Oakley Angel Delivers The Unexpected
You’d never find this room on your own. It’s tucked away, hidden behind row after row of cubicles and offices and glass cabinets that showcase the work of the past. Windowless, workmanlike, and strewn with the tools and debris of design, this is the beating heart of Oakley. This is the proving ground where concept sketches and CAD data are converted to something tangible. Something truly, remarkably, and irrefutably “Oakley.”
Tony Kern sits in the corner workstation. His back is turned to the door, leaving visible only his black hair and the sundry decorations he’s amassed during his decade-long tenure at Oakley. Rubberized blue cutouts of the letters T and K. A row of various Oakley sunglass frames. A pair of the so-called “minimalist running shoes” Kern wears when he gets tired of his normal routine of running barefoot. He’s an eclectic dude, clearly. And entirely likable.
As you walk in to get a closer look, you can see that the room’s primary attraction is the image on Kern’s computer screen. You squint. You tilt your head. Are you seeing what you think you’re seeing? Is that…an angel?
Yes. It’s an angel. An Oakley angel.
This isn’t the sort of thing you’d expect from Oakley, and that’s precisely the point. When Oakley CEO Colin Baden initiated a complete redesign of the O Store in London’s Covent Garden district, he summoned Kern and Hans Mortiz to remember one of Oakley’s primary design philosophies: deliver the unexpected. The result of that challenge is this:
A twelve-foot tall, metal angel with a twenty-five-foot wingspan.
It weighs fifteen hundred pounds, has wings made of carbon fiber, and will hang from the ceiling of the Covent Garden O Store when it reopens to the public in early April, 2011.
And why, pray tell, would a company built on rebellion and grit design a twelve-foot angel?
“We did it because we thought it would be cool,” Moritz says matter-of-factly, as though the question itself was blasphemous.
Moritz, the director of the project, created the initial concept artwork based on some unexpected but brilliant visual cues. Also instrumental to the creation of Oakley’s angel was Vitaly Bulgarov, who contributed to certain aspects of the design and executed the all-important computer surfacing of the model.
DESIGN INSPIRATION AND PHILOSOPHY
Drawing inspiration from airborne objects as varied as seagulls (wings) and the landing gear of commercial aircraft (legs, feet), Moritz sketched the angel on a series of pages. Initially designed to be fully movable, Kern says the angel falls in line with previous Oakley projects like Medusa, OverTheTop, and the like.
“It’s the gnarliest thing I’ve ever worked on,” he says with a smirk. “It’s not a big money-maker for us, but it’s the kind of thing that will make people stop and say wow. This is really uncharted territory for us and it’s the sort of project that keeps us excited about design.”
It’s uncharted territory for just about everyone, which is why it’s such a bold move. And Oakley wouldn’t have it any other way.