I recently got the chance to chat with one of the owner behind the footwear studio OS, Marco Simonetti. OS is comprised of two globally conscious and passionate designers with a love for life. Both designers share a creative energy stemming from their backgrounds, the historic footwear tradition of their native regions and 20 years of combined international footwear design experience and travel. OS is a product design driven studio with a focus on footwear design and development.

KZ- First give us the history of OS and who are the creative minds behind the name.

M.S.- My name is Marco Simonetti and I am the co-founder of OS Footwear Design (OS) studio. My business partner Salvatore Oliva and I met in England, while designing for Clarks International. We quickly developed a friendly relationship beyond footwear as we realized we had similar interests, such as food, music, product design, travel etc. We also held a special bond, because Salvatore is an American of Italian heritage and I am Italian. We immediately understood each others background and family traditions. After many rainy nights and bad food experiences in England, Salvatore and I came up with the idea of "Going Home!" 

    "Going Home" for us meant, returning back to the culture and land of our youth to create a global studio link for footwear design. We named the studio OS Footwear Design after our last names Oliva-Simonetti. Salvatore soon went back to Boston-Massachusetts USA, which is deeply rooted in footwear and nautical tradition to operate the OS Ocean studio. I went back to Jesi-Le Marche-Italy, which is also deeply rooted in footwear tradition and rural life-style tradition to operate the OS Country studio.

Salvatore has since, moved the OS Ocean studio to Portland-Oregon USA in the never ending thirst to explore life, culture and new terrain. 

KZ- I see you are working with a wide selection of companies. How do you approach a project in order to respect the brand identity.

M.S.- We see ourselves as product designers who focus on footwear. There are a million and one brands on the shelves. How do our designs set themselves apart from brand to brand? The first step is understanding the history, mission, DNA, identity, and iconic/classic styles of each brand. The second step is understanding that we are not designing for OS, we are designing for a brand. Leaving our ego's at the door and respecting the briefs and internal operation of each brand is what establishes our long term client relationships. This is not to say that we do not offer alternative ways of looking at old ways and processes, which brands also hire us to do.Theme building, story telling and narration for brands that need direction and foundation are our strong points. We don't flip pages of Vogue and come up with 1000 alternatives. We create themes that spark loads of creative avenues that send cohesive messages. These messages are then narrated via a design language. This language in turn, creates long term opportunity for the brand. 

    OS has never and will never copy a design that is out in the market. Each brand has a reason for being and it has always served us to respect, twist and revitalize the DNA from each brand, which ultimately creates opportunities of distinction not re-runs of doom.

KZ- Working with leading brands, you need to be on top of what's coming in terms of trends, where do get your inspiration?

M.S.- Since, we work with top level footwear brands, they usually provide us with internal brand strategies, trend reports, briefs etc. These are usually guides to help illustrate a focus or intended collection design language. We digest this information lightly in conjunction with our studio own trend information and come up with and tailor plausible design solutions to accommodate the trends. We never take trends to heart, because we design a year in advanced and we all know trends in fashion are like a "New York minute waiting for the next train out."We believe in independent sources ei; Komfort Zone for trending and down trending information. We filter most of this by instinct. Having many global contacts in the art, music, athletic and food industry give us more than enough information overload.

    Some clients want fresh ideas that do not adapt to any trend forecast. These are the clients that usually lead the industry rather than follow. 

KZ- Having an Office in Europe and one in USA allows you to deal with two different market that seems to be influenced by different trends, Do you feel it's changing with the web or there are still two distinct world ?

M.S.- Both studios work on the same projects. This brings fresh perspectives and opportunities to the opposing markets. OS never views the markets as being black or white. There are many similarities when it comes to global trends, themes etc. A brief has to be very direct that the intention of the product will be for a specific market. Who is to say that what people wear in London is not the same as what they wear in NYC or Tokyo? Of course, there are unique micro trends and regional styles, but for the most part a distribution channel can tell us more than the US-Euro crystal ball trying to dissect the market.

