College of Creative Arts Senior and Goldman Prize Winner is Interning at New Balance this Summer

Miranda Woods

Miami University Senior Architecture student and thriving artist Miranda Woods is interning with New Balance in Boston this summer. After she graduates in January, she will begin a year-long apprenticeship on their Major Accounts Team. Ultimately, she would like to be the first female designer for the basketball division at New Balance and develop a unique identity that she can carry over to any major brand. In the summer of 2017, Miranda attended a week-long shoe design workshop at the Pensole Design Academy that changed her life and career plans. She believes the flexibility to focus on shoe design while studying architecture at Miami has enabled her to pursue her passions. We sat down for a chat with Miranda to learn more about her exciting summer and future plans.

What is the most exciting thing about working with a brand like New Balance? Will you be in the same location for your internship and apprenticeship?
It is exciting to think of the opportunities I will be afforded and the things I will learn serving in two different positions at one company. Designing performance wear is very different than lifestyle, and I will get to work on projects for both. Getting to work on the NB Performance Running team this summer should be cool. New Balance has made some of the best running shoes available for competitive and marathon runners in recent years. To get to work on a team with such a strong reputation for creating the very best shoes available in that sport is incredible. Both of my positions are in Boston, MA at New Balance's headquarters. Their HQ is housed between two locations in the greater Boston area, one campus in Brighton and the other in Lawrence, which is nearly an hour outside of the city. For my internship this summer, I have to split my week between both places, three days in Lawrence and 2 in Brighton. When I begin my Apprenticeship in January 2020, I will be working at the Brighton location. 

How did you learn about the Pensole opportunity?
I first heard about Pensole from my brother Malachi; he saw it in an article in Complex. Malachi and I are always trying to put each other on to new opportunities and help each other be the best at our passions. When he read that Pensole students were getting their designs put into production and sold at Foot Locker, he knew he had to send the details my way.

Who has been your biggest inspiration at Miami?
While he is no longer at Miami, Mr. Gerald Yearwood was the Director of the Office of Diversity Affairs (ODA) when I was a freshman. After retiring he stayed in the Oxford area, and we would regularly meet for lunch or on campus somewhere. He is such an essential influence in my life.  He served as an adviser for me for my Goldman Prize project, and he helped me with numerous applications and other work I was doing in school. And to this day he ALWAYS sends me a random text with little relevant and inspirational quotes in them. I would not have gotten through Miami without him by my side.

What would you recommend to other Miami students who want to follow a similar path?
NEVER take no for an answer. If you are incredibly passionate and driven to succeed, I promise your passion and dedication will shine through everything else. There is always a creative way around that "no," find that way, identify your passion, and stick with it through everything. Miami makes it super easy to study abroad or away, so if Oxford doesn't have the resources to help you explore what you're passionate about, find somewhere that does and go there for a semester. "Your only limits are the size of your ideas and the degree of your dedication," as Mr. Yearwood tells me.

What unique opportunities have you taken advantage of at Miami to help you get where you are now?
Between February 2018 and February 2019, I traveled to Los Angeles, Portland, Boston, and Ghana for sneaker related events and research. After I successfully pitched how these trips would support my future career, a majority of them were covered by scholarships or other funding through Miami. L.A. was for NBA All-Star weekend, and I was able to attend launches and workshops hosted by brands there to celebrate Portland and Boston. I was also able to participate in Pensole and get course credit for the classes I took while there. And finally, Ghana (after completing my study abroad) to do shoe construction research as part of my Goldman Prize project. It was super exciting to travel so much, especially during the school year, and I'm glad Miami was very accommodating and supportive of my passions in sneaker design.

Throughout all of these experiences, I got to meet Stephen Curry (he follows me on twitter!), Darius Bazely (New Balance Basketball athlete, NBA draft prospect), and work for Kawhi Leonard. I also got to network and get in front of people who design and/or represent those players. These are all once in a lifetime opportunities that, when presented, I couldn't pass up or embarrass myself. I walked up to Steph Curry and said "you are very passionate and outspoken about how strong and unstoppable women and girls can be when you give them the right tools to succeed, you should have a Black female footwear designer on your design team" and handed him my business card. I ran into Darius at a Chicago airport; we ended up getting on the same flight. I just happened to have the latest New Balance project I was working on in my bag, so I got to show him. He put in a word for me to someone at New Balance. Following your passion is hard work and is all about trying to find ways to stand out and make yourself heard as you create the space you want to see for yourself in your chosen industry. And sometimes that means getting up in front of people and networking everywhere. You never know who can be the directional game changer for you.

What made you want to go into shoe design? Were you a "sneakerhead" before Pensole?
I've been a sneakerhead for a long time, since around middle school. I didn't always have the money to get the latest shoe, and my family could only afford to buy me one pair of shoes for school. When I got a new pair, I always took excellent care of them. In high school, I started buying more shoes with money earned from summer jobs. I wanted to have something different and unique from all the other sneakerheads in school, so I started customizing shoes by painting them with new designs. Once I got to Miami, shoes became my side hustle, and I was the person to go to to get your sneakers cleaned, customized, or restored. But any money earned went toward buying more shoes. My dad finally said he was totally against buying any more pairs until I figured out how to make the sneaker world profitable for me longterm. Right after this statement, my brothers shared the Pensole opportunity with me. The timing was perfect. When I got to Pensole for my first class in summer 2017, I had not given sneaker design any real thought as a possible career. After the first-class, I realized the similarities between shoe and architectural design. The design programs, process, and principles I was learning at Miami were, all the same, just applied in a different way that was more passionate and relatable to me.

How many shoes do you currently own?
Probably around 50 pairs of wearable sneakers. And then an additional 10 or so pairs that I'm currently restoring.

Who is the person that you hope will one day wear a pair of your shoes?
This past February, I got to compete in a 3-week New Balance Master Class competition through Pensole, and my project team designed for Kawhi Leonard. Our work on that project was just a prototype, but after winning the top award in the class for sneaker marketing and brand design, I've quietly seen a couple of ideas I pitched to NB happen. That being said, I'm invested in Kawhi and would love to get to design and gain notoriety for a pair he wears on the court. I'd also really like to design for Wale, since he's a rapper from my city (DC) and a huge sneakerhead. I believe he has a lot of stories to tell, and as someone who loves telling stories through sneakers, I would love to pick his brain and see what I can create to represent him and his Nigerian heritage, or our hometown DC, or his rise as a musician. I don't care who wears my shoes; I would be excited to see them on someone's feet as I'm walking down the street; I'm more focused on who I can design for and how I can tell their stories through shoes.

Any chance of an official Miami shoe by Miranda Woods in the future?
Adidas outfits Miami, so if they ever reach out with an opportunity to design a Miami-themed shoe, I'm down! (@Adidas come find me after I'm done with NB!)

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