Real Real Genuine have enjoyed great success from products like their denim to their much talked about Middleton boot, which brings us to this latest piece. A collaboration with Vael which began with a purchase of Middleton Boots, to cut a long story short they put together this fascinating high quality all white sneaker which boasts a luxury feel. Take a look at this interview with Coleman from Vael below to give you a better feel of his work and this project.
What is your design approach? What separates you from other footwear labels currently on the market?
The product development process in VÆL is unconventional in it’s approach to merchandising; the collection is put together from a single end user; rather then a collection of repetitive styles- (traditionally merchandising is laid out in a grid of, say, seven basketball shoes in ascending cost, and features) Whereas with VÆL we have culled the collection together as taking a snapshot into someone’s closet and creating a collection where styles don’t repeat. A single person may have all the items without crossover. There may be a hunting boot sitting next to a vintage tennis shoe. Our design approach was simply that it had to be something we would covet. It became obvious that if we wanted the product, others would too.
What truly inspired you to launch Vael? When did it launch?
VÆL launches this season, AW08. Our reception at the initial trade shows in February far exceeded what we had hoped to achieve and left us scrambling to catch up. VÆL’s genesis was of the need to address this new lifestyle of most of my peers; It’s this itinerant, wandering creative class- We live in hotels in Tokyo one night, we’re in factories in China or Vietnam, then we’re at some random trade show in Berlin, and then maybe crashing with friends in SF or LA. For the past year all my stuff has been in storage and I’ve been living in hotels in random countries or with friends. I spent some time in Maine with my parents over the autumn. I’m some nomadic business guy.. Living like this, you develop a disparate view on what you own and what you want to carry around the world with you in a duffle. Can I bring this one pair of shoes on the trip? Will this bag look decent in an important meeting, but still be sturdy enough to be hauled through Cambodia to that crappy factory there? It was out of these questions that we decided to create a brand for this lifestyle.
What was your inspiration behind the loafer/sneaker hybrid?
I was invited to a cocktail party and as I was trying to figure out what to wear, I wanted something a bit daring, but a bit standard, “classic, with a twist” I tried to find a shoe like that, I ended up just designing my own. I made the shoe-last in a woodshop in Maine. It’s rather comfortable.
Did you attend fashion design school, or take any design courses?
I have a degree in Industrial Design from RIT, in Rochester, which is a very “nuts and bolts” engineering school, but gave me a firm base for more technical Projects.
Do you currently have a design partner?
I don’t have a proper partner per-se, but we have a bit of a “Hive” of design like-minds. I work closely with Shawn Stussy, whom is on the board and has this incredibly complex understanding of the market and trends, his input and ire vibe have been invaluable. I also work with Geoff Rittmeyer for business brawn and acumen and James Vacarro, just because he’s good looking, drives an Aston Martin and is the Enfant-Terrible of marketing.
Who is your muse? Your ideal customer/clientele?
It would be some of my design-peers, whom are battling it out in the trenches at the factories; circling the earth on jets, living in hotels creating beautiful and relevant things. I often picture Scott Wilson, a school classmate in design school, and use him as a litmus-agent. Scott’s understated style and non-stop travel itinerary make him the ideal target for VÆL. Perhaps even Shawn Stussy; locked up in the Cerulean Towers in Tokyo for endless meetings, breaking out for a coffee at the micro Dean & Deluca down in the Shibuya-ku subway terminal.. a pair of VÆL boots, just visible beneath the fraying cut-off hem of his Hermès khakis..
How has your former experience at Nike, and Ralph Lauren as a Senior Designer, influenced your current design aesthetic?
They were drastically varied yet both incredibly formative experiences. I still have massive respect for both institutions and think that they are two of the most relevant players in their respective games. Nike taught me to design in a technical and innovative way, thinking way ahead, strategizing by distilling materials and processes into clear product design advantages. Ralph on the other hand helped me hone my eye, and was intrinsic in understanding contrast, texture and color. Watching him go over parts of a collection and picking up on the smallest detail if it was out of place. He had this connate style which seeped from him; he was like a walking lexicon of elegance… If I can have a 10th of his eye for steez when I’m his age, I’ll be grateful.
