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Designing the DNVR

4 min read

Designing the DNVR

Designing the DNVR Work Boot...

When we set out to design the DNVR, we wanted to create a work boot that would become the foundation of QLTY.  A boot that future models could be built upon, a boot that had a chance to become an instant classic and stay in production for years. 

My name is Andrew, I am the Co-Founder @ QLTY, a former Nike Design Director and blessed to live in beautiful Denver, Colorado.  Throughout my career I have had the honor to design footwear for some of the best athletes in the world.  Seeing an opportunity, I now wanted to take my skills and focus them on the blue-collar worker.

When creating a new product there are always challenges.  We were not looking to reinvent the work boot but to craft the best possible boot on the market, for the price.  By combining old school techniques, premium leathers and QLTY craftsmanship, we believed that we could design and build a boot that would meet and exceed the day-to-day challenges of the men and women in the trades.

Before we started designing, there were a few things we needed to figure out... the largest one was our supply chain.  Deciding where to manufacture has a large impact on the final product. We knew early on that we did not want to follow in our competitor’s footsteps and build QLTY’s boots in China and Indonesia.  Instead, we set out to partner with our neighbors to the south and were introduced to a Leon, Mexico based third-generation boot manufacturer, known for their skilled artisans and craftsmanship in the work boot market. We were committed to crafting the best products for our consumers, not the cost-to-build.

 

Work boot footwear design sketches

Early design sketches of the DNVR, in the beginning we were calling the brand QRRY.

 

When creating anything new there is always a learning /discovery process that any designer needs to work through. It starts with defining your objective, sitting down with your consumer and learning about their needs.  We look to gather information about their job, the tools they use and their likes - dislikes about the products they need for success.  In my early days as a designer, I learned that successful products came from understanding a problem that needed to be solved and having a strong understanding of how the product was to be used.  When your consumer is on their feet for 10+ hours a day and working in hazardous environments, several problems begin to rise to the top. 

Comfort, Fit, Durability, Traction and Safety.

The DNVR’s foundation is built on comfort.  We spent months working with a local craftsman to refine and test a boot shape that we felt comfortable building our products from.  At this same time, we were beginning to sketch out ideas of what we wanted the DNVR to look like.  We had this vision of “Timeless Utility”:  Simplify the design, borrow from the past and combine a modern approach to its construction.  These are not small goals as there is always a lot riding on getting it right.

 

Footwear development samples

Wear testing development samples.

 

By working closely with our manufacturer, we were able to get a strong understanding of their boot making skills.  These tools/skills combined with what we learned from our consumers began to lay the foundation of the DNVR: A 6” Moc Toe, unlined leather work boot constructed with a leather Goodyear welt and resolable wedge bottom. With the DNVR being the foundation of future models, it was important that we build a boot that could easily be translated into other designs.  

As we went through the design process, there were many early boot designs, but one stood out.  A modern take on a classic design with lateral support, quarter branding, attention to detail and a play on materials.  We had a seed and the DNVR was beginning to take on a life of its own.

After several revisions to the design, the DNVR was finalized and we turned our attention to fit, materials and construction.  Working with local tanneries, hardware and material vendors, we were able to develop and assemble a package of components that would bring us closer to the final product.

 

Boots cut in half

The DNVR cut in half showing the internal construction.

 

Early samples were rough, but they gave us the opportunity to wear test with several of our friends in the trades.  As you might expect, there was some modifications that needed to be made but early feedback was good!

Design is a process and sometimes it feels like it takes forever, especially when you are a young brand.  But over the course of the next 6 months, we were able fine-tune the fit, the construction and continued to wear test until we got it right. 

I always get asked, “Are you happy with how the DNVR turned out?”  Being a designer, you are always looking at your work and finding areas that might need improvement.  For the DNVR, it's about the acceptance from the consumer and how it performs on the job site.  Based on the feedback we have received so far on the DNVR…we are on to something.

 

Used work boots on tractorThe DNVR in its elements, on the job site.