Addicted to instant gratification, our current culture often coaxes brands to put momentary trends, "hype", and meme-worthiness before all else. In a related story this week, we discussed how many so-called luxury brands have been reduced simply to logos in an attempt to find a broader audience. One such label bucking this trend is Vagabond Shoemakers — a Swedish footwear brand primarily committed to quality, craft, and customer satisfaction that started in 1993.
Approaching its 30th year and to celebrate the release of its new AW19 collection and campaign, we spoke with one of the brand's co-founders and now creative director Marie Nilsson Peterzén to discuss the brand's origins and how it remains loyal to its DNA. Peterzén also gives us the lowdown on Vagabond's sustainability practices and breaks down what the brand is doing to help solve the issues our planet faces. Read on for more.
What do you do at Vagabond Shoemakers as creative director?
I am responsible for us appearing and developing in a way that is true to our story and DNA. I would not be able to succeed if I wasn’t surrounded by a lot of talented people who push our boundaries and contribute new perspectives.
Why did you found Vagabond Shoemakers in 1993? In terms of the brand’s purpose and motivation, what’s changed or stayed the same since then?
When my husband and I started the brand we were determined to create a shoe fashion brand for a global audience. That has not changed! But as fashion changes, so do we — a new season is kind of a fresh start. Today, we are extremely well equipped with inhouse knowledge about the art of shoemaking and how to best present our products and brand worldwide. We’ve really learned to trust our gut feeling about style. Our own archives are also a true source of inspiration.
In a world of fashion memes and products often sold on hype over anything else, what makes Vagabond’s products special and something people should take notice of?
To us, it is a big thing to be “for real”. Our shoes are not just a hype, they are a companion and your wardrobe’s best friend. We really wish for our shoes to be very low cost per use!
How does Vagabond honor its legacy while continuing to push forward, innovate, and keep up with the times?
Well, since we are all about curiosity and not standing still, changing is normal and that is what we love. At the same time, we have a steady ground based on individual style, the love of a great looking shoe, and in the belief that great shoe design should not cost a fortune. We challenge ourselves within looks, but most importantly within how people think, live, and consume. We urge our consumers to “only buy what you really love”.
The theme of Vagabond’s AW19 campaign is “modern freedom”, what does “freedom” mean to the brand?
We always look for modern vagabonds who move forward for modern reasons! And we want to celebrate all kinds of creativity and everyone’s free choice of style and lifestyle. The past few seasons we’ve been intrigued by perspectives, modern freedom to us means that there are several ways to express something, and by interacting with different people you will find true inspiration.
Talk us through the AW19 collection. What were its reference points? What were the biggest challenges this season? And what are your favorite designs?
Raw, ingenious and, endlessly personal. Grunge is a perennial inspiration in the world of Vagabond Shoemakers, and definitely so for AW19. The collection is also about effortless elegance in autumnal colours, presenting a wide range of neutrals and brown shades seen on updated classic styles, such as the tall boots, brogue shoes, and ankle boots. I like how nostalgia and futurism mix and are featured in new tall Chelsea boots to accompany this season’s power dressing. I am most proud of our new workwear boots that derive from our own ‘90s archives and important for both male and female styling.
Sustainability is a crucial topic in fashion and design right now. Vagabond says it makes quality shoes for those who care about “a sustainable way of life” and has made a commitment to more sustainable practices. What does this mean? What is Vagabond doing to alleviate rather than escalate the problem?
Investing in fashion products is very much an irrational and emotional choice. That is why we as a fashion supplier have to act responsibly, stay close to the process, and be on our toes. Among the components available in the market, we choose the best possible; it is about minimizing chemicals, using recycled and/or resource-efficient materials to the extent possible. Leather cannot be recycled into new leather, but on the other hand, it has unique properties and a long lifetime. This means perhaps the most sustainable thing you can do is take care of your shoes, use them for a long time and also make sure they pass on to someone else. Our mission is to make those kinds of shoes.
What new developments in shoe design and materials are you most excited about? What impact do you think they will have on the future of footwear manufacturing?
Each season is a new development for us! Both in terms of how style is progressing, but also new materials, new modes of construction, and other sustainability improvements. Right now we are focusing on materials. We have a glue innovation project with a Swedish laboratory to find a formula with more environmentally friendly yet equally durable substances. If we find a good solution, we want to share this with our partners and colleagues — collaboration on each level is what will bring us forward.