When it comes to shoes, most of us fashion lovers have to admit: We are addicts. If a new label peaks around the corner with a piece of perfection, we will go insane. Usually this is a female specific phenomenon, but luckily for the gentlemen shoe gazers out there, we are happy to introduce VELT. Launched in April 2013,VELT is one of the most promising men’s footwear labels to emerge.
Recently, Œ Magazine met up with Stephan Rechsteiner and Patrick Rüegg, the masterminds behind VELT, to talk about their spring/summer 2014 collection, their design process and the Swiss Design Award.
VELT is a pretty young label with so much potential. Before we discuss what exactly you are doing and why you do it, could you tell us how you both came together to start a shoe label?
Stephan: We have known each other for quite some time. We studied together back in Zürich and hung out pretty often. We moved to Berlin independent of each other and met again. With all the time we spent hanging out, Patrick came up with the idea of starting our own “thing”—our own business.
Patrick: We both graduated with a focus on shoes, so it was crystal clear to us that we would design footwear. Three years ago, VELT was born. The big idea behind our label was to re-design classic men’s shoes and innovate them. Realizing the idea was pretty time intense and it also required money and a great network.
Where did your Label get its name from?
Stephan: It is an homage to our first studio, which was located in a small town in Switzerland called Velt. The studio moved, but we stuck with the name.
How did you decide on a design identity/style for VELT?
Patrick: Back in the days, we graduated in pretty different shoe categories: Sports shoes and orthopedic shoes. At the same time, we were attracted to the same music, people, styles and places.
Stephan: We actually didn‘t even have to discuss which kind of footwear we wanted to create, we had only one vision.
Patrick: Of course we differ in opinion here and there, but this only supports our work. It leads us to think over an idea and makes the outcome even stronger.
Before you started your first production, did you ask for feedback?
Stephan: There was someone really important to us—Alex, a friend of ours. He actually made us change the whole first draft. What he said was “Well, it‘s quite nice what you‘ve done here, but I don‘t see a bang, it ain’t surprising!“ This was a real eye-opener to us. We changed it all, at top speed, as we needed to start selling. The result was our first collection.
Patrick: When we showed the finalized shoe to Alex again, he assured us, “This is what you are suppose to do, guys!” He made us realize how important it is to take a step back, reflect and think over all decisions. A detour often is the way to go.
Please correct me if I am wrong, but with VELT you are bringing back shoe craftsmanship. How important is technique in your designs?
Stephan: What we are trying to do is to be as innovative as possible with what is given. We don‘t want to find fancy new machines, but work with well-established techniques and come up something new. It is possible that at one point we need to have other options to push ourselves into new dimensions, but this is future talk.
Where do you take your inspiration from when you start a new collection?
Stephan: From so many diverse and different sources. It can be music videos, pictures, a walk in the park, observing our everyday life or just watching people pass by while sipping coffee—things that don’t necessarily have to deal with shoes.
Patrick: I also love to have a closer look at women‘s shoes. It is way more experimental in terms of materials, colors and cuts.
Stephan: Our spring/summer collection is a bit of a continuation from our previous collection. We start with one inspiration which we develop and modify over time.
Do you have an ideal type of guy who is wearing your shoes?
Patrick: We don‘t want to stick to that one person. It was important to us to create shoes that our friends would wear. We are creating something contemporary and with that we attract a fashion forward crowd. If you don‘t dare to wear a bi-colored sole, our collection offers a safer choice.
Stephan: What we also do is take a look at different outfits on the catwalk and see how we could serve these specific looks from our favorite designers.
Originally you are from Switzerland but now you have a new studio in Kreuzberg, Berlin – what made you move to here?
Patrick: Some years ago, we both came for an internship and stayed due to love.
Stephan: For the Label, Berlin was the best choice. It is very international, a part of the EU, a big city with immense influence on us and has a great fashion scene.
Patrick: It‘s not uniformed, that‘s why we love Berlin so much. Besides that, it offers great space for reasonable prices.
You are an up and coming brand and were awarded the Swiss Design Award—the most design important award in Switzerland. How did this influence you and your future career?
Patrick: It was the best thing that could have happened to us – especially as we just took off with the label. It was an acknowledgement for what we are doing and how we do it. Besides that, it got us a lot of media attention as well as profound seed capital.
Stephan: All of a sudden we were someone in the media, people knew about us from then on.
Your new collection is around the corner – tell our reader and shoe-lovers out there what we can expect!
Patrick: Our Spring/Summer collection 2014 is called “Silently Still”, an enhancement of our previous collection. We tried to keep on playing with shaft and sole. For the summer, we are bringing a playful freshness with cut-outs, the color white and different shapes.
Your current collection consists of classic models and colors – timeless designs I love. Is this something you want to keep or can we expect some color explosion in the near future?
Stephan: (laughter) I am sure the next key looks are going in a colorful direction – something is happening.
Patrick: We are craving for some color – but in the classic footwear business, we are facing external limits we have to consider. We don‘t want to become a sneakers producer.
Stephan: A shoe has to go with an outfit. A model that only stands for itself is not working most of the time. Our collection always include a few pairs that are more extraordinary. Making shoes that stand for themselves are way more fun though – that‘s why we always design them first when we start work on a new collection (laugh).
We have some gorgeous ladies out there, craving (even) more shoes – ever thought about an additional women‘s collection?
Both: Constantly (laughter).
Patrick: It‘s true, women are screaming for VELT shoes. To be honest, we would love to design a women‘s collection, but that‘s not possible at the moment. First we have to position ourselves as a menswear label. Also we don‘t have the knowledge for women’s footwear yet. We’d like to make something elegant—a feminine shoe that is as outstanding as our menswear collection.
Stephan: We have a high standard to fulfill. If we do it, we want to do it right.
I think that your design is so significant because it would go well with a lot of clothing collections. How would you picture clothes from VELT? Is it even relevant to think about it?
Stephan: We never thought of it before, but also never got asked for a collaboration. It could be really interesting. Not a bad idea.
Patrick: With shoes you always complete a look. An own collection therefore would be a great idea. Till then we like to use some of our favorite labels like Sissi Goetze and Hien Le.
Anything else you love to share with our Œ readers?
Stephan: Yes! We would love to have our own shop in berlin, but this still takes some more time. Until then, we will try to be featured in selected concept stores around the city. This is in the planning at the moment.
Check out their Spring Summer 2014 Lookbook:
Studio Images: Christopher Riedl
Photographer: Andeas Zimmermann
Photo Assistant: Benjamin Flüglister
Model: Gregory Polony
Hair&Make-Up: Seraina Kraushaar
Graphic Design: Corina Neuenschwander
Styling: Sina Linke
Retouching: Matthew Pull