This Alum Is In Step with Success

Posted On: 06-01-2010
Omar Bailey

Because of his entrepreneurial energy and fondness for footwear, DAAP alum Omar Bailey, 25, has already founded his own firm and is designing shoes for both manufacturers and celebrities.

University of Cincinnati alumni Omar Bailey has been out of college for only two years but he's already obtained almost a lifetime's worth of experience.

He's designed signature shoes for celebrities like rapper, singer and songwriter T-Pain, for manufacturers like SG3 and for a prestigious roster of professional baseball players:

  • Jose Guillen of the Kansas City Royals
  • Lastings Mileage of the Washington Nationals
  • Kevin Miller of the Baltimore Orioles
  • Craige Monroe of the Minnesota Twins
  • Gary Sheffield of the Detroit Tigers
  • Shannon Stewart of the Toronto Blue Jays

Omar Bailey
Omar Bailey at work in his studio.
Said Bailey, "I can still remember when I visited T-Pain's house in Atlanta. I didn't just show him the renderings of the special signature show I had in mind for him. Yes, I rendered a design, but then I put that rendering into a portfolio showing a complete line of shoes. He was paging through, and he indeed picked the shoe I'd designed specifically for him. I later pointed out how it had his name on it quite small where he hadn't even seen it."

Bailey, originally from West Palm Beach, Fla., and now living in New York City, was confident enough to design a shoe for the artist and then equally as confident to allow T-Pain to find that design on his own because Bailey himself is a dedicated artist and entrepreneur who says he made the "greatest and best decision of my life" in choosing to attend UC's internationally ranked College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP).
T-Pain shoes
The footwear that Omar Bailey designed for rapper, singer and songwriter T-Pain.
He originally began his university career at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit but later switched to DAAP. He recalled, "They didn't have cooperative education in Detroit. Only a few students got internships so a group of us drove down to UC, and we were able to enter here."

What followed for Bailey is standard at DAAP. He was able to gain considerable professional experiences - paid no less - via UC's celebrated co-op program, which is ranked among the nation's Top Ten co-op programs by U.S. News & World Report. Like other students, he was required to alternate his academic quarters with co-op quarters, with the result that he worked for New Balance Inc. in Boston, for K-Swiss in West Lake Village, Calif., for Adidas in Portland, Ore., for Hewlett-Packard in Houston and for Faulconer Design in Newport Beach, Calif.

Among the projects he worked on as a UC co-op student were football cleats he designed at New Balance, cleats still worn by Auburn's football team as well as performance basketball shoes that also came to market. Said Bailey, "I remember how great it was when I learned that Auburn actually called New Balance about the cleats I'd designed. New Balance didn't even have to approach them."

That kind of great feeling hasn't gone away just because Bailey is now out of school. In fact, just the opposite. For while he's designing sets of shoes for entertainment and sports celebrities, he's also designing entire shoe lines as well. His most recent designs will be available by May or June in outlets like Champs Sports, Foot Locker Inc., Finish Line, Inc., as well as Barneys New York and Saks Fifth Avenue.

All of this means that Bailey, himself a football and basketball player, is on the go a lot. For instance, three weeks ago, he returned from visiting factories in China to inspect the preliminary production runs of his designs...and where he has formed joint-venture partnerships with two manufacturers to produce his clients' footwear. Next, he'll be in Florida to attend trade shows and to meet with clients. And then in May, he'll travel to the Netherlands where he'll lead a design workshop at Leiden University.

If it seems that Bailey is, well, a bit obsessive about shoes, he'll quickly admit that it's so. He stated, "Even in grade school, they called me the 'shoe guy.' I was always crazy about shoes, sketching them and designing them. I just can't get enough. I remember on my first co-op with New Balance when I was a DAAP student, I was so excited that I'd draw a sketch and then I'd go right away to show someone. I was like this excited little kid."

He still is and happy to remain so. While he has two partners in his firm, Bright Idea Design Studio, Inc., Bailey is the one-and-only designer and the "face" of the business. It's not unusual for him to stay up all night designing. If he goes to bed at all, it's at 2 a.m. And then, during the day, he's making business contacts, answering client queries and generally taking care of the back end of the business operations.

He laughed that the pace and schedule of his fast-track career are not that different from his days as an industrial design student at DAAP. "I'm lucky I had the training ground I did at DAAP," said Bailey, who added that he also has his family to thank for their long-term and unfailing support. He said, "My family has been my backbone throughout my entire education and career, especially my sister who has let me live with her in New York."
Omar Bailey
Omar Bailey now lives and works in New York City.
In the short term, Bailey and his partners want to expand their presence beyond their current bases in New York and Florida. "Next, we'll have a presence on the West Coast and Las Vegas. In the much longer term, I very much want to not only design but manufacture my own shoes. I want to have quality factories in Jamaica, which is where my parents came from... ."

Such an achievement would provide Bailey with complete control of the creative process. He would not only design the shoes but walk them through the entire manufacturing process to ensure the quality and effect he wants. Then and only then, he laughed, "will I really be the 'shoe guy'"

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