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Tiffany Chung

22 Sep 2020

Text by Tiffany Chung

ØLÅF CITIZENS: Studio Hagel

22 Sep 2020

The world has experienced a major upheaval in 2020 and everyone’s plans have been thrown off course. In these uncertain times, we can all learn to take a page from Mathieu Hagelaars’ book. The footwear designer and founder of Studio Hagel embraces the unexpected, isn’t afraid to change course, and finds innovative solutions in what others might see as mistakes. In this episode of Citizens, Mathieu shares how his experimental process has shaped the outcome of his projects and success of his studio.


Hey Mathieu, so you’ve said that you started your own studio because no one wanted to work with you. Now, you’ve worked with big international brands and great creative minds like Virgil Abloh, Daniel Arsham, Takashi Murukami. How does it feel to have come so far?

“Well, I feel blessed of course. When I first started I never expected I would work with these kinds of creative superheroes. I never expected it. When I started my studio five and half years ago, I never thought I would go abroad. I thought I would work with Dutch brands, but I never imagined going international."

 

Five and half years is fast.

“Yeah, that’s record fast. I’m still amazed by it and it wasn’t planned like this. I didn’t say okay within five years I’m going to work with the names you just mentioned. But I did focus on what I really wanted to do and knew that I wanted to do it the best. And thanks to Instagram, I had a stage to show my ideas.”

 

Wild concept made in collaboration with @opblaashelicopter &nbsp Right: Mathieu Hagelaars.

 

Do you find that Instagram really helped you get off the ground?

“Yeah, sure. Still now people are asking me ‘Why are you sharing all your ideas?’ because people can just grab them from Instagram. But one of my best decisions was to share my ideas on Instagram. All the projects that I got came directly and indirectly from Instagram. It was the best way to start working and connecting with people."

 

STUDIO HAGEL designed and made this pair of custom sneakers for the @TakashiMurakami's exhibition #sneakersforbreakfast at ComplexCon.

 

Looking back, is there anything that you wish you knew when you were first starting out? Any advice you would give your past self or anyone looking to start their own studio?

“Man, that’s a question...I guess things are always going to be different from what you think. In the beginning, I had an idea that everything I was going to communicate, everything I was going to show, was going to be done by pen and paper. Everything had to be done the traditional way because that's how it was always done.That’s what I always had in my mind. My Instagram feed had to look like a clear story, so my wall had to look like a clear story. But when I said fuck it all, I’m going to do whatever I want and follow my intuition, far better ideas came out. And maybe my wall looked like a big mess, but I started to see a signature of what I was doing. In a way, I found my signature with a looser and freer approach.”

 

Would you relate that to your ‘driven by experimentation’ process?

“Yeah, exactly. Don’t be afraid to fail or make mistakes. Don’t be afraid when things turn out differently than what you had in mind.”

 

 

Can you share any failures that you experienced?

“Definitely. Product-wise, I had an idea to make moulds and I’m horrible at making moulds. I wanted to experiment with all kinds of resins and the whole studio became one big mess. It ended up making an interesting texture but that was it. It all stuck together. I ruined a really expensive resin and the shoes that were in it. Business-wise, you learn things the hard way, like reaching out to people who are more important than you thought. One failure, I forgot a really important meeting and remembered two days after it was scheduled. That’s one of those things you do once and then never ever again. Now, I'm always on time.”

#Makersmondays.
Do you have any projects that you’re particularly proud of?

“The very first shoe that I did with Virgil. I have really nice memories from that project. That was my “breakthrough moment”. It’s a horrible way to describe it but I would say that was my international breakthrough. Virgil reached out to me saying, ‘hey, I like the things that you’re doing and I want to make a shoe with you’ and that ended up being the Off-White Off-Courts. The way we approached it was super hands on and similar to my other Makers Monday projects. That shoe was a big success for Off-White and really good for my studio.”

 

So, you probably learned a lot from that experience.

“Oh yeah. Working with Virgil was a different approach. I never worked like that before with other art directors on past projects. Also, I got to be in the factories and go through the whole process from creation to prototyping. Everything.”

 

Design and development men's footwear collection for Off-White. Working alongside with Virgil Abloh.

 

Are you working on anything exciting right now?

