Komfortzone interview

MICHAEL BROWN INTERVIEW




KZ- How long have you been in the footwear industry?

M.B.- I Went to Monfort University in the UK, in 2005 and graduated in 2008. I worked for New
Balance for a year doing there tier 1 and 2 products. I moved to GSTAR-RAW and have been
here since 2009, so on a whole around 5 years in footwear.

KZ- G-Star has a unique style. Was it difficult to adapt to their style or you were already a
customer before applying?

M.B.- I was mainly a sports footwear designer, and worked on only sports classics and retro styles at
New Balance. Now, because of G-Star, due to the crossover of different styles in the range we
have, I work on men's formal footwear to military boots, and also sports footwear, from Vulcs to
Cup Soles.

The general style of working is to try and create classic footwear with a twist on G-star's DNA,
using the best denims and other top class fabrics.




KZ- Are you working alone or is there a whole team developing the footwear line?

M.B.- I work alongside a team of 5 amazing designers, all from different backgrounds and we work
very close together. From step 1 to the final collection.

KZ- Are you also involved in the clothing line or is it two separate teams?

M.B.- The clothing line has a massive influence on the range, from color, logos and general style
direction from clothing. All of these factors along with keys footwear trends. But the clothing is
designed from a separate team based in Amsterdam.

KZ- Entering the market, did you feel your studies in footwear prepared you well for every aspect
of the job?

M.B.- Yes and No. It gave you a decent insight into how to make footwear and how to design
footwear, and the terminology of the footwear world. But working 9 to 5, as a designer, you will
learn 100 times more in a year than you will 3/4 years at university.

KZ- When travelling, what do you look for? Do you shop for anywhere else than the footwear
stores to get inspired?

M.B.- When doing research trips, I don't like looking at shoes. I like looking at people, fabrics, clothing
and the place I'm visiting. I think going places and going into stores works fine if you’re looking
at the construction of shoes and maybe fabrics and color.

I find Berlin is the place for vintage sports footwear, London for vintage boots, Istanbul for Color,
Paris for fashion and women's shoes and Tokyo for crazy shit you won't find anywhere else. If
you’re doing a trip in Europe, do London, Paris, Berlin and finish in Istanbul. That gives you a
look at Northern Europe to Southern Europe and West to East.




KZ- What, in your opinion, is the leading brand of footwear, the one that you feel is always a step
ahead?

M.B.- For me, right now in sports footwear, I would say Vans. They are smashing the market to pieces,
and are coming up with amazing OTW styles in recent months.

For men's formal footwear, Dries Van Noten. I just like the brand; I like the simple lines and the
execution of the final products.

KZ- Have you had the chance to go in the factories in Asia? What do you think needs
improvement in the way we work with Asia?

M.B.- Yes, and factories in China can be really bad, and also really good. If you can work with a top
class factory in China, you’re laughing. To make sure you get good samples, you just have to go
there and watch it from start to finish and make sure it’s being done correctly, at every step. If
they are your designs, only you can make sure it comes out at the end.

KZ- What’s your best way to read trends? Would you say runways, people watching, blogs
celebrities?

M.B.- Reading trends - Go to coolest areas of a major city. You will find them if you have a decent eye
for it. For example, anyone could have gone to brick lane a year ago, and see a lot of people
wearing Creepers.

Runways - look at them for inspiration, nothing more.

People Watching - Again, go to coolest areas of a major city, sit there and take photos of people.
This was a major research tool at New Balance; we would do this for a full day.

KZ- Trends are moving fast, as well as the micro ones. What is the upcoming one you really dig?

M.B.- Creepers – because I find them vile. It’s also the fact that people actually are wearing them,
which I think is funny.

The next trend will be Acid House in a natural progression- an early 1990's sportswear. I'm
looking forward to that one; expect it around Summer 2013.

KZ- Is it just me or men’s footwear as never been that exciting in terms of selection and
creativity?

M.B.- In the aspect of men's formal footwear, it all has been done before, nothing is actually new. But
it’s how you create a shoe and how it is finished, and at what price. That's the challenge.

KZ- So you buy a sports shoe for when you’re active, a casual one to wander around and a clean
one for a special event. What would be your top choice in each of these styles?

M.B.- Running Shoe - New Balance Minimus Zero

         Sport Casual - Puma Suede, red classics with white Puma logo.

         Wedding/dinner out - Paul Smith Brogues. Maybe navy ones.

         Boots - Trickers, Tan leather - Storm Welted with a leather sole.

KZ- You live in London. What’s the best spot to shop if you have one day to run around?

M.B.- Covent Garden, Brick Lane, Dover Street Market, Selfridges and Soho.

KZ- Any latest discoveries in the sneaker business? A brand to spread the word about?

M.B.- LASCO. Just try and find out for yourselves what them guys are doing. Its fucking Amazing.



ANITA DA SILVA INTERVIEW





    We all know a brand that makes our heart skip a beat, but we tend to forget there is someone special -  someone that works very hard and that barely sleeps in order to give you the shoes of your dreams. Today we are meeting with Anita Da Silva that brought back to life a legendary footwear company, Bass Shoes.