Which is more important—fashion or functionality? Do you think it’s possible to achieve both without slightly compromising the other? Please explain in detail.
Functionality has always been my Grail. Things which look “designed” always seem forced to me. If an object is well designed, understated and achieves its desired purpose, I consider it beautiful. I guess I’m still a modernist at heart and respect minimal, efficient looks. Things can have a purpose and still be considered fashionable. If we take camouflage or Panerai watches for instance, they both have a very distinct purpose for use, but yet they’re considered fashionable because of their success as legitimate designs; they are both ascetic, there is nothing sybarite. I’m not into crazy design, which I see as a hegemonic ego-extension. I have no need to inject myself into a product to make my mark on it. If I can remove myself form the design process, I consider that a success. I consider Errolson Hugh the master of this “pure functional design”
*What initially drew you to footwear design?
I was working for an Industrial Design office and was in a cubical, designing industrial dehumidification units; it struck me that I really wanted to design things which people were excited about. Nobody got too excited about the dehumidifiers, so I got into shoes..
How do you feel about Vael’s comparison to Clae footwear, and similar mature footwear brands? What differentiates the two of you?
I see Clae, Creative Rec etc. on a different path, motivated by different objectives. I see them as athletic shoe “inspired” lines, which is cool, but VÆL’s on a unconventional trajectory. I see VÆL as a compatriot to my old brand MEDIUM. VÆL is an idea which can be applied to brownshoe, to bags, to apparel, it’s not really just footwear, it’s more of a construct. There is more brown-shoe in the collection for fall then athletic styles, so I don’t see it in the same arena as Clae and CR. I guess I would compare it to Surface to Air, VisVim or Rogues Gallery; I see the bags and accessories as being imbued by this idea, I don’t know if the other brands look at their collections like that.. I see it more as a textural language, a study in linguistics which can be applied to events, environments and lifestyles. I could easily see bottled Scotch or a cosmetics line sitting along side the bag line. Pierre Cardin knew what time it was.
How important do you feel it is for a clothing label to have celebrity endorsement? Do you support this concept?
Celebrity endorsement is over. We had quite a bit of it at MEDIUM and I don’t think it got us anywhere closer to success. We had a picture in People magazine with tom Cruise wearing a MEDIUM shoe and an article about the brand and how is was “hot among celebs” We got calls form the “Tom Cruise Club of Alabama” (no shit) asking where they could get the shoes. People are too smart. People reading MetroPop are too smart. You’re too smart. It may get a photo of your product out there into the infoshphere, but people don’t think they’re gonna pull like Tom Cruise if they wear the same shoes he has; do they?
What was your inspiration for this season’s collection? What new and exciting projects do you have coming up for Fall 2008 and Spring 2009?
I pull tremendous inspiration from my friends and peers- I know that sounds cliché, but I’m constantly surrounded by (imho) some of the rawest most powerful designers in the industry. I look to the achievements of FYI design and their design process, their shop and their patterning skills. I bounce ideas with Jeff Staple and just spent a few days in Minneapolis with Stash and Tarek at Red Wing Boot.. These people are my heroes- and to pull some ideas form their style and work process helps define the things I’m creating. I’d have a much more difficult path to forge if I were bereft of heroes.
Fall 08 was also inspired by the Maine Coast. I designed the initial collection sitting at a dining table at my parents house in Maine; absorbing the land, watching the velvet waves envelop craggy ledges. The rough geometry of the granite coast is reflected in the obtuse angles of the pieces. The Spartan modern approach to material and texture palette is from some ancient reverberation of the departed domestic footwear industry in Maine. Spring 09 offers a few Collab pieces with Richard Hobbs of “Real Real Genuine” -SP09 also adds some color the line. I guess it was fated to happen.
What is your favorite design piece of the current Vael collection?
I kinda like the iPhone case with the copper logo metal parts which hang out of your pocket- it’s very Daikanyama -style. They make this incredible noise when they click together as you walk.
If you had to summarize your design style in one word/phrase, what would it be?
“The perfect style is no style”
Take a look at the images below thanks to HQ.