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Barefoot and fanciful design takes out Kiwi James Dyson Award

Barefoot and fanciful design takes out Kiwi James Dyson Award

It was a genuinely shocked and very stoked former Massey University student who took out this year’s New Zealand James Dyson Award at a ceremony in Auckland’s new Viaduct Events Centre. Nicholas Couch’s recyclable shoe designed for barefoot running was described by head judge, DINZ’s David Lovegrove, as challenging the status quo. 

“Nicholas’ invention is exceptionally well researched and presented. The sum total of all these design details makes it a very workable solution and with a clear commercial opportunity,” he said. 

The whole theory goes that people who want to take up barefoot running need to use a changeover shoe so as to build up muscle strength in the legs and feet and avoid any injuries. And while there are already changeover shoes already available on the market, Couch believes his shoe, called Transition, is the only sustainable barefoot-style design that features replaceable and recyclable parts. 

Couch said globally about 350,000 million sports shoes are purchased and discarded each year.   

“Often, these shoes are discarded when only one part – usually the sole - has worn out while the rest of the shoe remains in good condition but goes to landfill.”   

Made up of only five parts, each part is designed to be discarded only when required, eliminating the need to discard the entire shoe and extending its usable life.  Made without glue adhesives, the discarded part can be broken down into their original material and can be recycled. 

While the 23-year-old is currently working as a product design developer for Kiwi footwear company Bobux, he said shoe design wasn’t an area of interest prior to embarking on the Transition project. 

“There’s not much of a shoe design industry in New Zealand so I’d never been exposed to it.” 

The shoe design market may not be big in New Zealand, but after embarking on some marketplace research, Couch saw international potential for the design and he would  welcome an opportunity to commercialise his design which is currently only at concept stage. And who knows, he might have the chance to dazzle some global designers as he globetrots his way to the UK shortly. As part of his win, Couch will travel to the UK with $3,000 traveling expenses and accommodation courtesy of British Council New Zealand, have the opportunity to tour Dyson’s London office and meet with other key members of the UK design community. He also receives an official fee prize package from the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand tailored to his design’s intellectual property needs, $3,000 worth of legal advice provided by Farry.Co Law, a Dyson handheld cleaner and a year’s membership to the Designer’s Institute of New Zealand. 

Couch beat out two other very impressive finalist to take out the Kiwi leg of the awards — Massey University industrial design graduate Stuart Smith’s solar-powered lawn mower and Victoria University graduate Cameron Lightfoot’s prosthetic leg invention that is powered by magnets to allow amputees to walk easier (read more about the other two finalist entries here).

Ten New Zealand entries, including Smith’s and Lightfoot’s, will progress to online judging in the international James Dyson Award competition.The global James Dyson Award winner will be announced in October 2010 and together with their university, they will win a total prize fund of £20,000 (NZ$38,900).