DESIGNING footwear has always been a passion for this Thomasian topnotcher.

While surfing the Internet, Arturo Tolentino Jr. stumbled upon the webpage of PENSOLE, an exclusive school for footwear design founded by D’wayne Edwards, former director of Nike and someone Arturo truly admired.

The program included a design competition for footwear enthusiasts, an opportunity that he did not pass up. It was a chance that took him to greater heights in footwear designing.

Industrial Design was Arturo’s first choice to take in UST, but soon realized that the course would not guarantee enough choices after graduation.

“I keep myself open to things. But I hope I’m in the right direction because it feels like it,” Arturo said.

He finished Architecture in the University in 2006, then placed second in the board exams two years later.

Pursuing two things

Admittedly an introvert, Arturo enjoyed the company of his drawings of cartoon characters from X-Men and Dragonball when he was a kid.

But as he grew older, he became interested in shoes and dreamed of becoming a designer since.

“I really like shoes because of their design and aesthetic, but I could never muster the nerve to buy a pair for myself because they were too expensive. Every time I would go to the mall, I would go straight to stores like Nike, Adidas and Toby’s,” he said.

While taking up Architecture, he kept in touch with his passion through being active in online forums about industrial design, particularly in footwear.

“It’s basically like being formally educated in Architecture while learning a little bit of Industrial Design on the side,” Arturo said.

Although the set of skills are the same, he considered architecture broader than industrial design because it involves other things than the human-scale factor that the latter has.

UST Graduate School courses improve ranks in world survey

“It was not really hard but it took more effort on my part,” he said.

Out of comfort zone

PENSOLE Academy caught Arturo’s attention when it was featured on an article while it was starting out. The possibility to meet D’wayne motivated him to join.

“When I saw that post, I told myself that no matter what happens, I have to get in that school,” Arturo said.

PENSOLE only accepts 23 students, to keep up with the Michael Jordan brand identity. But the program was recently modified and it was accepted 24 students because of a change in curriculum.

“I think they intentionally keep the classes small because D’Wayne is the sort of mentor who wants one-on-one interaction with his students. He’s after quality of the designer rather than quantity,” the PENSOLE finalist said.

When he was ready to join PENSOLE, he learned that he passed the board exams as a topnotcher.

Arturo failed to enter when he submitted his first design sample because he said it was made “half hazardly.” He tried again after college.

“To receive an email from D’Wayne, a personal email, then to converse with him, felt a bit unreal and incredible,” Arturo said.

In order to enter the academy, there is a screening process where participants needed to submit a single page design online.

PENSOLE teamed up with crowd-sourcing website Mesh01, where designers post their projects for potential clients and Core77, a site for industrial designers.

Arturo said the experience was a learning one, because he and his fellow competitors had to persuade customers to look at their designs which were on display for three days and they did not know who the judges were going to be.

Opposition to two-kid policy strengthtens

“It was another learning experience, as I was very much introverted. It was a process which made me come out of my comfort zone,” Arturo said.

The finals of the design competition were held in the Las Vegas Convention Center, in line with an international footwear show called Magic, where footwear enthusiasts gather from all over the world and is hosted by footwear design show FN Platform.

“It felt so unreal that I had to ask myself what am I doing here. But I was truly grateful for that once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Arturo said.

Filipino spirit

Being the only Filipino in the competition, he was lucky that he found a “second home” in the studio of PENSOLE because the participants in the 4-week training program treated one another as family.

D’wayne described the program similar to that of the singing competition American Idol, according to Arturo.

“You eat together, you sleep together, but you know it’s a competition. But somehow, no one put on masks to hide their true selves because everyone wanted to be there. And D’wayne did a great job in setting up the tone of the studio.”

Arturo even said that he and his colleagues were encouraged to come early because there were times that big names in the field would visit in the studio like a surprise talk by professional basketball player Howard Dwight.

Dwight’s message was really inspirational for Arturo that day because he could relate with his story. Dwight told them that his mother advised him to greet people for even “a dog can wag his tail when you pass by him in the street.”

Ang unang 'art gallery' sa Unibersidad

“Don’t let it go into your head. Everybody has its own story. Bottom line is be nice to people," he said.

D’wayne pulled Arturo aside one time and told him to stay true to his roots, that if Americans would want American designs, they would just hire an American designer.

“I can’t run away from being a Filipino, growing up in a middle-income family, being in the streets. You can’t really run away from that. I need to develop my design process around that story,” Arturo said.

He said if he were really on the right track, he would probably introduce footwear design to the Filipinos and even manage his own school.

“We talk about Filipino architecture and how to apply it in modern times but rarely do you see it being used and applied,” Arturo said.

As a believer of signs, he was skeptical if he was to pursue his dreams back then because fate seemed to lead him elsewhere.

“Throughout the years, you learn to love your school wherever you are. But of course, you would still have those what-ifs,” he said.

He became a student in UST when the College of Architecture was moving to its new building, the BEATO Angelico building.

“In [Architecture,] what I learned is being resourceful and adaptable to situations. It taught me about faith and hard work. But faith is more important. Having a church inside the school feels different,” Arturo said. Catalina Ricci S. Madarang


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.