Nestled at the foot of the Italian Alps, between the French and Swiss borders, is the global headquarters of Vibram.
Founded in 1937, Vibram specializes in the production and manufacturing of rubber outsoles for footwear. One of the brand's biggest claims to fame is the Carrarmato ("tank tread") sole, which was created in 1937 by Vibram founder Vitale Bramani, who lost six comrades on a hiking expedition in the Alps after an incident that was partially blamed on improper footwear. Vibram's global general manager Paolo Manuzzi tells Highsnobiety: "We think the only way to be considered one of the best companies is to innovate and to design new products. So research and development is the key point of the company. Innovation and creating new product is always top of mind."
Vibram channels a significant amount of resources into research and development – the proof is in the square footage of test facilities at their headquarters. Many will be familiar with the brand's opinion-splitting Vibram FiveFingers shoe, which features an ergonomic design that contours to the shape of the human foot. In 2018, Vibram won the ADI (Italian Association for Industrial Design) Golden Compass award for their innovative Furoshiki shoe. The design features sheaths of fabric that wrap around the foot, locking in place with Velcro closures to provide a fully personalizable and uniquely comfortable fit.
In addition to the production and manufacturing of soles, Vibram also licenses its creations to other brands; in recent times, the label has found its way into the conversation surrounding streetwear and limited edition sneakers, after working in partnership with brands like Our Legacy, OFF-WHITE, and 1017 ALYX 9SM. "These collaborations push us to be even more creative," Manuzzi mentions. "Some great ideas come from outside these walls. It's nice to create these collaborations and work with others that are recognized in the business."
Vibram's forward-thinking aspirations have birthed a handful of other concepts and experimental prototypes that have never made it out the doors. Many of these products are developed between the brand's Italian manufacturing facility in Albizzate and the Milan-based Vibram Connection Lab, an area devoted to experimentation and research. We visited Vibram in Italy to uncover what the sole manufacturer will be working on in the next five-ten years.