Exclusive Interview with Sara Valeri: META BEASTS Designer and Overall Winner

February 8, 2024

Sara Valeri shares the Story of the META BEASTS Project. Global Footwear Awards 2023 Best Overall Winner.

Meta Beasts by Sara Valeri are transitional soccer shoes for ages 7-11, offering comfort, performance, and safety, and featuring a unique digital twin in the metaverse for enhanced skills in and out of the field.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi, my name is Sara Valeri. I was born in Merida, Venezuela. From a young age, creativity has been my way of expressing myself and understanding the world around me. Growing up, I used to sketch and paint all the time. I would also disassemble toys and assemble them as new creations; music, specifically playing the guitar, became another outlet for my artistic soul. Now, as an adult, I’ve found a home in design. In this space, I can translate my creative ideas and life experiences into tangible solutions that not only speak to aesthetics but also bring profound meaning and positive change to people’s lives.

Where are you with your studies? Have you specialized in footwear design?

I’m a second-year master’s student at the University of Oregon’s Sports Product Design Program. I plan on graduating this spring of 2024. With a BFA in Industrial design and now immersing myself in the world of sports product design, covering categories like equipment and apparel, my true passion lies in footwear design. Which is the focus of my thesis project and what fuels my aspirations for the post-graduation chapter of my journey..

Is a philosophy, a vision, or a special process influencing your design?

Every design, regardless of its scale, has the potential to bring meaning and impact to someone’s life. Throughout my journey, I’ve woven the threads of my past experiences, the lessons I’ve learned, and the diverse people I’ve met into my daily work. This approach deepens my understanding of others and infuses purpose into my creations. When designing, I always think about the future and how our world can be reshaped for the better through design.

Can you explain your general design process? How do you start a new project?

I kick things off in my design process by profoundly understanding the project brief and problem. I meticulously plan my time, dividing the project into manageable phases. Understanding the end user is critical to “who I’m solving for.” I conduct thorough research, collecting data through surveys and interviews to define pain points and insights. For projects like sportswear, I dive into biomechanics, human factors, and societal trends. Trend forecasting gets me to explore society’s psyche and reactions. Then, I organize ideas, drawing inspiration from past projects and creating mood boards. The ideation phase is about sketching on paper, digitally, or even in virtual reality. I refine ideas using tools like Illustrator and Photoshop, sometimes playing with AI for more sparks. Material research and understanding of manufacturing follow, often involving collaboration with industry experts. After defining everything, I moved to 3D modeling and created physical prototypes and 3D printing components like outsoles and midsoles. Prototypes are tested, validated, and refined based on user feedback before being sent to the factory or client as tech packs, 3D models, and final renders. It’s a journey from concept to reality, ensuring the design works seamlessly in the real world.

What is the most challenging part of working on a new footwear concept?

The most challenging part of working on a new footwear concept is defining the problem and clarifying my goals; therefore, project management is super important. Because sometimes, as a designer, you want to solve too many issues at once, and you can get carried away with different ideas you want to implement. So, it’s always essential to establish the main problem you are trying to solve, always have the defined target consumer in mind, and be able to continually clarify and support each step of the process so that, in the end, it is a streamlined process. You can anticipate changes and work around new paths while focusing on that end solution.

Which footwear designer has had the most impact on your work?

Given the diverse influences throughout my career, choosing a single designer is no small feat. In my undergraduate years, luminaries like Ross Lovegrove, Neri Oxman, Zaha Hadid, Naoto Fukasawa, and Iris van Herpen, introduced by insightful professors, shaped my perspective on design. Thinker Hatfield, with his revolutionary impact on footwear design, kindled my passion for the field. Virgil Abloh, with his ascent to the pinnacle of the fashion industry, taught me that dedication knows no bounds. That one can revolutionize an entire industry with hard work and dedication. Matthew Williams’ contemporary, bold, futuristic aesthetic, challenging norms, and Yohji Yamamoto’s transformative designs with Adidas inspire my work in the realm where fashion meets sports, evoking change and transformation. However, a pivotal figure in my life is my brother Ezio, whose resilience and perseverance have instilled in me the fire to keep designing and fighting for my dreams.

How do you see your work evolving in the future, and what new concept you want to explore?

Peering into the future, I envision my work maturing, carving out a distinctive design aesthetic marked by timeless creations. The evolving landscape of future technologies, particularly the realm of 3D-printed footwear, holds immense appeal for me, and it’s a frontier I’m eager to explore. Beyond that, my journey involves a continuous quest for knowledge and exploration of new paths that lead to groundbreaking innovations in the world of sports and design. Material innovation and sustainability are areas I’m determined to delve into, recognizing the limited knowledge we often have about the end life of our products and the environmental impact of the materials we use. As I design, my goal is not just to solve problems but to contribute revolutionary solutions that stand the test of time. The journey ahead is one of constant learning, exploration, and a commitment to delivering designs that make a positive impact.


Discover our GFA 2023 Winners HERE