Alphonzo Rawls shoe designs are similar to his skateboarding – stylish, multifaceted and ready for all terrain. He’s created standout original models for a series of top skate shoe companies for decades but has now molded the experience he gained into his brand Savalé.
Alongside solid footwear design he’s consistently produced eye-catching graphics on collections of shirts and decks for Everybody Skates, his clothing company that uses satire to celebrate skate culture and pop iconography. Most recently Alf’s fashion outlet has gained even more widespread attention when a t-shirt design he constructed to celebrate black skateboarders became a social media phenomenon.
So with all this in hand we had to catch up with him to have a chat and uncover the stories behind his time in shoe and clothing design.
We had a great conversation about how his career as a skate shoe designer kicked off, starting Savalé, the meaning behind the brand’s name, its ethos, his creative process, Everybody Skates, the Thank You tee, his new projects and his favourite spots, skaters and styles.
Read the Alphonzo Rawls Geared Up interview below to find it all out for yourself
Were you designing all kinds of shoes back then or just skate shoes?
Mainly skate shoes at this point.
Alphonzo, Boardslide for his Signature Kastel Shoe Advert: Shot by J Grant Brittain
What is the most memorable shoe you designed in the early stages of your career?
My first signature shoe because it was the first skate shoe with an airbag and served as that launchpad for my footwear design career.
Alphonzo, Frontside Invert for Kastel
Why did you decide to start Savalé Footwear?
Every footwear designer has fantasised about creating their own brand unrestricted by preconceived direction so when I was afforded the opportunity to apply my creative direction to my brand I couldn’t resist.
Savalé Cavell in Light Blue Colouway
So what does the name Savalé mean?
Savalé derives from the word “sabali” which means ‘patience’ in Bambara – the language spoken in Mali.
I first heard the term used in a Nas and Damian Marley record called Patience.
Savale Middleton in Yellow Fullgrain Leather Colourway
Rather than a logo you use your signature Brick Label Icon. Why?
I wanted a distinctive symbol to represent Savalé that was void of any wording….something that was identifiable from a distance for those who “know” but also something that made you question what that was if you didn’t know.
Where are Savalé currently being produced?
We manufacture our shoes in Xiamen. We have a sample room at our factory that works exclusively on Savalé production.
Producing in our sample room as opposed to a general production line gives our product more focus and attention.
Savalé is limited.Why have you chosen to go in this direction?
I wanted to create something special and not just another mass produced disposable product.
I found when most luxury footwear brands offer limited product, production runs generally exceed thousands of pairs and is usually relegated to a few models.
Savalé offers a range of styles and none of our shoes will ever exceed 999 pairs.I want our consumers to take pride in knowing that their shoes are truly limited with most of our production runs between 200 – 300 pairs per colourway.
Savale Harmann’s in Tan Pig Suede Colourway
What’s your process behind designing new models?
My process for designing Savalé Footwear is to identify any gaps in our collection and do research for inspiration that will bring something new and exciting to that category -or- establish a whole new direction that combines multiple categories, like a dress shoe upper with a cross trainer sole that I’ve been working on.