Studio Hagel – Interview with Footwear Designer Mathieu Hagelaar

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In our current issue of SNEAKERS, we’re looking at the future of footwear design with some groundbreaking concepts. We visited footwear designer Mathieu Hagelaar in his Amsterdam office, where he disassembles and re-mixes sneakers into new blends between art and sneaker design. The resulting “MakersMonday” concepts by Studio Hagel are not meant to be worn. Think of them as visual studies, as Mathieu explains in his interview.

Mathieu, how did you get into design in the first place?

My mother was a fashion designer and my father had a women’s belt factory, so I grew up surrounded by fashion. I knew I wanted to get into fashion, but wasn’t sure what part of the industry, which is why I chose a quite general study. After an internship at a footwear brand, my career launched in sales. I always had significant interest in the footwear, but didn’t dare step into design. In 2013 I realized my future wouldn’t be in sales, so I did a master class, “Industrial Footwear Design”. That was when I realized I get so much more energy from creating footwear.

Why footwear?

When I was a kid, there was a new Foot Locker store in town and I was always excited to check out the newest Nike, adidas or Fila shoes. I’ve always loved sneakers and now I’m designing them! I think it’s intriguing; you have to keep it interesting on a relatively small surface. Next to making it look cool, there are other important elements such as comfort and quality, which makes it complex and challenging.

But your “MakersMonday” concepts aren’t made to be worn, right?

That’s right, it’s purely about the visual aspect. I’m not a developer (yet); I design these concepts by making them, instead of sketching. At the masterclass, we learned the basics of pattern-making and shoe construction. While I use these basics, the concepts have a different purpose other than being a comfortable sneaker you can wear all day long.

How do you approach them? Can you tell us about your workflow?

My “MakersMondays” are mock-ups mainly done in a day or two. I start by taking a sneaker apart – it’s already interesting to see its different parts and how it was made. I get my inspiration from these components. Based on these individual pieces, I start imagining what a product could look like. Then I just start and create the idea I have in mind. Sometimes this works out perfectly, sometimes it looks horrible. But I’ve also learned that mistakes or accidents don’t exist while making these concepts. I’ve come up with some of the coolest details by making a mistake. Dare to make mistakes!

What are your inspirations?

I mainly get my inspiration from the product itself. I may base a concept on an aspect from the upper, the outsole or a pattern. Take the Bauer on the Nike Pegasus outsole for instance. It started with the Bauer insock and I loved the stitching and the shaft. All this beauty was “hidden” in an ice hockey skate, so I gave it a stage by putting it on the Pegasus outsole. To keep it clean and modern, I added 2 elastic straps and gave it some color details.

It looks super futuristic, which is also our theme for this issue. How do you think the actual future of footwear will look?

The big brands of today will only get bigger in the future and will have a greater responsibility. Issues like sustainable mass production will have a larger focus – they need to focus on this. Materials will get more and more innovative, like adjusting to the end consumers’ need for comfort in different moments throughout the day. I also believe in a countermovement with smaller independent sneaker brands, following their own style and keeping it fresh. You already see this happening now with brands such as Clearweather.

What are your top three sneakers right now?

Tough one. There a lot of sneakers I really appreciate because of their innovation, material or colorway, but would never wear myself. If I had to choose, here are my three favorites: Nike VaporMax X Comme des Garcons, Yeezy Runner Season 5, and adidas UltraBoost Mid X Ronnie Fieg.

Is there a brand with which you’d imagine a “dream” collaboration?

When I’m working on my concepts in studio, I am limited to creating certain techniques – I simply don’t have all the machines and tools. This limitation makes you creative, but some of my ideas are a bit more high-tech. My dream would be to have access to innovative techniques and push my concepts further. Brands like Nike, Puma, and adidas are the lucky few with the power to work with all the new technology. My other dream is Margiela. They experiment a lot with their sneakers. I would love to experiment on their classic “Replica”.

Thanks for the interview.

This interview is a shortened version. Find the original article in our print issue #34, which you can get in our store. You can also subscribe for a full year of SNEAKERS mag.

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