interview

OS FOOTWEAR DESIGN INTERVIEW





     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.


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.



THE TAILORED LAST INTERVIEW





    Part of the evolution of the Komfortzone, I will reach out to different designer in the footwear industry. A year ago I started receiving mails from different designer following my blog and some of them became keyboard pall. One of them is Scott Wills.Scott graduated with a first class honours in footwear design from the Somerset College of Art’s & design in 2003 and went on to be awarded ‘accessories designer of the year’ at the London graduate fashion week in the same year.In early 2008 after working for branded and private label companies as a full time footwear designer , scott decided to set up '' The tailored last footwear design agency '’, to provide a freelance & project based footwear design service for branded and private label companies.

Scott - We manage all aspects of footwear design: from research, design, development and strategy to tech packs direct to your factory. We have over eleven years experience in footwear design & development, and have experience with developing footwear first hand with footwear factories in Europe & the Far East including India and Taiwan.We have a great combination of talent and experience and pride ourselves on bringing new and exciting conceptual footwear design idea’s to the table. We also offer a full trend research service tailored to your specific needs.



KZ- Did you start off wanting to design shoe or the life path kinda got you there?

Scott - No, I didnt think about a life in footwear until I had started my fashion degree when I was 25. About two months into my fashion degree we where given a module on footwear design run by a pattern cutter from Clarks shoes. I had been struggling with pattern cutting when it was on a large scale such as with fashion design but as soon as I started with footwear I completly understood and could visualise everything I was making, I never returned to fashion design.

KZ- How would you define UK footwear industry compare to USA ?

Scott - Thats a hard one for me to answer as I havent had any real experience of the footwear market in America but for the UK there is still a huge love for cheap vulcanised footwear and it doesnt seam to change with each season, Vulcanised footwear takes up 50% of my time summer & winter.

KZ- What is the biggest challenge in working freelance?

Scott - Gaining regular clients. When I started going freelance full time in 2008 it was difficult but now I have quite a few regular clients and quite a few clients on a random basis so its become a secure full time career. I spend a great deal of time chasing new clients and of course now I have been in the industry for coming up to 12 years a good deal of my work comes from 'word of mouth'. I also think having a really well designed website is a good advertisment for your services. I see so many websites that are 'home made' and the design layout and content is really bad . I do not understand how you can expect to sell your services if your webiste is showcasing a poor understanding of design.




KZ- Do you get most of ure inspiration from the footwear industry or is there another source that gets you creative?

Scott - It comes from many directions and thanks to daily blogs such as your own & highsnobiety my morning starts with a run through loads of different insights into fashion, architecture, music etc. I also only use apple products and refuse to even entertain the idea of using a PC, if the tools you use don't inspire you how can your designs even have a chance.

KZ- Asia is getting saturated with production while europe is living a crisis, do you think this means bringing back some factory jobs back in europe?

Scott - I would love to do more out of europe especially spain. I sometimes have the oppourtunity to work out of portugal which has some amazing pattern cutterns and mould makers but the price point for 80% of my clients is still too high. The problem is with much of the UK is that there is a still a mentality of 'buy um cheap stack em high'.



KZ- what is the top 5 brands out there that is a must in your wardrobe.

• http://www.hyusto.com/hyusto/index.php
• Common People
• Hudson
• Narrative
• http://www.casbia.com/

KZ- tomorrow you win 10 millions, do you start ure shoe company or leave for seychelles and wear flip flop?

Scott - I'd love to start a small high end footwear brand based out of Europe and get back to being more hands on, learning more pattern cutting and getting back to the factory floor.


KZ- We live in a world of fashion globalization and bloggers and everybody as it's vision and interpretation of whats the next big thing. How do you feel about this democratization of fashion where 16 years old becomes trend specialist?

Scott - I love it, its great that anyone can have a platform to express their opinions and viewws of whats hot and whats not. At the end of the day for me, i'm working for the most part in very commercial middle sectors and the trends I pick up are the ones the general high street are running with so everything I do is based on much research & trend reports so as not to go off in the wrong direction.





Aaron Cooper X Huarache




The Huarache trainer was born some 15 years ago. It was piece of comfort and design that came from Tinker Hatfield for Nike. It was not only a a slipper for athlete but a impressive new style for the time with it's huge side opening, inner neopreme sleeve and it's characteristic mid power strap. Aaron Cooper as recently done a lifting to it and we get to hear about the experience.

Via Blog.eastbay