KZ- Where are you from and what are your studies

Anita- I was born in Montreal from Portuguese parents. After one year at University studying Sociology, I
realized that it wasn’t for me. It’s actually my best friend who said: “Why don’t you go study in fashion
design”. Even though I would spend days reading all the fashion magazines (Vogue, Bazaar, etc.), I needed
someone to make me realize it. So I finally decided to study in Fashion Design at LaSalle College.

KZ- Was footwear always a passion or you discovered it throughout the years.

Anita- I always had a passion for shoes, when I was younger most of my money went to buy designer shoes. I was working two jobs and one of them was in a great shoe store just to get the discount to afford my favorite
designer shoes. I never thought of being a shoe designer, in school it was more concentrated on clothing.
After graduating my first job was shoe designer for a footwear company… and the rest is history.

KZ- You have now been designing for Bass for the last 5 years. What was the biggest challenge when you first
started?

Anita- The biggest challenge was to get the customer to remember how cool Bass used to be. I wanted people to remember Bass for their great history and heritage. There are not a lot of true American brands that goes
back as far as 1876. I decided to start building the line on their classics and reinventing them to today’s
market. I also brought back the vintage Bass logo and adding “since 1876” on all labels, emphasizing the
brand’s heritage.

KZ- In terms of sources of inspiration, does it exclusively come from footwear design or from other areas as well?

Anita- One of my biggest inspirations is going to flea markets all over the world and finding great Bass vintage
samples. Traveling is a great source of inspiration for me; Cities like London, Tokyo, Paris, Stockholm and
LA just to name of few are very inspiring for the people’s unique sense of style. I always love to people
watch and see what they’re wearing but most importantly how they interpret trends.

KZ- 5 spots to visit when travelling in order to feel inspired by trendsetters.

1- Les Marais in Paris is one of my favorite spots to shop, especially the little streets. They just open an
ACNE store, which is so creative. Cafe Charlot is my favorite place to stop for a coffee while revising my
notes from my trip and sketch some ideas.

2- East End in London is where I get really inspired, from the people to the music scene or the street art,
I find it’s where most of the trends start. Before heading back to the Soho hotel (my favorite), I sometime
stop at this local pub called The Owl & Pussycat or have a great pizza at Pizza East Shoreditch.

3- Portabello Market is also one of my favorite spots in London. The vintage clothing area is a great spot
to find unique vintage shoes or clothing. I bought one of my favorite fur coats there.

4- Rosebowl Flea Market in Pasadena is probably on the top of my list. It’s great for getting a good idea
of the upcoming trends. I often take great street shots of people there for my blog (shoedogs.tumblr.com).
On our way from Rosebowl, I always stop at Cliff’s Edge Café to grab a bite from a long day of shopping.

5- Hong Kong is also a great city, it’s timeless you have the most futuristic architecture next to the oldest
apartment buildings, probably one of the most inspiring city. Of course you have the best shopping malls,
but my best experience is shopping in the little streets where the local people shop. From Mong Kok to the
little streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, that’s where you get the most unique finds.

KZ- What are the top three essential shoes that you own

Anita- Some wedge sandals from Isabel Marant, my Bass gold Weejun’s and my Bass Creepers (not in stores yet): I have 3 versions of them, with gems, pony leopard and with a flower print… I’m obsessed with them!



KZ- Working with China or working with European factories?

Anita- I work with China and El Salvador. El Salvador does all our Weejuns moccasins, it’s an amazing factory,
like the way they use to make shoes in Italy. Like many brands, China also does a lot of our shoes. Today
China has amazing technicians that build shoes and we see a lot of Italians in China opening factories and
training the Chinese. In fact, China is getting so good at making shoes that the prices keep getting higher
every season. Some companies are already starting to develop their shoes in other countries.

KZ- I know you used to work for Aldo in Canada. What is the challenge working for a retailer compared to a
brand?

Anita- When you work for a retailer you have a quick reading of the sales through, the customers are telling you
every week what they like and don’t like. It’s easier to turn around and markdown a style or make a quick
test for next season. Working for a wholesale brand you need to work one year ahead so you kind of need
to be able to see the upcoming trends a year in advance and convince your buyer/salesmen that this is
what’s coming. So it’s important to believe in what you do and why you did it.

KZ- Living in New York is in itself a great source of inspiration. Where is the best spot to people watch while sipping a morning latte?

Anita- The East Village where I live is my favorite area. Peels café is a perfect place to people watch for a quick
local café, I love Ost Café, which is two blocks from my apartment.

I also like to go to Café Cluny in the West Village on the weekends, it’s a great place to hangout on a
Saturday morning.

KZ- Where do you see yourself in the next five years

Anita- Having my shoe line with Danilo who is my amazing husband and also a shoe designer. We are two very
creative people who share the same passion for fashion & footwear. We have been working together for a
very long time now and having our shoe line would definitely be our dream come true.

KZ- You mentioned you have a blog

Anita- Yes, I have a blog with Danilo called ShoeDogs at: http://shoedogs.tumblr.com/.
It’s pretty much something that we do in our spare time. As I mentioned before Danilo and I share the same
passion for fashion & footwear. We enjoy taking pictures of inspiring people when we travel, my favorite
outfits or just post a picture of the new catwalk from one of our favorite designers. We enjoy doing it.