Mark Wilkins is the owner and founder of ZN Footwear and him and his team will be producing the Prototype 1, expected to release very soon. An affordable luxury footwear line that is designed to give back to the people made with premium materials, engineered mesh, leather, suede, snakeskin and much more. To help with the cause all sales from the shoe will be given to fund inner city kids post high school education. Every 25 pairs sold will be given to families or individuals in need. Mark says he pushed to create something that represented everything he loves in sneakers. ZN originates from the Chinese word ZEN, which means to find enlightenment and the glow from happiness and self-fulfillment. The story and influence behind ZN footwear is to always lift others and that happens by giving back to those in need. Mark created a platform where he could express himself and a platform that is inline with the culture. People will soon have a chance to make reservations for The Prototype 1 LE in the Noir colorway, meaning you can reserve a pair in your size when they are ready to ship, there will be 400 slots available. There will also be options for larger sizes such as 15 and 16 as well. Everything will be available online only to make it fair for all of the customers around the world. The shoe releases at a set price of $170. Sizes range from 7-16 and new colorways will include size 6.  Mark spoke in depth on the meaning behind  his brand, what to expect from the shoe, how the design came about and much more. Check out the interview below.

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Tell us where you’re from and how you got to this point? 
Mark Wilkins: I’m from Chicago, IL. Country Club Hills to be exact, it’s a a small town south of Chicago, a community built of the grind, blue collar town everybody works for what they want. I grew up in sports, basketball specifically, so that was always my ultimate passion and still is. It took me far, went to college at Holy Cross. Basketball showed me the world. Introduced me to some great people and got exposed to some things that helped mold the way I think today.  

What is the name of the brand?

ZN Footwear pronounced Zen.

Why ZN?

Because it’s the energy and enlightenment that we find in ourselves to help others. The part of us that makes us 100% happy. And both my sons’ names are Zai and Zayn so naming my brand with a Z was inevitable.

Speak to us about the backstory on how you actually designed this shoe? What was the process of developing it like? 

Being from Chicago I’ve always had a love for sneakers, so basically when the opportunity to develop my own shoe came I ran with it because it’s always been a true passion of mine, I drew them by hand and included everything I love in sneakers I wore growing up. I wanted to develop a aesthetic that catered to most sneaker heads needs, premium materials, luxury feel, comfort, breathability, a neck breaking sneaker that was aesthetically pleasing as it is to actually wear.

The process was rough, I wanted to use a sole that spoke to a sneaker I love through about 60 sole molds to get the perfect one. This sole is influenced by the Air Force 1, but measurements are all completely different from it, making the Prototype 1 Sneaker its own silhouette and that was the hardest part. Getting a sole that didn’t look weird or too bulky. I added straps for lockdown and appeal, sneakers with straps are dope, some of my favorite kicks had straps on them. I wanted to add the premium materials and glowing sole to give a twist, no affordable sneaker out has both of these qualities, and I definitely wanted to bring that to life. Since the ZN Footwear brand is about the glow from enlightenment and positive energy it all had to make sense.

My goal was to create a sneaker that can impact the world, this is a brand about positivity energy and acting on a frequency that all humans can relate to. – Mark Wilkins

What can we expect from this brand? 

With my first installation of my standalone The Prototype 1 Sneakeryou will get to see full length glowing sole on most colorways. You can expect straps for lockdown. The silhouette will definitely include maximum breathability and durability as I said earlier. The materials will be 100% natural premium leather and suede. Last but not least, they will have an affordable price point at $170 that is undeniable for the quality. My goal was to create a sneaker that can impact the world, this is a brand about positivity energy and acting on a frequency that all humans can relate to. We are all beings, and if we could just stop focusing negative things, using less of our mouths and more of our brains we can do some unbelievable things on earth.

Once I launched the ZN Footwear this fall, the plan is to give pairs directly to families or individuals that need them. I plan to be heavily involved and connected to this process. If it’s in Africa, The south side of Chicago, Baltimore, or to a single mom in Compton wanting to get sneakers for her kids to go back to school, and eventually start outreach campaigns in my hometown to give back directly to areas that need our help. Funding education programs getting new technology into classrooms, for those circumstances that lack exposure. It’s too many of us with large platforms out here living the dream, who are not giving directly to the communities where we grew up. My vision and the main reason I wanted to bring this shoe to life is not to sell sneakers or be cool and say I have my own sneaker, but being able to give and contribute to the masses some how. That’s always been cooler to me. So, this fall everything comes to fruition, when the Noir colorway drops statewide and internationally.

You mentioned colorways, what do you have in store? 

Yeah man, we have a lot of flavors coming to fit everyone’s style, The Prototype 1 is a year round sneaker so the colors will be wearable at anytime. For the first few drops we have Hemp, Eggshell, Noir, Ash grey, and Nude and a few more. Next year you will see a few runners and a new casual silhouette.

What insight can you give our young readers that wanted to be designers?

To keep going, don’t listen to anyone else, go with your gut feeling. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and you’ll find quickly once you have something good that they will try to tell you what they think is right for you. Do you, don’t change for anyone. Keep a great group of positive people around you even it’s 2 friends, you will do extremely well. Trust god, because he doesn’t make mist.

Check out images of the upcoming Prototype 1 below in the Noir Colorway. Visit ZN Footwear’s website for more info involving the Prototype 1 LE.