By Devon Preston
Photos by John Chen
Manifestation is exceptionally powerful. It may seem like total malarkey if you don’t believe in it, but even hardened skeptics must admit there’s something to be said about putting your intentions into the universe. Daniel Bailey, known to the fashion industry as Mr. Bailey, manifested his success in streetwear when he got his first tattoo at the age of 15.
“When I was playing basketball in school, I remember another basketball player who had his last name tattooed on his arm with little stars around it,” Bailey says. “I thought it was the coolest thing ever and got it. I didn’t tell my parents beforehand and when I went home I was like, ‘I got a tattoo.’ They thought it was a joke, but afterwards they were totally fine with it, to be honest. Then over the years, getting tattooed just became addicting.”
He didn’t know it at the time, but that first tattoo placed Bailey on a path to becoming a global brand. These days, he is positioned at the cross section of fashion and product design. This was initially set into motion through his parents, who introduced him to both disciplines at an early age. “On my mom’s side, we’re very artsy, and my dad’s side is into engineering—so that combination was perfect,” he says. “Footwear really got me into product design. When my father left the army and we settled down in England, I became massively fascinated with basketball. So this streetwear culture I was exposed to when I was younger, along with my family’s art background and my family’s engineering background, culminated in studying product design in college. Footwear is just as much of a functional object as it is a style object, so it was a natural progression in my career.”
It’s customary for footwear designers to start their careers working for established brands such as Nike, adidas or Puma. After meeting with a friend in New York, Bailey was instead inspired to approach his work as a solo venture, leading to the creation of the revolutionary footwear innovation platform CONCEPTKICKS.
From its inception CONCEPTKICKS has been a disruptive force. During his introduction to footwear design, Bailey studied shoe renderings from his mentor, design entrepreneur Omar Bailey. This sparked something in Daniel, as he couldn’t believe this wasn’t readily available to the masses. “I felt like this world was shrouded in mystery and brands wanted it to be that way,” he recalls. “I just thought it would be amazing to have a platform where designers could have a place to share their designs and the work that’s gone into it with a collective. I have this passion for it and if I can create a platform for people to get their work seen, I get inspired too. It’s all about embracing and sharing, which as a community makes the industry better.”
Through CONCEPTKICKS, Bailey has been able to expound on the dichotomy between fashion and function through the lens of majority mens footwear. The womens’ footwear industry has long played with this relationship with designers like Alexander McQueen creating some fantastically artistic creations that are somehow still wearable. This approach was rarely brought into the sneaker world prior to CONCEPTKICKS.
“When I’m designing, I’m always thinking about how I can create a product that makes everyone take a step back and wonder how it was executed,” Bailey says. “It’s a constant question of challenging what I know and what I don’t know. I’ve found this appreciation for being able to create something that looks very conceptual and progressive, but is always a thousand percent wearable. The limitations of the ergonomics of the foot allow me to be way more creative.”
CONCEPTKICKS was just the start of Bailey pushing the creative limits. He’s expanded into collaborating with other brands such as adidas and Zegna under the name Mr. Bailey. After making waves with 2021’s adidas Ammonite Superstar, he’s working with the brand again. “This shoe looks to the natural world,” Bailey explains. “With adidas, the element we are focusing on is water. I wanted to blend fantasy with reality by creating a shoe that looks like a jellyfish attached to the foot of an underwater person. The shoe would grow and engulf the foot in this amalgamation of jellyfish and the brand’s cushioning compound, adiPlus. I also thought it would be really interesting to create an anime of the process and showcase the first stage of the jellyfish attaching to the foot, creating the OZLUCENT.”
Mr. Bailey and adidas’s OZLUCENT is expected to drop in September. It’s one of many projects Bailey is currently juggling, as he has plans for more shoes to drop with adidas, as well as more collaborations with other brands coming down the pipeline. Most of all, he’s gearing up to debut the Mr. Bailey brand, which he’s kept almost entirely under wraps. Do we know when that will drop? Nope. Will it be incredible? Abso-fucking-lutely.