Matthew Taylor
Footwear designer | Founder + Creative director of Auxiliary

All posts by Matthew Taylor

Creativity in Captivity – Notes from Designers on Creative Life in Isolation | 06

One interesting phenomenon to observe since the beginning of quarantine has been the surge of information and online communication, which seems to have now reached its peak saturation point. That being said, at this point we think its fair to assume that you probably know enough / too much about what everyone is doing at home. With that in mind we present the final piece in the series, with a few strong recommendations and a glance forward to creativity beyond captivity.

 

Samuel Pearce, Creative Design Manager, New Balance 

Its morning again, I make a strong black coffee and fire up the laptop inside my ever expanding fortress of “sample” shoeboxes (me and the DHL guy are on first name terms).

I think as creatives we are all kind of introverted in the way we work, muddling away in our own minds searching for the perfect thumbnail amongst the scribbles like one of those 90’s magic eye posters. This is, of course, till you don’t have the option to communicate… As well as handling my own projects I manage a team of 4 designers, we are a tight knit group and although we all live within a few miles of each other we have never felt so distant. We have found our catch-up calls getting longer as the weeks go by, discussing topics far beyond just footwear as our creative minds crave input.

There is a clear shift in mentality, maybe even hope, that the worlds RESET button could soon be hit and we all come out of this better off. These are challenging times but as designers we are in a unique position to force change, we are on the front line of an entire industry and we are excited for whats next.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel or is that just Eric with another delivery?

 

Enrique Corbi, Senior Director of Design, UGG Men’s

The team and I have been constantly in touch through Zoom, Teams, text messages and etc. Right now we have two seasons workload overlapping, SS’21 and FW’21.

For S’21 we will be having our first virtual Sales Conference next week, where we will be presenting the collection to our partners via Zoom. They will be getting individual sets of sales samples per region.

For F’21, we will be having our first virtual development sample reviews meeting too. To try and simplify the process as much as possible, we have been working making modifications directly on shell patters, outsole blueprints and rounds of 3D prints. Once you get used to it, the speed is very similar as if all was normal, also the level of accuracy is similar or increased because of the extra amount of focus you get from isolated working.

It’s all about finding the best way to make things happen given the current context.

Personally, I have been keeping motivated by increasing the amount of exercise in my agenda; long walks very early in the morning and cycling at night with power-led-lights to avoid crowds. Meditation also helps relieve the stress of being stuck in the USA and unable to travel to see the family in Europe.

 

David Mawdsley, Footwear Designer 2, Nike

I came across this great meme with the main image of Ray Liotta & another actor I forget the name of taken from a Goodfella’s scene with them both leaning back laughing. The meme asked, “Could you survive 14days in quarantine?”, with “Artists” & “Designers” pasted on their chests. This put me at ease instantaneously.

It’s all about your attitude. What’s your mindset?
For me it’s not that I’m being imprisoned with myself for a period of time, it’s that I’ve been given the opportunity to work from home and work is what I will do! Not just from a constant creation stand point, but to work on adding to ones tool belt. There has been no better time to step in and out of things you’ve been looking at from a distance. Inevitably these things will add value to yourself wether or not you choose to follow it through after this mass lockdown.

This might come across as a little whimsical, but the mind is where the creation derives, so feed it. What you produce physically that is tangible for others to see, doesn’t necessarily have to be your gain at this time.

Feed your brain, here’s some things i’ve been digesting…

Time Sensitive Podcast –
Features candid, revealing portraits of curious and courageous people in business and the arts. (Personal favourite is Bjarke Ingels)

 

Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Revisionist History –
MG was the man behind the best seller, ‘Outliers’ . Revisionist History is some what of an extension of the book, but covers subjects such as, “Why the McDonalds fries no longer tastes as good as it did”. (Outliers is a great book too).

 

Sapiens : A Brief History of Humankind. By Yuval Noah Harari.
Learn where you came from and how our ancestors shaped the world we live in today.

GROSS IDEAS : Tales of Tomorrow’s Architecture
A book filled with short fictional stories based on what we know today. Ideas that will melt your mind and will shock you into contemplation about our actions and how it’ll affect the future. (Black Mirror vibes)

Why Materials Matter by Seetal Solanki.

If you don’t know, get knowing!

Happy quarantining.

 

Creativity in Captivity – Notes from Designers on Creative Life in Isolation | 05

Its starting to seem like the best terminology for working successfully during these times is not “how do we get through this”, but rather “how do we get around this”. In this series of excerpts, we hear from designers on mobilising their teams and finding solutions for maintaining productivity, creativity and a little sanity (where possible).

Above image by @Coveteur

 

Tom Astrella and Hector Rubio, Founders, Footsoldiers

In these strange times where the future is uncertain and difficult to predict, it’s important to see the positives. The old adage that you only truly miss something once it has gone, has never been truer. Family, friends and colleagues have never seemed more important than now… However, we are very fortunate that we live in an era where communication has never been stronger. Video calls are finally being adopted by the masses, and online ordering allows everything under the sun to be delivered to your front door.

