Continuing our Second Look series is this Q&A with Pointer. Pointer have been making moves lately, collaboration with Comme Des Garcons, Head Porter and Anderson’s to name a few. So we decided to catch up with Gareth Skewis to find out more about the move of production, collaborations and the company’s design ethos.
Autumn/Winter ’10 saw a big move for Pointer as all moulded production relocated to Portugal. Please talk us through the reasons and objective behind the move – did certain things just fall into alignment and point to such a move?
The main objective here was to put out the best possible product, made by the most skilled craftsmen at a completive price. Being a 6 and half year old footwear brand, it’s key to put the best product you physically can. To get any man out of the footwear brands he’s been buying most of his life is hard enough, so once you accomplish that it’s key you offer him the best product and service you can – and to do it with an interesting approach. It was also becoming very apparent that with certain design ideas heavily influencing certain other brands that we really needed to take a different approach from a production point of view too. Which is why we moved our moulded line to Portugal. That’s also why we haven’t moved our vulcanised footwear production out of China to countries like Vietnam and Thailand. At our current size and volume brand loyalty is crucial, a concept many accountants and finance people can’t get their heads round. Actually, saying that, brand loyalty and understanding is most likely the most important aspect of any consumer based brand whether you are a Tea Bag or Car company.
The same logic works that if we were going to make leather soled welted footwear we would look to produce it in the UK.
One year on, what have been the biggest vindications for the move – surely a closer working relationship with people who have a heritage of making shoes means both quality and inspiration must have jumped a notch?
The close relationship we have formed with the 5 factories we work with has been key from an inspiration and idea’s standpoint; not to mention gaining a better understanding to the constructions they specialise in. But our biggest vindication has been putting the message out there – both to our competitors and to our consumers – that there may now be similar looking designs and product out there, but our product is produced in premium fabrics and leathers by master craftsmen. It is also sends out the message that we refuse to enter into a price war with the larger corporations. If it costs a certain amount to get our consumer group a specific product at a specific standard then that is what we are going to do. Everyone at Pointer has too much respect for our consumers to supply them with cheaper product each season. Not to mention respect for the brand.
So where is Pointer raising the bar to next in expansion terms (production-wise, brand-wise or otherwise)?
I think that us putting out styles like the Pluckrose (in stores right now) speaks volumes about where we’re coming from regarding aesthetics and experimenting/rethinking how certain classic styles are perceived.
AW11 drops into store in July/August and will see quite a few new styles across a variation of price breaks and styles. I think there are a few designs that will surprise people. AW11 also seeing co branded line with CDG, Porter and Anderson and a few other special projects that will be unveiled closer to the time.
It will also see the opening our of first stand alone store in Berlin, this will be the start of opening more Pointer stores through Europe. I think this is really key to showing the man in the street really what Pointer is about, influenced by and so on by having our own environment to show case the entire line.
I know SS12 is is a long way away but there are some very positive and interesting changes that will be happening.
Moving on to collaborations – something Pointer has really embraced. Straight off the bat, which appeals more: A collab with someone whom you can totally experiment afresh with and go far beyond the usual Pointer parameters, or, someone who will adapt a Pointer classic to produce a re-imagined Pointer classic? Which kind gives you the most satisfaction?
We’re really careful regarding any form of collaboration project. I made a decision at the start of Pointer that we would not put any co-branded product out for the first 5 years. When Pointer started we were right in the middle of all the Nike SB dunk hype and I wanted to put as much distance between that and us as possible. It’s also pointless to put out co-branded product while you are really trying to define your own DNA.
The first product we made for another brand was CDG and I thought that was a good place to start. Then, in that same season, we worked with Anderson and Baracuta.
Regarding the questions. They are both equally exciting. We’ve always had people rework our designs from an upper fabric and sole changes standpoint. What we try to do is use the partnering brand strengths on our product and vice versa.
One of Pointer’s tenets is to produce shoes in response to a market saturated with hyped-up limited editions. How do you approach and balance your collaborations (eg the upcoming Christopher Shannon x Pointer collab) so that they offer more than just another limited Big Name x Big Name team-up?
My whole take on collaboration projects is to keep your consumer interested and trying to push towards the unexpected. Hence us working with Christopher Shannon. I think the way he reinterpreted our designs was really left field and super unique. What I really like with like of this project is that it was really unexpected from his clientele and ours. It’s good to bridge those different groups and keep everyone guessing. So it’s not like Nike putting a Coca Cola label a Air Force 1.
To what extent do you use collaborations as ‘laboratories’ to experiment and explore new and different materials and techniques?
We have used it to a certain extent as a testing ground on the footwear. The project with the CDG Shirt line (available in AW11) is really interesting from a production point of view, it was a interesting take on producing shoes. So once you have gone down those type of roads it really gives you a different perspective and opens you up to different ideas. We also have used the double branded projects to experiment on different pieces of clothing, belts and bags. So that has been really fun to be involved with as we currently only make footwear.
From Comme des Garcons to Baracuta, you guys have executed tonnes of great collaborations, but has there ever been a collaboration that, when the results came in, just failed to work – and if so, was there any salvageable aspect that still, somehow, helped bring a new Pointer into being later down the line?
Honestly we have only ever had one collaboration/product that did not come to fruition. That was due to someone making a mistake on the production line and using the wrong neck patterns piece, it really killed as me as it was a jacket I had been dying to make for years and really wanted to wear from a personal point of view.
We have been able to get all the co-branded footwear projects out into market, so that is a positive. On a side note there are styles we’ve worked on from our main line that have taken seasons of sampling to evolve. They’ve finally ended up out in the market looking and feeling very different from the first design idea. It’s an amazing feeling when you see someone in the street wearing a design that you know has taken years to evolve, it’s a very different feeling than with the styles that make it through easily.
Is it the case that there’s a specific, deconstructed, Pointer hidden within the collaborations even if it doesn’t produce a shoe (eg the Anderson Belt or the Pointer x Porter collaboration – I’m sure I can see the Tanju in that one!)?
I am really glad you have been able to draw those conclusions. On all the Anderson lines we use our colour palette of that season. We normally do 2 belts that have the same colour make up as 2 shoes (the Tanju has been used as reference on all the Anderson lines) and then we usually design one belt using as many colours from that seasons pallet as possible so always aiming to get something quite intense colour wise on a classic belt.
With the Porter line we have pretty much always used the colours of one of that seasons new Taylor colours. So the styles that are in store now match the Taylor Peacoat. Next season’s Porter line again takes it colours from the Taylor.
It goes with out saying that some of our footwear styles have more in common with certain collaborations as the products sit well together. So the Anderson stuff has always had a gentlemen’s feel to it, so they’ll sit with the Tanju’s. Whereas the Porter stuff has, at least in my mind, always had something more in common with the more casual part of our line – so Debasers, Taylors and so on.
Of course for a brand such as yourselves, collaborations aren’t simply limited to shoes/garments themselves but are also a huge part of the overall brand – artwork, ad campaigns, publications etc. Is the process of sourcing and deciding on these collaborations any different to those for your garments and which ones have been your favourites?
We try and use the same logic in everything we put out. We always look at everything in a different way and trying to rethink the way things are normally done. We always try and keep the same common theme so that whatever we put out into has a timeless feel to it. I know not an easy talk, trying to rethink or redefine in a things and doing to in a timeless fashion.
Words by Alex Jackson