“I’m working on my own brand. I’m really excited but it's also scary because it's your baby that you’re going to create. It’s also a super interesting subject to do research for because you’re going to ask yourself a lot of questions: What is the thing that people want to see from you? How are you going to challenge yourself? In what way are you going to stand out from what's already out there?. During Corona, I used the time to anaylze myself, think about my own brand and what I wanted to be or not be. That's the most exciting and difficult part.”

 

It’s probably a big task to define yourself.

“Exactly. I’m approaching it as an experiment. For me, it's more about this thing I want to do and hopefully I’m going to constantly improve it. Like I said in the beginning, you never know where it's going to go. So, I can't say this is the way I'm going to start my brand, this is the way it’s going to look, and this is the person who’s going to wear it. It’s not going to work that way. You’re always going to have pleasant surprises and mistakes, maybe some failures, but that's all part of the experiment. That’s the exciting thing.”

#Makersmondays.
When you get a creative block, what do you do to get out of it?

“I like cycling. I have a racing bike. It takes a long time and you're by yourself in a different environment. It’s meditative for me. So, it's a good way to rethink everything I’m doing. If you're stuck, move away, get away from it, and when you come back, you might have a different approach.”

 

Do you see yourself expanding beyond footwear and experimenting with other clothing?

“I believe in specialising. I think I’m still learning a lot from footwear and still have a lot to learn. There are still so many areas to explore when it comes to footwear. It’s a complicated product and that's also the challenge I have with footwear design. I’m not saying I’ll never do anything else. But right now, there are so many challenges in footwear for me to explore. Like different kinds of techniques and a whole spectrum of footwear – from women’s heels to men’s sandals. There’s so much to do in the world of footwear.”

The NB x Bodega X-racer is meant for "All Terrain”, so we pushed that concept to more extreme terrains.
Speaking of shoes, what pair are you wearing right now?

“Oh shit. Uhm. I’m wearing the Nike Zoom Fly SB and I found out today that these are a half size too small. But I have a rotation of three pairs that I always wear – Nike Air Max 95 Comme des garçons, Nike Daybreak Undercover, and Hoka Speedgoats.”

 

We always wrap up the interview with the same question: What has inspired you lately?

“I’m playing around a bit with 3D scanners. What inspires me are the field scans or the really rough scans. Especially if you buy a cheap one, the scans look shitty, but also there's a roughness in the imperfect scans. Those things interest me. I like failures and mistakes. I also like to see how people repair them.”

Tiffany Chung

23 May 2022

Text by Tiffany Chung

ØLÅF CITIZENS : Virgil nicholas

23 May 2022

With honesty, well-being, and respect for oneself and each other as the foundation of Danish shoe brand, Vinny’s shoes, Virgil Nicholas has founded a shoe company with real soul. In this edition of Citizens, we step into the creative director’s classic leather loafers and discover more about his work, style, and way of life.

 

Hi Virgil, why loafers?

“Good question. I've always worn loafers and compared to all the other types of footwear in my wardrobe, they‘re the one pair of shoes that I wear to death. A couple of years ago, just before starting Vinny’s, I was looking at my rotation of the same four to five shoes I wore over and over and noticed I was missing that perfect loafer. I realized that's where I have a genuine heritage and story to tell, so it made sense that I bring that to the table myself."

 

How should one feel when wearing a pair of Vinny’s?

“I think the loafer, for me, is like when you put on a blazer jacket. It shapes you as a person, your back gets a little bit more upright and you carry yourself a bit more elegantly. Loafers do the same thing. I want both men and women to feel comfortable, relaxed, well-dressed, and feeling confident. I think when we feel our very best, we're better humans to ourselves and to our neighbors and next of kin. So, it's really about building self-respect."

Still from podcast.

From interview with Illum.

 

Is that what makes you feel confident?

“A good pair of loafers, yeah. I think one of my confidence boosters is definitely always a good outfit."

 

Do you think good taste is something you’re born with, or can it be developed?

“I think style and taste is definitely something that you can learn. It’s about what you're interested in, what you’re exposed to and influenced by. It's definitely something that you can adapt and grow into and out of. Personally, the influences from my mom and my dad and their post-colonial heritage, my African heritage, but also the urban references from when I was a kid, shaped my wardrobe. I always go to the same things. I have pieces in my wardrobe that go ten years back and it's the stuff that I love to wear the most. Then, occasionally you add new things."

 

With Silas Oda Adler.