Despite the unfortunate events of 2020 and the negatives attached to it, we have tried to champion the positives. WFH is a good example. Members of our team had already been focusing on the potentials of working from home long before current events. We were not convinced how well it would work… but then Covid-19 hit us all like a car crash… forcing not just us, but everybody, to adopt this way of working… and now it has been simply made to work for everyone. Despite the enthusiasm for WFH, nobody anticipated that the discussion would close with everyone away from any kind of office environment for an indeterminate amount of time.

As a Consultancy we have also had more than a vested interest in seeing what 2020 held. In 2015 The Footsoldiers were asked by a large Japanese Sportswear brand to predict and compile future trends for 2020. Looking 5 years ahead is unusual, and was no mean feat. We had to abandon our typical approach to trend forecasting. Half a decade was just too far out to predict. We instead turned to the calendar, examining what Global events were happening, and what could impact the sports and streetwear markets (from developments in AR/VR, space travel, the Olympics etc.). Unfortunately, nobody was able to forecast the true path of 2020, and much, if not all, of the work & forecasts we had put so much time, effort and research into are now nullified or postponed.

I guess if 2020 has taught us anything right now, you could say it’s: be careful what you wish for and don’t try and plan too far ahead! 
The truth is it has given us all time to pause and reflect, and has shown us the true value of our relationships with one-another.

 

John Elliott, Founder, John Elliott

Luckily enough, my team and I live pretty close to each other here in LA. Although we can’t see each other in person, that proximity has allowed us to stay connected by leaving samples on each other’s doorsteps for fittings, and sending product house to house. In terms of work, we’re still able to develop product.

In terms of ideas, I’ve been going through archives of books and listening to music. I’m trying to avoid too much time on the internet, and definitely not turning on the TV. I think we’re all playing a bit of futurist right now, and in many ways, it’s a fun mental exercise to be forced to hit the reset button.

 

Matthew Head, Footwear Design Director, HOKA ONE ONE

I’m fortunate enough to have an amazing team of humans that report to me but with that comes responsibility, so adapting to try and keep them in a space where they feel they can be creative has been a whole learning curve for me and I’m not sure I’ve cracked it yet! Earlier in the year, we made some small tweaks to our week that have really stood us in good stead for this whole WFH / quarantine fever dream we’re having that I think can work for individuals as well as teams.

First, we always consolidate our ‘business chat’ to one mega meeting at the start of the week, at a reasonable hour (10am), so we can outline everyones priorities so they can then attack it however they feel best. I think understanding the scope of the week is important; you can mentally process and block out spots for dedicated creativity. Towards the end of the week, we have a second catch up dedicated to anything other than day to day work, a mental break usually with something sweet! We’ve done things like screen printing, collaging, and inspiration sharing. This tends to destress and refresh me (and hopefully others too). Since working from home, this meeting has evolved to a loose sort of Happy Hour where we might take turns to lead an origami session or play scattergories and generally get a bit of perspective as to the point of all this!

 

Creativity in Captivity – Notes from Designers on Creative Life in Isolation | 04

As we approach the hump of the (…3rd?) week, it’s safe to assume the novelty might be wearing off. You’ve probably spent more time looking out of the window lately, maybe formed some habits that you swore you’d avoid, or perhaps by this point you’ve given up altogether and resorted to watching Netflix in your underwear. Wherever you’re at, read on for some more insights, motivational notes and recommendations for you to keep your inspiration flowing and your goals in sight.

Salehe Bembury, VP of Sneakers, Versace 

Designers walk many different paths, have different talents, and backgrounds. However, one perspective that we all share, is we wish we had more time. The common distractions of a designer’s life frequently take away from the time required to bring resolved designs to fruition. Words like “procrastination”, “all-nighter”, and “deadline” become all too familiar for the active designer. I am staying creative during this time by simply utilizing it. Considering “time” is something I rarely have, I am using this period to learn, analyze, create, and evolve. I am surrounded by people saying they are bored, but to me that is more of a narrative on their lack of passion for a craft. My passion for footwear is keeping me creative during this time.

Dominic Ciambrone, Founder, The Shoe Surgeon

We are all creators… we are all a version of our own “surgeon”, I came up with the name surgeon years ago. What’s the similarity? A surgeon has to put in minimum 11 years, sometimes 16, to be a certified surgeon. That’s what I did… I became a surgeon in my own right, by spending the time and energy to perfect my own craft. And once you become a “surgeon” it enhances everything else you want to learn and do.

PERFECT THE CRAFT! As many of you know this wasn’t a traditional path. I forced myself unknowingly to learn. To learn something I was so passionate about no one could tell me otherwise.

