Designed in Antwerp by a forward-thinking trio of footwear geeks and made in Italy with the utmost care
While duos are aplenty in the creative fields, a strong design trio is definitely cause to pull the car over and further investigate. WeberHodelFeder (WHF) might sound like it should be followed by loud "Gesundheit!" but a glance at the label's high-end, handmade Italian leather shoes leaves you with little to say and a lot to appreciate. The three designers—Matthias Weber, Niklaus Hodel and Florian Feder (who hail from Munich and Berne)—met as students of the Fashion Department at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, where WHF is now based. They met over a mutual love of soccer, which later unearthed a common obsession for all things footwear (Hodel recently confessed through social media that his all-time favorite pair of shoes is a pair of Reebok high-tops he purchased at a factory outlet).
WHF is proving that "built to last" doesn't have to also mean plain or stodgy, by adding distinct, Belgian avant-garde twists to classic styles. For example, their signature Velcro boot takes a unisex brogue and transforms it into a high-top, crepe-soled wedge, swapping out laces for Velcro straps, for a utilitarian shoe that grabs just the right amount of attention. We've seen colorful handwoven desert boots, Bauhaus stripes on oxfords, mesh insets on derbies, and now, edgy boat shoes for both men and women. Read our interview with the trio below to learn more about their S/S15 collection.
How did friendship turn into founding a brand?
The idea for WHF grew over our last few months at the academy and, fueled by encouraging words from the right people, started right after. The first order was in only a few weeks after graduation.
How does designing as a three-person team work? Do you have strengths in different areas?
We basically try to divide the work in the most logical way, deciding already at an early stage who will take care of which styles. It is only when we get the first prototypes in when we really start to discuss the shoes in detail all together. After two and a half years, this proved to be the most efficient as well as successful solution.
Can you describe the production process and the quality of materials you use for your shoes?
The whole production is made in Italy, where we work with two manufacturers. Depending on the typology of each shoe, we sample and produce them in the Venice or the Montegranaro workshop. Most of the work is still done by hand which requires the best materials available.
What were some of the main inspirations for the S/S15 collection?
When we refer to S/S15, we talk about the sailing punk collection which sums it up quite well. We infused punk materials and textures into the rather preppy boat sport. It all started with an image of a young Mick Jagger and a polished Boesch Boat.
Did you make any tweaks to your signature Velcro brogues design for S/S15?
After having left it untouched ever since we started, we broadened the range by adding an all black version, which comes in black patent leather, a hand painted black welt and the matching black rubber sole. It will be exclusively sold at Isetan and United Arrows in Tokyo, Colette in Paris and on our web shop.
When you aren't wearing your WeberHodelFeder shoes, what else do you pick from in your closet?
Definitely a pair of kicks. Matthias buys sneakers as if it were a bag of crisps.
Visit WeberHodelFeder online for a complete list of stockists. Keep an eye out as their web shop will launch online within the next month.
Images courtesy of WeberHodelFeder