One Designer's
Unique Shoe
Idea Edges Out
the Competition

Through her career, two specialties that have always held a strong draw for Jieping Huang have been imagining applications for innovative materials and designing footwear. Courtesy of Chinaplas and BASF, Huang recently got the opportunity to combine these interests in an innovative shoe design — and is now being recognized for her idea’s uniqueness and impact.

2016 marks the 30th anniversary of Chinaplas, Asia’s largest trade show for plastics and rubber. To celebrate that milestone, BASF will be cohosting the “Design x Innovation” showcase, an exhibit that highlights how innovative materials enable new product designs in the areas of mobility, sports and leisure, and building and living.

Jieping Huang, an industrial designer with TEAMS Shanghai, was selected as one of three winners of BASF’s open call for designs that take advantage of evolving plastics technologies. Among entries that were judged on their degree of innovation, possibility of realization, functionality, and impact, Huang won second place honors for her non-slip yoga shoes, fashioned out of thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).

Huang, second from left, accepts "Design x Innovation" award from Manfred Pawlowski, Head of Consumer, Performance Materials Asia Pacific, BASF.

Image: BASF

What inspired you to create an entry for the contest?

HUANG: I was experimenting with BASF's material kit in the TEAMS material lab one day and started to get ideas about incorporating TPU into a footwear design.

Where do you get your expertise about footwear?

It's a passion of mine. It all started during my first internship at New Balance in the United States. It was common that vendors from around the world would stop by with new materials. I started to experiment on my own terms with the different kinds of materials, colors, and looks. Ever since that time, my design focus has been on materials and how they can change the quality of a brand for the better.

Why yoga shoes?

People who practice yoga face a constant struggle with sweaty feet, which make it easy for them to slip on their mat. It's not only dangerous, but it also deters from the practice itself. Even now, yoga is a huge trend in Shanghai. If people don't practice in a class, they are doing it at home by watching videos. As yoga continues to play out as a big trend worldwide, I believe that yogis will look for accessories that offer them more comfort and assurance.

What kind of material is TPU and how does it improve yoga shoes?

TPU is a soft hybrid material that combines hard plastic and soft silicone. I decided to introduce this material into my design because it reduces slip, and, at the same time, the softness molds to the user's foot and follows their movement more intuitively. Also, the abrasion resistance and durability means the shoes will hold up and last through many yoga sessions.

How do you feel after winning the contest?

I’m genuinely excited. Now I'm hoping that my design will be turned into a prototype, and then — finally — be available on the market.

Chinaplas will take place at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre in Shanghai, China from April 25-28. You can visit the “Design x Innovation” showcase and learn more about the winning entries at booth N1 B41.

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