 

What are your tips for someone who is developing their own style?

“It starts with knowing who you are. A fashionable look or outfit can sometimes become a way to dress yourself up or to hide who you are, whereas style is about what we actually like and what you can see yourself wearing over and over again that resembles you. Also, read about pieces, find out how the penny loafer came about, the history of the slip dress, or research style icons. What makes hairstyles iconic today? Why do we like 90s fashion so much right now? Why's airport style interesting? I know a lot of men that research trends and decades and fashion and it's really been a way of shaping who they are. I've done the same, more from a research and creative perspective but it definitely helps me to also keep my own style universe sharp."

 

Who's your style icon?

“My dad. He always inspired me a lot."

With kiddo.

Vinny's.

 

Do you hope to be a style icon for your son?

“He already dresses way better than me. I think he already passed me. I just want to be a good role model, that's the most important thing for me."

 

Has becoming a father changed the way you work?

Only that I have to leave work a little bit early. I love to work, so that's why I hate having to leave work early. When he sleeps, I really love to work. Especially when I get to live out my dream. I'm so blessed and lucky that he loves coming into work with me. He's an open-minded kid and really at ease around my colleagues. I can bring him anywhere and that really makes my workflow a whole lot better.

 

At parelstudios.

On the road.

 

What’s your favorite place to work?

“We got our office four months ago and we have a red couch that I love sitting on. The most amazing thing is that our office is an old apartment, so we wanted to create a homey feeling. It's always hard to leave the office which is a good sign of a good workplace, at least for myself."

 

Where do you like to relax?

“Benches in my city. I love just sitting there and people watching. Not having any plans or any distractions, just a good pair of sunglasses to watch people. If you see me on a bench, you know what I'm doing. It’s the most relaxing thing ever."

 

As a successful creative, you’ve had a lot of great ideas. Tell us about your worst idea.

“My worst idea? Ha, that’s a good one. I don’t know, I’ve had a few. There was this one project, it was right after I started my first label, I wanted to create something that was more urban. So, we started making baseball t-shirts and the execution was good, but the name was horrible – it was a combination of three French words. I speak French with my parents, so it’s a big part of me and almost everything I do creatively starts with French. We actually got a lot of traction in France, but no one understood what we were trying to say. It was just the most horrible thing I've done. We had to shut it down quite quickly for numerous reasons but mostly the name was just a killer."

 

Name one thing you hope to get better at.

“I'm always on the go, always thinking about the next step, the next collection, the next campaign, am I picking up my son? I think what I need to be better at is enjoying the present. Enjoying the moment with people that are really dear to me. The thing I really value the most in my life are my relationships. It’s easy to make up an excuse not to meet up or make time for family and friends, but if it matters, then you need to remember to prioritize them. Time flies so fast."

 

Counting blessings.

 

Tell us something you hate to do but have to.

Every month, I have to go through all my expenses and find all my receipts. It’s a work thing that I hate to do. I try to be really good at it, but I hate it.

 

And something you love to do but rarely get to.

I love to read and listen to audiobooks. I hate that I don't have or take the time to do it enough.

 

Do you have a favorite book?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Love it. It was really a kickstarter for how I started to believe in myself and knowing that anything you set your mind to is possible.

 

What's one song you listen to on repeat?

Gold by Prince. I saw him perform it live at a festival here in Denmark. It was a crazy experience.

 

Young Virgil.

 

Lastly, name a person, place, and thing that inspires you.

One of the places that inspires me a lot is Marrakech. I like it because it's a place where I always calm down, but I also see so much culture and so much honesty and genuineness in the population. I think, in general, Africa is fun because it's very true to its roots.

 

For people, I've always been a huge fan of, it’s so cliché, but Denzel Washington. I love that guy mainly because he's really talented and he can wear a lot of hats, so to speak. His body of work combined with who he is as a person, from what he says, how he thinks, how he operates, and his composure is inspirational.

 

I'm really inspired by tech and how it creates communities. For example, who would have thought even just ten years ago that there would be a car service where you can drive awesome cars without taking anything but your mobile device, logging in, driving it, then leaving it to share with another human being? It’s stuff like that, the whole shared economy in tech, I think is fantastic. It's about being helpful to each other. If the shared economy in tech could be integrated with fashion in a mainstream way, not just in the niches where it is right now, it would definitely be game-changing for the whole world.