In Conversation with Cesar Idrobo
Talking about recharging, inspiration, and more
Cesar Idrobo is a world-class designer, shoemaker, and SCAD alum based in California. As a student, he apprenticed with renowned footwear maker Marcell Mrsan. Cesar has designed for brands such as Nike, PUMA, Adidas, and YEEZY. He’s worked with Ye and Steven Smith to create fully working prototypes and new aesthetics.
Before we dive in you need some context. I first met Cesar Idrobo, when we were both studying at SCAD. We met in class and soon became friends. We bonded over books, design, and having pizza at Sam’s Club at 11 pm.
In 2013, while we were hanging out at his place. I was admiring a magnificent drawing that he made of a Yeezy shoe design. He told me that he wanted to work with Ye (FKA Kanye West). I recall hearing a quiet conviction in his voice. A few years later, that dream would come true.
The conversation you’re about to read took place 10 years later. On May 24th, 2023 I sat down to talk with Cesar about the importance of recharging, the importance of physical designs, where to find inspiration and much more. Even 8 months later, the ideas Cesar shares have become even more relevant and important.
I recently heard a guest on The Happiness Lab podcast speak about a concept she has called a tech Sabbath— a day where we don't use technology or screens. This got me wondering: how do you recharge?
I tried that once. You know, I should do it more often, like once a week. When I did it, the next day, I truly felt recharged, like 100%. It's important to recharge. Being away from work-related stuff and trying to avoid your phone. I feel like we're always running on what, 60%, 70%? I look forward to time off because in that time off you can find the answers that you've been looking for during the whole week.
You recently went back to speak at SCAD. And I’m curious, what was your advice to design students?
I've always said to students, that you should see yourself, by default, as your own company. You should see yourself as a freelancer.
I love that your Instagram stories are details and things you see on the street. And what I find most interesting is that you point out things most people wouldn’t notice. What are you noticing in those moments?
I'm fascinated by human ingenuity, and I think it's an infinite source of inspiration. Because you're adding the human factor, and the human factor is unpredictable, so by adding it into the mix of inspiration, you get infinite results.
I like to capture those moments when people are wearing something too big for them but find ways to make it work. Or maybe someone is wearing a jacket or a pair of pants that’s too long. These people evolve and transform these pieces into something else.
And there is beauty there, like, oh, this piece of fabric got dirty, but this is how it looks now, and it's really cool. So I'm trying to capture inspiration from nontraditional places.
We will always draw inspiration from perfect, beautiful things, and there is a place for that. But I often find more meat on the bone when I'm drawing inspiration from the day-to-day mundane. And then I'd make it look like something and translate that into a product.
I like human ingenuity and human creativity and finding ways to make things work.
So in a way, you're sort of collaborating with the world.
Yeah. And we're creating for the world so it makes sense. So when you see my selection of pictures, it’s of fashion fans. They’re borrowing from other places, other trades, and day-to-day life.
There’s inspiration in the world. The answers are out there, and we just have to have the eyes to observe and analyze them so that we can make something out of them.
Is there anybody that you would want to collaborate with? And this could be anything, like a movie or something.
Yeah, when talking about movies. I would love to do something with Christopher Nolan because he adds a side of realism to movies. You feel like it could actually happen in real life.
For example, when you watch The Dark Knight, we can relate to Batman because his car and jacket were all real. No CGI. There was a sense of reality there. And then with Interstellar, there was another like, oh, this could actually happen.
There is beauty in using real objects. I'm drawn towards that.
Still Life is for people who love art, design, and the life in between.
I want to ask you more about your experience in deciding to do something and going through with it, and your philosophy around that.
I feel like as designers, especially us being properly trained designers, we have this tendency to add layers to the creative process. We want to make sure we're making the right choice. And I don't think there's a right choice.
I think there's only the choice of either making your ideas or not. Whether it’s right or wrong, I think making is a crucial key to success.
For example, when Michael Jordan was going to sign with Nike and they had that first meeting, they designed and made a shoe just for Michael Jordan that he could hold, wear, and touch. Had they just shown a drawing or a thumbnail of that shoe, I don’t think it would have had the same impact as the actual shoe.
There’s something rewarding and exciting about actually touching something rather than pointing to a 2D or 3D design. That’s the importance of making your ideas. Just make it, because there’s a reason why you’re thinking about it.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me. It's always so good to talk with you about design.
I’m glad we had the chance to sit down and talk about design, too.
I think we need to do this again. I have so many more questions that I still want to ask you, but let's save them for the next one.⚜
Thank you for reading. I’m planning to do more conversational pieces. And I’d love to hear what you think about that in the comments. I have a list of people I can hardly wait to bring on. Oh and if you know someone that would enjoy reading please share Still Life with them.