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ANTA Design Director Duane Lawrence On Sneaker Upbringings and Working With NBA Stars

ANTA Duane Lawrence
James Francisco

Sneaker design is an art and a gift in itself, and while several of us have spent a portion of our youth (or even our adulthood) dabbling in mock-ups of colorways we’d hope to see on customization websites, only a handful of individuals are recognized, adored, and allowed to place their craftsmanship in a pair from scratch.

Delivering the newest ANTA signature basketball silhouettes, Duane Lawrence’s resume extends greatly beyond what populates the shelves. The Chinese brand’s Design Director has connected with Converse, Li-Ning, and Adidas, before docking at Captain Klay’s (Thompson) harbor and working with former NBA All-Star, Gordon Hayward. Following Thompson’s appearance at ANTA’s Shock The Game in August of 2023, the producer-designer paid a visit to Manila and experienced the fan-crazed basketball culture firsthand.

Complex Philippines briefly met up with Lawrence to talk about his influence on ANTA, the sneakers that started the journey, and his ventures into designing and music that reflect his unparalleled artistry.

Instagram: @duanealawrence

How did you get started in the sneaker-designing industry?

I wanted to design shoes maybe since I was like 13 or 14 (years old). I was always drawing—the kid in class that was drawing, that was me. I went to a design high school, and one of my classmates there was drawing a sneaker and I was like: “Hold on, you can draw sneakers?” So I drew a sneaker and that was it. I realized what I wanted to do.

Do you have any favorite pairs growing up?

The Gary Payton Glove was one of my favorite shoes growing up. Definitely because of how simple and clean it was and I convinced my parents to get it for me, so I didn’t bother them for much else but these.

Given that you’re a designer who also dabbles in music, does the creative process in a way overlap between the arts? Do you have a similar approach to both?

That’s a really good question, and I haven’t thought about it that way. But yeah, it probably is because creating music sometimes starts with the music, while other times start with the message and I’ll find the music later. 

I think that happens the same way with my sketches—sometimes I’d start by pushing out a certain material and I’ve got to build a house around that or sometimes I’ve got a message in my head and I’ve got to figure out the best way to communicate it. So yeah, that’s a pretty cool analogy to draw and I’ve never heard that question before.

Instagram: @duanealawrence, @champagneduane

Apart from your shoes with ANTA, do you have any favorites that you’ve constructed over the years?

So I started with a Nike internship, then worked at Converse, then Li-Ning, Adidas, and now ANTA. I took a break to do some contract work and to work with some start-ups to see what that’s like and then came back to major brands like ANTA. But in terms of my previous works, definitely the (Converse) Wade 1. That’s what kind of set (my career) off. People would tag me in a picture of it or something like that or if I see it online and I read the comments, it still feels good to read it knowing how many people had these.

Are there any plans to have a Klay Thompson Philippine-inspired colorway?

I can’t say that *laughs*.

Is it an entirely different process when it comes to designing for Klay Thompson and Gordon Hayward?

It’s not that different. It all comes down to paying attention to the guy—his style of play, listening to what he says he wants in terms of fit, control, the product, and how he wants to feel when he’s playing. 

Take Gordon (Hayward) for example. He’s big on being able to cut given he’s a slasher, so traction is super important to him. We positioned Klay on the other hand as more of a stability guy, given most of his offense comes from the catch-and-shoot. Not that he can’t do other things, but that’s the majority of his stuff. We try to make the shoes balanced, so the only differences are the style of play and the features that we need to deliver because of that. The approach though is the same, which is like: “This is the athlete, pick off a cool-unique story that they can relate to that makes it theirs, and then explore every option.”

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