A contest designed by two University alums who made it big in
the footwear business is giving the winner, a University student,
the chance to see one of his designs go from the drawing board to
store shelves.

Mira Levitan
Art Senior Mykal Richey won a shoe design competition organized on yesterday by alumni brothers Shane and Shawn Ward, founders of Detney shoes. (DAVID TUMAN/ Daily)

Last night, addressing a group of about 20 anxious students in
his class, Art and Design Prof. Chiwei Lee announced the winner of
a design contest for the most stylish, yet comfortable shoe.

Mykal Richey, the winner of the contest, designed a futuristic
shoe he described as a fusion of comfort and style. Richey said he
found inspiration in nature for his design. “I was inspired
by carnivorus plants — beautiful, enticing,
deadly.”

The design project, originating early this year, has inspired a
new drive in Lee’s students.

“It was exhausting, but in a good way. This was a good
opportunity for (University) students because we don’t get to
compete in the real world very often,” said Richey, an LSA
and Art and Design senior concentrating in Industrial Design.

Judged by entrepreneurs Shane and Shawn Ward, who graduated from
the University in 1996, the competition allowed students an early
opportunity to brush with the world of professional shoe design.
The Ward brothers own and manage a start-up footwear design
company, which launched its first line of products in the fall of
2003.

Although based in New York, the brothers, who were raised in
Detroit, remembered their roots by naming their company DETNY after
Detroit and New York. Shawn, an Engineering alum who runs the
company’s business operations, said he owes a great deal to
his upbringing.

“Coming from a meager background, we had to work for
everything. This created a work ethic. Our passion came from our
mother and grandfather, who were both people of business.” He
added, “Having Michigan on my resume is something I
can’t put a price tag on.”

In that spirit, the brothers hope to give back to the University
by manufacturing the winning shoe design, and by funding an
all-expense paid trip to New York for Richey. The brothers also
gave a lecture today at a separate event at the School of Art and
Design. They addressed different aspects of the design industry,
ranging from what motivated them personally, to advice to students,
to what their long-term goals are.

Shane, who majored in Industrial Design, was greatly affected by
necessity in the designing of the new footwear line.

“It all started at Adidas. I was designing comfortable
shoes (while working for Adidas), but I had to wear the heavy
Kenneth Cole shoes,” said Shane, who is the chief designer at
DETNY.

Shawn said he has big plans for the company.

“Long-term, we want to be the next footwear brand that
people when people think of when they think of shoes. We want to
move past shoes into all aspects of apparel.”

Shane said his only regret is that he did not get into his
present line of work earlier.

Asked what he would do if he could turn back the clock, he said,
“I would start earlier.”

The DETNY executives were impressed with the shoe-designing
savvy of University students. “It’s way better than
what I expected,” Shane said.

The brothers are still looking forward to seeing DETNY shoes
worn by a stranger who just happened to pick them out at a
store.

“I’m still waiting for that random person walking
around wearing DETNY shoes.

I’m going to hug that person,” Shane said.

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