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Style / August 2020
Danielle Rines, Reebok Editorial

Reebok’s First Kickstarter Shoe Could Help Save The Bees

The First Pitch platform puts you in charge of whether a shoe gets created or not. Find out why the first shoe is focused on the importance of bees and how they help us every day.

You’re in your backyard and you hear it, the infamous buzzing sound by your ear. A glimpse of bright yellow and black zips past you and then, panic sets in. The fear of honey bees is very real. But honeybees get a bad rap: most people don’t know the many crucial benefits that honeybees bring to the world. That’s why non-profit conservation organizations like HoneyLove are on a mission to protect honeybees by educating people and inspiring new urban beekeepers. “They need a voice and HoneyLove is just that,” says Paul Hekimian, Director of HoneyLove. “Honeybees pollinate one-third of what we eat, so if they die, we die. It’s that simple. Last year, the Earthwatch Institute concluded that bees were the most important living beings on this planet.” 
Hekimian is a second-generation beekeeper who grew up with 60 hives on his family property. After rescuing some bees in his backyard with HoneyLove, he decided to become an urban beekeeper and  share his passion with others. “Now, I help protect the bees in my local area. We co-exist with honeybees already. HoneyLove just brings awareness to the fact that they are safe to be around, and you shouldn’t kill them. I spend 95% of my time educating those that think bees are dangerous.” Surprisingly, honeybees are not aggressive by nature and are unlikely to sting. Only 0.4% of Americans report an allergy to insect stings and almost none of them are caused by honeybees.
Bees pollinate 80% of the world’s plants , including 90 different food crops. Bees are also responsible for $15 billion in U.S. agricultural crops each year. Bees are contributing to our lives in ways people don’t even realize, which is why awareness around how they provide for us is so important. Reebok’s new Kickstarter program, First Pitch, is helping to tackle this issue and assist HoneyLove’s mission. First Pitch is Reebok’s new waste-minimizing digital platform that puts you in charge to create shoes for underserved communities. Reebok is leaving it up to the consumer to decide if they should make a shoe or scrap it. How does it work? Check it out.
First Pitch
  • A proposed sneaker idea is released to the public and a commitment window opens 
  • Act fast! Depending on the sneaker, the commitment window will remain open anywhere from 72 hours to 30 days.
  • You decide if you want the shoe made or not
  • First buyer gets it for $1, second for $2 etc., until it hits retail price
  • If the shoe gets made, it will ship approximately nine weeks after.
  • Goal: Sell 500 pairs. If not, the shoe is out, and Reebok starts over with a new idea
The “Bee Keeper” shoe is the first sneaker of many to be pitched, and Reebok wants to know what you think. To further sweeten the deal, if the 500 pair threshold is met, Reebok will donate $5,000 to HoneyLove. The project is all in the name of a good cause, and you can help fund it starting August 10th. The design of the “Bee Keeper” shoe started around the idea of preserving the environment. “I was really drawn to the topic of bees because they are so important – one in three bites of food we eat is thanks to bees,” says Emily Gibbemeyer, Color and Concept Designer at Reebok, who worked on the project. “Creating a shoe that speaks to the importance of bees was really exciting to me. As things in the world seem more uncertain and tumultuous, it’s important to focus on the things we can affect.” 
Honeybees have seen a 60% decline since 1947 , from 6 million to 2.4 million hives in 2008. About 90% of the world’s nutrition are actually pollinated by honeybees. Healthier bees mean improved crop yields, improved food production and ecological health. But humans, whether by chemical pollution or habitat destruction, are mostly responsible for bees dying. HoneyLove works to find the proper placement for bees so they can remain safe and beneficial to the community. “HoneyLove only deals specifically with feral hives,” says Hekimian. “We take wild honeybees and foster them just as you would a stray dog or cat. They need a home and so do honeybees. The other type of beekeeping is commercial for pollinating our fruits and vegetables. These bees are trucked around the country to farms that need pollination. These are the bees that are declining due to Colony Collapse Disorder,” he says. Gibbemeyer says the shoe Reebok (hopefully) creates will make a difference. “I hope that the people who buy this shoe will wear it and be reminded of the impact they can make.” In order to truly make an impact, the shoe that the team designed had to be unique and peak different peoples’ interests to eventually push it into production.
Gibbemeyer says the final concept for the shoe was inspired by beekeeper gear and honeybee boxes. “There were plenty of textural and graphic elements to be inspired by – from the flow of the amber honey and the texture of pollen, to the natural forms of hives and, of course, the bees themselves,” she says. Beyond bringing awareness, the design of the shoe was also meant to showcase the magnificence of bees. “The vibe we are trying to capture is the beauty and importance of this creature first,” says Alex Chou, Graphic Designer, High Performance Sport Apparel at Reebok, who also worked on the project. For a deep dive into the details, Chou broke down the features below. 
  • Starting from the bottom of the shoe, we chose a translucent gum and hand drawn hex-hive pattern printed on the EVA foam; like walking on honeycombs and honey. 
  • Next, we have the upper where we used materials like Terry, representing the fuzzy pollen collecting hairs on the bee’s legs. We also used suede texture representing finer textures on the bee’s body. 
  • The gelled heel cap represents the gloves used by beekeepers. The subtle swirling pattern printed on the canvas is the deep rich honey, using colors Emily has carefully chosen. 
  • The shoe’s tongue has a hand drawn honeybee woven label with the message "Save The Bees". 
As if that wasn’t enough, the team wanted to make sure that the mission behind the project was clear, so they put it directly on the shoe in writing. “A message on the back gives a brief rundown of our connection with the bee,” explained Chou. He says it tied the entire concept together. “Again, we see the honeycomb design paired with the swirling honey in the sock liner with the bee illustration, accompanied by a message ‘Save the Bees.’” Hekimian says the attention to detail by the Reebok team meant a lot to HoneyLove and their mission. “It’s not every day a major shoe retailer takes on such a great cause like ‘Saving the Bees,’ so kudos to Reebok for being the first. What I like about the design is that it has elements of bees all over the shoes from the colors down to the hexagon shapes on the soles.  Every little detail was thought of with this shoe.” 
For Chou, the hope is that all the effort they put into this one-of-a-kind shoe will pay off and that the story behind the design details is just an added bonus. “I hope the reaction is that people think it’s a cool-looking shoe before they know the full story.” Gibbemeyer agrees. “We focused on creating a shoe that was inspired by the perfect design and beauty of bees, but the subtle added elements are where the wearer will find the story and the reason behind this shoe,” she says. She believes that Reebok’s First Pitch idea is the start of a whole new way of designing and thinking for the footwear industry. “I loved the idea of First Pitch. Letting people vote on their favorite shoe and then producing, based on the demand, is a new way to incorporate more sustainable practices.” For the last few years, creating more sustainable practices and products has been a big mission for Reebok and First Pitch is another small yet meaningful step in making that mission a reality. The program’s goal of eliminating excess waste and materials is an innovative way of creating and marketing potential products.
As National Honeybee Day rolls around on August 15th, Hekimian says the Bee Keeper shoe is part of how HoneyLove is hoping to celebrate. “Partnering with Reebok to launch this new shoe is just another way we are bringing awareness on National Honeybee Day.” If you want to join the mission to save the bees or find out what other pitches are coming up, keep an eye out on Reebok’s First Pitch page so you can make a difference and hopefully have cool kicks to prove it.   
Style / August 2020
Danielle Rines, Reebok Editorial