Chris Bangle was a visionary in many ways. From the rejuvenation of the BMW brand — which saw a whole new range vehicles developed under his tenure — to the evolution of the Rolls-Royce and Mini brands, Bangle also had a hand in overseeing the company’s Designworks design subsidiary, BMW Motorrad (the company’s line of motorcycles), and was involved in the initial stages of the development of BMW’s i sub-brand.
But perhaps the crowning achievement in the eyes of design was the BMW GINA Light Visionary concept unveiled in 2008, which featured a seamless, flexible, fabric outer shell stretched over a movable substructure and questioned the entire philosophy of car design. Now, more than eight years after it was first revealed, the concept has provided inspiration for a creative collaboration between BMW Group’s Designworks and the Puma footwear brand.
The result is the BMW X-CAT DISC, a lightweight shoe whose adaptability and performance was directly influenced by the GINA concept’s flexible, ergonomic and lightweight material use.
“The approach was to look at every aspect of making a shoe and to try and reimagine it. Freeing yourself of what is here now can be an enjoyable and rewarding exercise. Typically, it also speeds up change,” says Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President BMW Group Design.
Using only one thin layer of stretchable and super-light GINA material, the shoe wraps around the foot like a second skin. Instead of using laces, this system works with a rotating disc that pulls internal wires to close and open the shoe. Since a new material not only allows new shapes but also enables a different way of thinking about movement, Designworks embarked on a new approach to motion.
“With the X-CAT project, we wanted to unleash the innovative power of BMW and Puma. We have transformed the essence of the shape-shifting GINA car into a streamlined and elegant shoe,” says Torsten Hochstetter, Global Creative Director at Puma.
In the spirit of GINA, the designers treated the foot as a kind of chassis in itself. They re-engineered the original automotive material to ensure it was breathable and sufficiently durable to meet the needs of a shoe that wraps around the foot in a single piece. Uniting beauty and performance, they created a light shoe with a very simple design gesture.
Automotive design thinking is immediately evident in the proportions that make the material shine – and in the simplicity that prevents it from competing with too many other design features. Fine, laser-cut perforations flow across the front of the X-CAT, underlining the impression of motion while adding ventilation.
Another design cue taken from the original GINA concept is the functional aesthetic of revealing the underlying structure when tightening the shoe. The designers also re-thought the concept for the sole and the Puma DISC, applying BMW engineering approaches to add greater precision. They viewed the sole as the engine of the foot, the driver of movement. This produced a unique design which was inspired by interconnecting gears and integrates both engineered flexibility and interlinked stability.
The X-CAT DISC is currently available in selected Puma stores across the world.
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