Was it hard… YES? But I was passionate, I CREATE from home… I stay creative.

Creativity is what keeps me going.

This is the time of opportunity! I’m focusing on applying my skills and technique to create for the greater good. As artists, we have an opportunity to empower each other to see beyond the chaos and uncertainty, and take advantage of our abilities to support our community and spread positivity. This is also a time we are forced into designing things based on life’s necessities. These are the times I thrive in most – as everyone should!

Roger Pereira, Co-Founder & Creative Director, S.W.C

In these bonkers weeks I lean on the positives and find things then start to fall into place:

  • Time & focus: I have seen people from 3D designers to make-up artists have the time and freedom to experiment in their craft and really push boundaries. We will see a step-up in innovation and ideas. Seeing things like that is a huge motivator and inspiration for me.
  • New routines: I no longer have to commute for hours every week. I use this time hanging out with my toddler more and starting on my own creative solitary pursuits. I want to put together a ‘Quarantine Cookbook’; we will all likely be making meals more that use food which would otherwise spoil or remain forgotten. Would love to see other people’s quarantine culinary creations and what mad new combos work really well. I made a layered tower of poached salmon, chickpeas, blueberries, chestnuts, pak choi and shredded beetroot all held together with tahini. Check out Salvador Dali’s cookbook ‘Les dîners de Gala’ if you are ever stuck for presentation ideas.
  • Communicate: I shouldn’t really voice this, but I hope that during people’s exercise outings they start scrawling interesting/funny/insightful things in public places for others to read. Public scrawl hasn’t been the same since its peak in the 1980s.
  • Unity: People help each other out more at the moment. That’s one of the beautiful things in all this madness. I enjoy reading about companies mucking-in and making ventilators. Have you seen the improvised facemasks people are making? Loved the New Balance made of sneaker components. Someone please organise a gallery space after all this as it would be ace to see and exhibition of these facemasks and ventilators etc that are being created.

Advice:

  • Treat yourself to an online purchase once a week. Support brands. But, don’t buy in excess with a mind to returning purchases. Returning things is a royal ball-ache at the moment. No point risking getting coughed-on in a Post Office queue returning those impulse-buy sequinned lederhosen. You knew were a bad idea from the start.
  • Be more tolerant of those you are isolating with. It’s just way more fun if you get along, don’t get annoyed about small meaningless things, be prepared to compromise a bit more, try to have a laugh and do some things (plural) every day to make someone else’s quarantine day happier. Easy.
  • Try and find positives in this unique situation. We will come out the other end and look back on these times. In many years we will constantly bore our grandchildren with stories of how we lived through this crazy period and tell quarantine anecdotes to people at bus stops (assuming we are ever allowed to be within 2m of each other, of course).

Do:

  • Jigsaw puzzles. Big fan! You can get images you love made into puzzles online quickly. Don’t do a jigsaw under 1000 pieces. You’re better than that…!

Watch:

  • Jodorowski’s Dune (Documentary): Just a brilliant telling of something that never was but still ended up being super influential.
  • 15 Storeys High (British Comedy Series): One of the best shows I have ever seen. You are going to have to get it through YouTube or DVD though. Totally worth it.

Read:

  • ‘Replay’ by Ken Grimwood: These people exist.
  • ‘Lords of Chaos’ by Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind: Documents one of my favourite music sub-culture movements.
  • ‘Interviews with Francis Bacon’ by David Sylvester: Insightful and honest thoughts from someone who’s creative process I admire.

I think everyone figures out and evolves their own creative processes and routines when their circumstances change. I truly believe everything always works out for the best; trust in this process and the journey. ‘Thoughts become things’…and the mind is capable of creating & controlling matter (we just haven’t fully mastered that yet, that’s all).

Also, try not to touch things that everyone else touches. x

Feel free to share your thoughts on Creativity in Captivity on the Conceptkicks IG and stay tuned for more insights.

Creativity in Captivity – Notes from Designers on Creative Life in Isolation | 03

It may shock you to know that today has been Monday. In the current circumstances its easy to let everything blend into one, nights into days, weeks into weekends, I was surprised to find out there is a bank holiday this weekend, who knew? In a world where most of your structure is going to be self imposed, we hear from 3 designers on various ways to think about or implement structure in various aspects of your life from workspace to personal hygiene.

Raf Godfrey, Head of menswear, Norse Projects

Mostly for me it’s about keeping routine, and having time allocated to my day. It very quickly becomes easy to not focus on anything properly, and for me that is difficult mentally, so I keep my routine pretty stable. 

Ironically, my immediate social group has expanded these last weeks, it shouldn’t have taken this to realise all those friends are always just a phone call away, but for creative thoughts and inspiration, I can’t think of a better source.

