Bulleit’s 3D-Printed Sneakers Show What May Be the Future of Shoemaking

Street artist Kyle Steed and custom fabricator Tangible Creative designed the limited edition shoes

Street artist Kyle Steed posing with a 3D-printed shoe
Bulleit's limited collection of 3D-printed sneakers go on sale Oct. 25. Bulleit

Bulleit is taking its zeal for 3D printing to the sneaker business.

The whiskey brand has unveiled a limited edition pair of 3D-printed shoes as part of an ongoing project to accessorize the 3D-printed cocktail lounge it first created last year. Dallas street artist Kyle Steed and New York custom fabricator Tangible Creative designed the flashy footwear, which will be available to buy through the retail site Sneaker Politics starting Oct. 25 at 9 a.m. ET.

The brand chose to focus on sneakers for this stage of the campaign because of the cultural resonance of the fashion and streetwear category, according to Sophie Kelly, senior vp of North American whiskeys at Bulleit owner Diageo. “The project is about exploring everything around the bar experience, and that includes what people wear to the bar and whatever hot fashion items in popular culture,” she said.

Various shoe companies have begun to experiment with 3D printing part or all of certain products as the technology becomes more accessible, but the notion is still in its earliest stages. Steed, who is primarily a painter, never worked with 3D-printed media of any kind before this campaign, but jumped at the chance to try something new when Bulleit approached him, he said. It did take some time to wrap his mind around the concept, however.

“[At first,] I was almost scratching my head, like, ‘How would you even do that? And how does my work even apply to that?’ But I’m really excited about where we landed,” Steed said. “I’m really excited about the tech and the ground that it’s breaking and pushing forward.”

Steed will also unveil a mural he painted on the brand’s behalf at the kickoff event at Bulleit’s 3D-printed bar in Dallas on Oct. 24, complete with 3D-printed cocktails. All of Bulleit’s more artistic marketing endeavors like these are overseen by the brand’s creative arm, Frontier Works, which has in the past tapped creators for work like a tattoo-inked billboard in Los Angeles and a 3D-printed robot bartender at another 3D-printed bar at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

The shoes took about 200 hours to design and 12 days straight to print, according to the brand. But 3D-printing proponents hope the process becomes less labor- and resource-intensive as the technology improves, making projects like these much more widely accessible to the average person.

“Potentially, 10 years from now, a kid who wants to make a dope pair of sneakers can design them on a computer, print them in a high-resolution way, and then use a laser cutter [to] replicate a project like this,” Tangible Creative co-founder and creative director Eugene Chang said. “We’re not at that point yet, but we’re pushing it and we’re thinking about it.”

@patrickkulp patrick.kulp@adweek.com Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.