In an industry addicted to retro, Highsnobiety presents The New Vanguard of Footwear, a dedicated hub that celebrates the pioneers from around the globe who are changing the face of what today represents a multi-billion dollar industry.
RAL7000Studio is a collective of designers based out of Italy, who function as experts within a field of experts, encompassing brand consulting, freelance design, middlemen, and collaborators.
The studio was founded by Marco Simonetti, Michael Cutini, and Mattias Gollin, and has now grown to a team of six with the additions of footwear designer Agata Panucci, 3D-specialist Paolo Properzi, and pattern maker Francesco Pierbattista.
The collective is exactly as you’d expect a group of hyper-creative people with different strengths and interests to be. Every member has their own ideas, references, and aesthetics. It can be a wild and messy approach, but that’s exactly how RAL7000 wants it to be.
“We have a lot of different projects and our team is composed of different people with different backgrounds,” says Marco Simonetti. “During each project, we merge these different visions to fit the brief. As soon as we start, everyone shares their ideas. We come up with solutions and then we start to filter them down to two or three. Then we start building from there.”
“Every project has passion, innovation, the desire to create a culture around what we do,” adds Michael Cutini.
RAL7000STUDIO, while existing as an idea and unofficial entity for longer, was officially founded and formed in June 2021. Still, the group has already worked with some titans of the fashion industry. adidas commissioned the RAL7000 team to create a prototype ZX sneaker, which went viral on Instagram late last year, while Jerry Lorenzo’s Fear of God enlisted the collective to work on the brand’s California slip-on mule. Additionally, the collective was working with the late Virgil Abloh and ALASKA ALASKA on several concepts over the past seasons.
As part of Highsnobiety’s Footwear Vanguard, we caught up with the team out of Civitanova Marche, Italy to find out what makes each of the members tick.
What sneaker from your youth inspired you as a designer?
MARCO SIMONETTI: The Nike Air Max 95 and Air Max 97 for sure. I still have all the pairs I got in random sizes from my parents as birthday and Christmas gifts. I also found all the storytelling around the first drop of the Prada Luna Rossa America’s Cup really inspiring. Game-changing project.
MICHAEL CUTINI: I’m between an AirMax 1 and the Raf Simons x adidas series.
AGATA PANUCCI: My passion was born over time, so I don't have a favorite shoe from my youth. I like to remember shoes that marked a period in my life. For example, the Nike Air Max 95 was one of the first sneakers I bought with the money from my first job as a designer.
What is your favorite shoe that you’ve designed?
SIMONETTI: It would have to be the RAL7000STUDIO x adidas Originals Mutant ZX project for several reasons. It’s the first project we worked on as a team, it set the foundations for the studio. It reflects our vision as a team, and is the first step towards the future of our studio. A little spoiler: we’re currently working on an evolution of the project to give our community the chance to buy it.
What does the future of footwear design look like?
ALL: We strongly believe that R&D and innovation (technology, new materials, supply chains, sustainability) will have a key role moving forward. We also believe that our studio and all the other key players around the world will define the future of the sneaker design organically together, step by step.
What are some of your inspirations, and would you say you have a signature aesthetic?
SIMONETTI: Being in the footwear business for 15 years, as a designer I really believe in creating a link between the past and the future. I see myself in between the traditional footwear-making process and the latest futuristic technologies applied to the footwear industry. In terms of inspirations, I believe that YEEZY completely changed the game, going from Nike Air Yeezy 1 to the latest YEEZY Knit. The evolution of the YEEZY brand is absolutely a source of inspiration for me as a designer.
CUTINI: Having studied graphics and product/industrial design, I try to apply a transversal approach to the design process. Trying to use new software that combine with new technologies lead each project to be increasingly studied and advanced from both a technical and design point of view. I grew up as a designer in the era of Virgil and Kanye. While making my first prototypes, these legends came out with The Ten and YEEZY, so they certainly influenced me a lot. Balenciaga too.
MATTIAS GOLLIN: Honestly, I don’t think I can identify myself in a type of aesthetics defined as “main style.” I have an attitude in clothing that changes from day to day and mainly reflects how I feel. I really like to combine different styles, to try to harmonize them. It’s a way of doing things that I’ve become aware of in recent years. For example, in the past, I would wear a coat, sweatshirt, pajamas, and slippers. In short, a way of being marked by an original naturalness that really expresses who I am based on how I feel on a certain day. I really believe that we should all express ourselves by following our inner “self.”
PANUCCI: My style is contaminated by my fashion study. I love everything that is vintage, especially from the ‘80s to the ‘00s. My aesthetic is a fairy world full of elements that I absorbed during my adolescence: Sex and the City, The Nanny, Sailor Moon, and of course The Bratz. I like to be inspired by everything I like. I love Miuccia Prada's incredible work, but I also admire many emerging designers. So each project is a union of all those little things I like plus a bit of my wonderland.