about practical things such as where the seams would go.

Sketches from the designs Esra Røise made for Superga. The fact that she often shares her unfinished work on Instagram has gained her a lot of followers.

The designs she made for Superga is the result of two lifelong interests: Skateboarding and botanical gardens. Before she became a full time illustrator Esra Røise worked in a skateshop in Oslo and drew as a hobby. She took those references with her when she earned a Bachelor in visual communication at the Academy of Arts in Oslo and her career began to take off with assignments for major international clients such as Vogue, Stella McCartney, Wallpaper and Nike. She also knew that she wanted to make a botanical pattern for the shoes.

– I’ve grown up close to the forest, and when I travel I’m incredibly fond of visiting botanical gardens. I think it’s so inspiring to see what nature can came up with all on it’s own. It looks almost artificial, with all the intricate patterns, colors and random compositions.

Esra Røise in one of the greenhouses at the Botanical Gardens in Oslo, close to the apartment where she lives and works. Photo: Julie Pike.

The two shoe designs she has created for Superga has been so well received that the collaboration will continue. At the moment, Esra is working on new designs for the shoe manufacturer, which will probably be put into production in 2017. This time the launch will be worldwide.

– I said yes right away because the current collaboration has been overwhelmingly positive. Especially since they’ve given me complete freedom to do what I want. It’s almost a little scary, but also a lot of fun.

– Now you’ve worked with both clothes and shoes, what comes next?

– Right now I’m very fond of destroying my work, she says with a laugh.

– After I casually spilled a little acrylic paint on a sketch I’ve played around with that some more. I like leaving things to chance. I also like the unpolished and imperfect. I would love to try my hand at painting pottery and making installations, though I’m not really sure what I’d do with it. I’ve also taken up embroidery.

– Embroidery?

– Yes, but I just make corny stuff. It’s very bad embroidery. That’s what happens when you’re finally able to turn your hobby into your job. You have to find a new hobby.

2750 x Esra Røise for Superga is sold at YME Universe and Lille Vinkel Sko. Main photo: Julie Pike. 

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