Sneakers adorned with artist’s work to help fund education

A week before he graduated from Canyon Springs High School, Cristian Lopez found out he was the winner in a design competition that combined art, science, commerce and charity. The result is The Lopez, a shoe that is helping fund education for the future.

“My teacher, Ryon Tanara, told me about the contest,” Lopez said. “He said we were going to design the art for a shoe, but it had to relate to math or science.”

For inspiration, Lopez looked to the Fibonacci sequence, in which each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two. The sequence describes a spiral, and many natural patterns can be described by it, including nautilus shells and flowers. Because of this, Lopez chose a floral motif erupting from a Fibonacci spiral.

“From a design perspective, it can be scaled up or down and still holds the same visual weight and draws the eye,” said Jay Legaspi, brand director for UT Lab, the shoe company that sponsored the competition. “We’re really happy with what Criss came up with, and we want him to know there are people out here who believe he can dream as big as he wants, and there are people out here who will support those dreams and help him achieve them.”

UT Lab, short for Unbelievable Testing Laboratory, created the contest as part of a campaign to raise money for the charity Teach for America-Las Vegas, a nonprofit that aims to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting high-achieving recent college graduates and professionals to teach. The company is incorporated in Las Vegas, but its principles work out of whatever location they are at and communicate with one another via email and other electronic means.

“We love science, and we wanted to show people all the cool places a career in science could take you,” Legaspi said. “People just think about labs, but we ended up creating a shoe company, and Criss is furthering his art through science.”

The shoes are made of Tyvek, a material most commonly seen in untearable envelopes. They are thin and light. The paper-like plastic takes printing well, so a decorative design was a no-brainer for the company.

Lopez graduated from high school in June and is attending the College of Southern Nevada. He got to see and wear the shoes this summer at Agenda, a lifestyle fashion trade show that takes place annually in multiple cities, including Las Vegas.

“They had my shoes up on a big display,” Lopez said. “It was exciting to watch people stop and look at them. People really seemed interested in them. Some people from Zappos saw them, and they asked me to create a mural in their office.”

Lopez has been interested in art and drawing all his life, but he kicked his study into high gear during his sophomore year at Canyon Springs High School, when he began drawing nearly every day. He is inspired by tattoo art, and much of his work is in inks and features elaborate stippling, a technique that involves creating subtle tone with hundreds of tiny dots.

The company looked at art from hundreds of students, most of them in Las Vegas, and narrowed the selection down to the 12 best. Then it went to social media to help make the final selection. The company continued using social media when it came to funding the manufacturing of the shoes, such as by creating an Indiegogo campaign.

The company’s fundraising goal is $15,000, and the campaign has raised about $11,000. The deadline is Jan. 28. To donate, visit tinyurl.com/nsz52ag.

“I’ve gotten a lot of recognition for my work, and all of the proceeds go to Teach for America,” Lopez said. “It’s a good cause, and I’m happy with that.”

The shoes can be ordered in an assortment of colors at tinyurl.com/thelopez.

Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at ataylor@viewnews.com or 702-380-4532.

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