    We travel extensively and are bombarded with 1000's of design, trend, media and fad blogs. We think that there is a global village with tribes of style and local attitudes, but these become the mainstream at some point. We need to know which consumer discourse our client wants to attract

KZ- A lot of the fashion industry turns to runway to get inspired for future season but when it comes down to street wear or the more urban fashion what is the resource of inspiration ?

M.S.- The streets themselves are the resource of inspiration, because any urban/city environment can throw a variety of stimuli at you. BUT what has become evident over the years designing in the industry is that street fashion usually takes from other environments or themes, which you do not find in the city such as, the sea, country and mountains. There is a multitude of a one of a kind hand-crafting, small batch locally hand-made and personalized product being made that it is very easy to eye for inspiration. I think it is important for us to spot the mainstream, trendy, trend setters and sub-cultures within the high-end, street, sport, hiking, tribal cultures then creatively put it's influence into our clients DNA.

    We often tend to think like the runway designers do early in the process. They sort of have carte blanche in that respect. We start blue sky then filter and focus our designs into creative and cohesive commercial collections our clients can sell. Is this not how they pay us the next season? Ha-ha!

KZ- Who is the new Footwear brand to look after in the up coming year and why?

M.S.- We personally glance at Nike, Timberland Boot Co., Camper and Prada every season. These brands have heritage, history and are at the point that they can do whatever they want and people will buy it. Think of our industry as the music industrySome brands come along with one hit wonders and you never see them again. Some brands are classic, yet will never change their styles. We cannot help to not see new brands with interesting styles, technology or color combos that we respect, but for the next coming year our clients are the ones to look for in the up coming year. Why? We designed for them and with their teams. We put our hearts/experience into the process and are proud of what we do for them.

    Not to dodge your question! Maybe not in the upcoming year, but in the near future, we would select Benjamin John Hall. He is an up and coming footwear designer in London who approaches footwear like Fellini and Lynch approach film. Footwear that makes you think!

KZ- We have seen a lot of corporation like Forever21, H&M producing footwear in a fast fashion way, How do you think this is influencing the footwear business for brands.

M.S.- There are fast food operations like McDonald's and KFC. How do they influence respected mid-level restaurants and three-star Michelin restaurants? We don't think they do. We don't see Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck collaborating with KFC any time soon. Although that would result in something rather interesting. The concept of affordable luxury is evident with stores like H&M. Consumers are buying into the Martin Margiela name and design, but not the quality. Same with the Missoni clothing line and Philippe Starck product collection for Target. The quality is sub-par, yet affordable. It is about bringing high-end to the masses. Footwear is an accessory to the clothing at H&M. It is less of a focus, whereas for footwear brands it is the main priority. Distributors also take into account the price points, so a footwear brand may or may not have a lower price collection that is distributed in stores close to H&M in order to take up market share.

KZ- What are the three pair of shoe you have that are a must in ure wardrobe.

Salvatore Oliva :

1.Crocs - Because I work at home. During the day I work in the yard, I am with the dogs and I also bike locally. They are the most versatile shoes and I don't care what people think of them. I wear them all year round!

2.Converse Jack Purcell - They represent New England to me, because it is where Converse originated. I have a personal connection with them, because I made them in the Converse workshop in 1996. I feel they are the most classic icon that threads sport and casual into diverse wearing occasions.

3.Chippewa Boots - They are classic boots that are broken-in so I can wear them for almost any occasion. They will last forever and I will wear them til' my feet fall off.

Marco Simonetti :

1.Grenson Archie Brogue - Because they are the perfect mix between smart and casual. Really versatile and easy to wear.

2.Vans Van Doren Era / Maroon Hawaiian - That is a revisited classic to me, and I love the vintage flower print on this limited edition.

3.Nike Free Inneva - I like the hand-woven upper concept and how the laces are interconnected with the nylon webbing. Very comfortable and I can wear them for almost every occasion.