Since the launch of our La Cubiste jerseys earlier this month we have all become madly in love with the style and color they bring to our rides. Not to mention they also match a couple blinged out anodized parts on more than a few of our bikes. Our good friend Mike Heenan helped us bring new life to La Cubiste through his own interpretation of the design and knowledge of lycra sublimation. Having a friend who works at Castelli USA and has an amazing sneaker collection is awesome when you want to produce your first cycling jersey. Let's get this interview started already!
ATHL: Hi Mike. Can you give us a little introduction? Something like place of work, schooling, favorite candy bar, that sort of thing. Whatever you feel is relevant when telling the tale of Mike Heenan.
MH: I'm a graphic designer at Castelli USA in the Servizio Corse department making kit dreams come true. Before moving to Portland to work for Castelli, I was a mechanic for a professional cyclocross team. I kind of had a lot of jobs before landing here – I delivered sandwiches, painted houses, worked at a video store- which mostly consisted of rewinding VHS tapes, it was pretty annoying, I built bikes for a toy store at Christmas, I worked at a residential boys home, was a rough in carpenter, all before spending the last 18 years in the outdoor and bike industry. My favorite candy are Smarties. Did you know they come in 3 different sizes? I don't like hot liquids – no coffee, (will I get kicked out of Portland if you print that one?) tea, soup, stews...
Heenan. What is that, English?
Ha. I'm a shapes and colors guy not words and numbers.
How long have you been designing cycling kits? Was it your dream to make lycra super cool?
It all started when I moved to Milwaukee, WI in 2005 and created a cycling team that wasn't really a team in the traditional sense. We didn't have any sponsors and just wanted a cool kit that we could ride and race in but that was unique to us. This was the time when custom companies were just starting to offer unlimited colors and lower minimums. So, the timing was kind of right and I started doing a kit each year for the team, really trying to do something different each time from what was out there and push what the boundaries of what “team” kits looked like. So yeah, I suppose we were trying to make team kits cool.
To date, how many kits have you had a hand in designing? Hundreds? Thousands? Millions?
Kits that I have personally designed or helped tweak the design, maybe 100+ Kits that I've pushed along the lycra pipeline – thousands. A lot of my job consists of taking the customers art and just adapting it to our templates to work with our production process.
Besides helping others with their team kits and other projects you design a kit for yourself every once in a while that is a bit more boundary pushing. Are you seeing how wild you can get with the sublimation or as a design exercise for future projects?
For sure trying to break the mold from standard sponsor and team oriented team kits. It's a little bit like a kid in a candy store. Sometimes I think of a great idea but it doesn’t fit or might be trying to find a solution for another project and start something that has some potential but not right for whatever reason and use that for a personal kit. Most of the time I just get inspired by something and decide to use the idea instead of store it away for someone else.
Is there a universal theme to your work or do you try and be a blank slate?
I try to have a blank slate for designs I do for my day job. You really have to because there are so many different types of customers looking for kits that you need to be able to adapt to what they want and what they were inspired by. I think for my personal work I really just feed off what ever strikes me in the moment. The Summer Madness kit I did earlier this year was inspired by a bunch of colored flecks I saw in the AstroTurf at a track meet. I went home that night designed a kit and put it up for sale the next day. But, I like to think that my work can be categorized as clean, bold, and colorful.
Where do you turn to to get a bit of inspiration?
I pull inspiration from a pretty wide range - 1970's corporate logos, Skate and streetstyle, Advertisments from the 1950s. There is an Italian fashion designer, Stella Jean, that is pretty great. She mixes crazy patterns, stripes, textures with really interesting silhouettes. I like to flip through her lookbooks to get a spark. I take a lot of photos of patterns and textures that I see all around – clothing, street art, and I see a lot of kits come through and try to go a different direction from the trends I see everyday.
You have a really awesome sneaker collection. I get pretty jealous at some of those Asics you have mixed in there. Do they help in the design process?
Thanks. It's important to surround yourself with things that make you happy and inspire. For me, one of those things is sneakers. They are so many different textures and colors in the sneaker world. It a great place to see what is going on with color combinations and patterns
How was it starting La Cubiste sock first? I would assume that socks are usually the last thing to happen when it comes to kit design.
Yeah, in my day to day socks are treated as an accessory not the main attraction, usually just a couple stripes or a sponsor logo. But, it was really the pattern that was the star of this design it just happened to be on a really cool sock.
Did the La Cubiste design give you any unexpected challenges or design opportunities?
It was a great starting point and inspiration for a kit. Sometimes when you have something as specific as the La Cubiste design it can be tough to rework it without losing the original look and feel. But this one was great, I had a lot of fun woking up ideas for this. I think I sent over 3 or so initial ideas and we ended up mixing a bit of them together for the final design.
If you could choose another sock to base a kit on which would be you choice?
RedRum RedRum. I'd be into working with that one. I really like that pattern and it was one of the first horror movies I saw as a kid.
A shadowy figure appeared out of a dark alley and told me to ask you about secret milkshake. You know anything about that?
I can neither confirm or deny the existence of Secret Milkshake. Nor can I say that there may be a new Secret Milkshake project in the works.
What’s your favorite color?
Have to be Glow in the Dark green. I really like the milky white in the light and then the shift to green when it glows. That counts as one right?
Thanks for being so awesome Mike!