45.5051° N, 122.6750° W

‘When the human space changes, you rejoice in life.’

Gems in this


Explore Playbook

Gems in
this story

Feature by Michael Canning

Footwear designer Safa Sahin hails from Turkey originally, but has recently relocated to Portland, Oregon in the USA. There, he works creating footwear for Nike, as well as continuing to produce pieces for his own eponymous label. Safa is known for his surreal designs that often resemble another world altogether, blending sculpture and function, and has held exhibitions in the USA, Italy and Turkey, as well as counts Lady Gaga among his clients. We spoke to him about a few tips for life in Portland and finding inspiration in Oregon's natural environment.


On where you’re from

I am from Turkey

On why you moved to Portland

I got a job offer from Nike in Portland.

On the neighborhood you’re living in

I live in the Pearl District. Because, I wanted to be close to art galleries and the center of the city.

On current projects

I’m working on my personal high-heel 19/AW collection (Safa Sahin brand). I’m also designing new shoes for Nike. I haven’t held any exhibitions recently but it’s possible in the near future.

Nike design sketches and performance model by Safa Sahin

On your favorite Nike sneaker

Air Force 1.

On who inspires you in culture

Björk inspires me a lot.

On the best thing about living abroad

Sometimes people get overwhelmed in an environment where they live constantly; the work done everyday can become a monotonous life. So when the human space changes, it becomes refreshing and you rejoice in life. That’s why I think the best thing about life abroad is ‘change’.

‘Portland is a very natural environment. I'm getting so many inspirations, especially Portland's spring season which inspires me a lot.’

On how Portland inspires you

Portland is a very natural environment. I’m getting so many inspirations, especially Portland’s spring season, which inspires me a lot.

On where you go for inspiration

I usually go to a forest and kind of natural areas. Also, I watch science-fiction movies.

On your creative process

My creative process is very exciting, because I make my samples by hand. My process: finding inspiration; sketching; making a render; making a sample; revisions; and the finished product.

Sculptural shoe design from Saha Sahin brand.

On where you find shoes

Generally, I buy shoes from vintage stores.

On something to do when you first move to Portland

I have so many recommended places, but one of the best is Cannon Beach.

On an activity you enjoy in Portland

To just take a coffee or tea and go to the oceanside.

On your favorite designer

Alexander McQueen.

‘When the human space changes, it becomes refreshing... that’s why I think the best thing about life abroad is change.’

On your favorite park in Oregon

Redwood forest! It’s on the California border.

On good food

My wife’s cooking.

Portland's Redwood Park and Cannon Beach

On a gallery to check out

Upfor Gallery.

On a favorite outdoor spot

Angel’s Rest. I really like to hike there.

On a holiday spot to know

Antelope Canyon.

On a great store in Portland


On a favorite place to be

The Amazon rainforest.

On events to check out

The Rose Festival is really famous.

On something from home you would like to see in Portland

There are no Turkish restaurants here. That’s why I sometimes check out Mediterranean restaurants.

On Portland in one word



Related stories & places



‘When the human space changes, you rejoice in life.’