In recognition of Black History and fashion week in New York City, we the Qweens wanted to bring to the forefront a face of African American descent who is making big moves behind the scenes in the fashion industry. We present to you Max Juste a shoe designer for Etonic‘s Design and Development department. He has been in the shoe game for awhile and we are so happy to present this talented gentleman….
“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.”
— Marilyn Monroe
Who is Max Juste?
MJ- At this point, Max Juste is a man who is focused on solving problems with attractive solutions.
What does Max Juste do?
MJ- Right now I’m passionately designing and developing footwear with some iconic Brands in New York City. The main one being Etonic.
What attracted you to the fashion industry or should I say what attracted you to be a designer?
MJ- Fashion is interesting to me because of the messages that could be conveyed just through your clothing. Almost like an Artist using color, materials and accessories to express a statement or idea . Growing up in Queens during the 90’s, I remember being a part of the culture. With hip hop and Brands like Fubu & Esco, I’d constantly find myself on the Ave grabbing the perfect pieces to hook up with whatever kicks I was sporting at the time. The biggest thing was that I loved to learn from everyone and everything . I never went a day without asking questions, sketching, reading or writing. Ironically my friends & family would say I’ve always been a designer, now I do it for a living and I love it.
Have there been obstacles that have prevented you from being great? How did you overcome them?
MJ- At first I had to do my research and find out how people did this for a living. I learned that the footwear design industry was more than just drawing shoes it was about solving problems. I soon realized that my passion for Art & Science worked well with a degree in industrial design. I took Drafting, CAD & AP classes in high school and attended the Art Institute soon after. The biggest obstacle there was learning the design process & figuring out how to reincorporate that into footwear.
After all that I still had to get my foot in the right door. This was a little trickier. Up until this time I didn’t have a mentor that designed footwear before. I had great teachers, but none of them made shoes as a profession. A couple of years later I found an old school shoe maker that allowed me to serve as an apprentice to him. So when I wasn’t working my 9-5 I’d be at the shop learning, listening, and practicing the art of shoe making. After about year and half, I mustered up the courage to visit Oregon. While there I visited many companies large and small, including Nike, Adidas & Skora Running. One day in Portland I happened upon D’wayne Edward’s who was conducting a class at the Pensole Footwear Academy. I thought that this was it! After a great conversation and a review of my sketches & samples, D’wayne invited me to take a course with him and other talented designers at M.I.T.
A few trips later I returned to New York City to revamp my portfolio and prep for my next move. I contacted many senior designers & developers and mapped out different companies that I thought would be a good fit. I was ready. A few moves later just as I was about to head to Maryland, one of my classmates from Pensole, Ari Esco & His dad spotted me in Penn Station and shared the opportunity I was looking for! I started out at Snkrbst, writing content and working trade shows. Next up was interning at Etonic and after months of long nights, hard work and dedication It all paid off and I have been designing & developing footwear with them ever since. I’m sure I could have done things differently, but whatever obstacles I encountered were just stepping stones that got me closer to my goals. Every “NO” got got me closer to the “Yes” I was looking for. It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely worth it.
Recently we have seen many of your posts (Instagram) about new designs and innovation are they specifically from you or from whom you work with?
The majority of the footwear that I post are designs & colorways that I’ve worked on directly or collaboratively with the team.
When you were in school what did you want to be, or are you who you hoped to be since then?
Back in school I just wanted to be myself and be great at whatever I did in life. Whether it was design, sports or acting, I made a conscious decision to do my best, keep learning and keep getting better. I still have a ways to go, but I’m happy with who I have become.
What goals do you have set for yourself before 2015 is done?
2015 is starting off very prosperous. My focus for the rest of the year is to keep growing with Etonic, learning from my mentors And collaborating with more talented fashion creatives!