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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

03 Oct 2021

Text by Tiffany Chung

CiTIZENS: Cynthia Cervantes

03 Oct 2021

From working in educational reform and becoming COO of a high school, to cofounding a creative studio dedicated to celebrating stories of black, indigenous, and communities of color, Cynthia Cervantes has spent much of her career focusing on building a better future for the people around her. In this edition of Citizens, Cynthia tells us about her new city, life as a working parent, and Maroon World, the studio she launched with her husband, Travis Gumbs.

 

Hi Cynthia, tell us how Maroon.World got started.

“It grew out of frustration of having very veiled conversations with clients who wanted a specific look – at that time, everyone was calling it ‘urban content’– but they didn‘t have the language and were not in a position to say what they wanted to say. We wished we could do work that spoke to our own communities in a way that was authentic - made by US for US, so we decided to just do it ourselves. Everything we worked to put out in the world was made specifically for people of color, made by people of color. That’s where it was born from."

 

Do you have any advice for clients on how to have those conversations?

“If you’re a brand, it starts with having a diverse team. Not just bringing in people to fill periphery positions. When we’re at a table and speaking to a creative team, VP, or whoever is in charge of making decisions, those people need to be people of colour. You have to have people representing the audience you’re trying to connect to."

Photography by Travis Gumbs.

Art direction BY Cynthia Cervantes.

 

What are your goals for Maroon.World in the future?

“As time has gone on, we’re trying to diversify the kind of work that we’re doing and spread into other areas. It‘s not just about creating content, we're really thinking about how our ethics and our intentions manifest themselves through our work and day to day lives."

 

What key elements are needed when telling someone’s story visually?

“It starts with intention. What is the intention of what we're trying to relay? What is the intention of the story? In storytelling or stories we were told as children, they always end with ‘the moral of the story is…’ and that’s what we’re looking for. Second, is really understanding who or what it is we’re working with. Then you get a sense of what the imagery is. It’s about becoming inspired by that person's story and finding the nuances that are a part of that."

 

Photograph By Shaniqwa Jarvis.

 

How do you overcome any challenges you face in your work?

“I try not pressure myself to create anything or be creative at all. I just focus on the present and do something that makes me happy like meditate, cook, or spend time with my son. He likes drawing, so we draw together. It helps me get to a place where it feels good to create again."

 

Name a project or accomplishment from your career that you’re most proud of.

“Now that our lives are so different because we have a child and our energy is divided into many different arenas of life, I think differently about my past accomplishments. I am thankful for them, and for the path that has led me to this place in my life, but more than looking backwards at the past, I am more so inspired to think about what my future accomplishments will look like."

Photography by Travis Gumbs.

Art direction BY Cynthia Cervantes.

 

 

Can you share news on any upcoming projects?

“I am very excited about a project my husband has been working on for almost two years now. It‘s an extension of the work we’ve done together, specifically in regards to honouring our cultures and ancestral knowledge. It’s called Medicinal Plant Index. It’s an herbal supplement line and resource guide for medicinal plants. It’s going to launch at the end of the year. We’re currently working on building out the resource guide, which explores traditional uses of herbs, documents the people that have been working to cultivate medicinal plants , and provides an understanding of how herbs can be incorporated into our daily lives."

 

You work with your husband a lot. Has parenthood affected the way you work together creatively?

“Parenthood has exposed very specific parts of our partnership that are very strong and that we rely on daily in order to make it through the day. We often talk about the fact that because we’ve known each other for so long and have worked under extremely difficult circumstances professionally, our transition to parenthood has been really interesting and fun. I think it has also made us reevaluate where is it that we really feel is important that we show up for each other."

 

 

Okay, let's play a ‘this or that’ game. New York or Mexico City, which do you prefer for food?

“Mexico City. Hands down. We don’t eat gluten and we eat a mostly plant-based diet, so the food in Mexico City is next level - you can just spend every single day eating your way through the city."

 

What about a night out?

“New York! A lot of my friends are in nightlife so it’s always just a cute vibe. Also, there's such an incredible mix of people and cultures."

 

Which city do you prefer for art?

“That‘s really hard. I‘m going to say a tie. New York and Mexico City are so inspiring in such different ways. Both places really push you to want to make work, but I think the vibe is so different in each place. I think Mexico City is much more experimental."

 

Last one, New York or Mexico City for style?

“That’s so hard. They're so different! For me, in Mexico City, the best style is found on people you pass on the street, who aren’t necessarily in the fashion or art world. In New York, the looks I find most incredible or inspiring are usually on people who are in the scene."

 

In Mexico City with fam.

 

Can you describe how your own personal style has evolved?

“It’s been a journey! I definitely had my ‘fashion girl’ moment - a mushroom haircut with shaved sides and COMME des GARÇONS silhouettes. Now, I'm definitely giving off 'on-duty' mom vibes hahaha. It’s more about being comfortable because I am so active. Can I sit on the floor and play? Can I run to the store and grab something? It's pushing towards more classic, I think. I'm heading into like a more simple phase for sure."

 

Name a person, place, and thing that inspires you.

“I am forever inspired by my grandmother, Ofelia Alvarez. I have her picture hanging by my desk and whenever I feel anxious or depleted I look to her for inspiration and for encouragement to push through. She was such an incredible human being, and she would always make sure I knew how proud of me she was and how much she loved me. Everything about her inspires me – her fierce and profound love for her family, her tireless work ethic, her style – everything!"

 

“A place that inspires me is Mexico City. I love being here. I love walking around the streets. I love hearing music. I love hearing Spanish all day. I love hearing parents talk to their children. I love everything about being here. There's nothing like it."

 

“The other truly inspiring driving force in my life is my son, Tenoch. He inspires me every day to be a good person and to live the kind of life that I hope he will emulate and take to the next level. I just want to create a life experience for him that is so full, rich, and undeniably full of love."