I also really see the positives to working in a more isolated space for portions of the day, and really see that as an opportunity to step away from the open plan chaos for a bit, it really doesn’t give you any space to think… So this isolation has really helped give me some clarity of ideas to take into face to face (online) conversations.

David Filar, Design & Development Manager, Vibram

The challenge with creativity is that it runs differently for everyone. And now that we’ve been handcuffed into a specific working environment for the unforeseen future, it makes it even more challenging. In a non-quarantined time, I would say travel because I think that’s the greatest form of inspiration to provoke creativity.  
With that being said, I’ve found a few tricks that work for specifically while at home.

1. Listen/ watch something unfamiliar.

I’m generally a big podcast guy – but while my work station is right next to my tv, I put on Youtube videos in the background. And they’re videos that have very little to do with design or footwear. They’re usually about how to make something – like screen printing t shirts, someone talking about how to make a business successful through marketing, or an interview with a rapper who has struggled their way through 20 years of life. All those examples are complete opposite to one another but they share one thing in common – they stretch my brain to think about something completely new to me. That sense of unknown thought actually helps me come up with previously unknown ideas.

Here are links to some random content I’ve recently consumed to really get my brain thinking and inspired.

2. Build a space for you.

We are going to be in this situation for at least a few weeks, it’s super important to spend the time building a space comfortable for yourself.

For example – I can’t work facing a wall. I love being able to see 180 degrees around me. When I’m facing a wall or a corner I get really tense about not knowing what is going on around me. But the take away is not about how much facing walls sucks, but rather understand yourself and how you work.

3. Move.

Have you ever seen the movie Zombieland? Rule #18 – Limber up. Start stretching, shake out your arms, try to touch your toes (haven’t been able to do that in 28 years) all throughout the day. The challenge with WFH is you get consumed by your computer or Cintiq tablet because you have nowhere else to go. But it’s key to move around to have your brain focus on your body versus your work, even for a few moments.

4. Do not disturb.

This feature is on both the Iphone and Mac. I’ve grown incredibly fond of it especially when I get in the zone of creating, I can’t have an outside force disrupt that. So I put on do not disturb on the devices that can hinder that.

5. Actions lead to creativity.

You will feel uncreative. Don’t judge yourself when this feeling hits, and it will hit. You’re surrounded by Netflix and food all day long, all you want to do is sit on the couch and do nothing. And although you’re completely unmotivated and uninspired the key is to DO. At your lowest point of motivation, any sort of action towards your job or work will lead to another action. Actions lead to motivation, motivation creates inspiration, inspiration formulates creativity.

Sam Reynolds, Footwear Designer, Paul Smith

Shower… again.

No matter how close those four walls feel, you’re not starring in a Jamiroquai video. So when it gets too much, no matter how clean you are; take off that furry fedora and get in the shower.

Appreciate that feeling, everything you have and have a cleanse…

9 out of 10 times the EU-f**king-REKA moment comes to me in the shower when my mind is miles away. Whether it’s the groundbreaking idea that concludes the concept or a lacing system that will please the stylist, factory AND the buyers.

Look, it’s insanely inconvenient & everything’s wet. You’ll have nowhere to sketch but in the condensation on the mirror and maybe your reflection will mock as you clumsily draw those groundbreaking ideas in the fog.

These are the ideas that might revolutionise footwear so stay strong, look past your distorted reflection and go make history.

Feel free to share your thoughts on Creativity in Captivity on the Conceptkicks IG and stay tuned for more insights.

Creativity in Captivity – Notes from Designers on Creative Life in Isolation | 02

Its Friday… but when every weekend is a weekday and every day is the weekend, what does that mean? In the second of the series we take hear from designers experimenting with a more recreational approach to creativity in captivity.

Surco Makino, Sneaker Designer, Louis Vuitton

I did some ceramic years ago in Hackney Farm but I didn’t build any technical skills, it was more like a get together activity with friends. At that time I didn’t realise what that first contact with argil did to me. Clay day has become a smooth intermittent venture during reclusion days at home. I began playing few months ago making shy trials of busts as new exploration method to continue creating my ‘Guerrilla boys’.

Last summer traveling across Japan with my younger brother I lost a notebook I carried with me for about some time. I used those pages to draw everything that crossed my mind, it was a vehicle to represent how I felt in certain moments when I struggled facing reality. It was not a self-portrait, it was the ‘guerrilla boys’ telling my story. Losing the notebook I believe it was part of the journey as well.

Today in the corner of my living room that has become a little workshop, I’m able to build full bodies. They are not sketches anymore and through still dynamism, they tell a story that one day we all will remember as those days we couldn’t go out and socialise as we used to do.

Mathieu Hagelaars, Founder, Studio Hagel

Be disciplined and don’t fall back in the same habits! During these days of quarantine I stick to my daily routine as much as possible. I wake up early, have breakfast, start working on my projects and exercise. Normally I like to walk around, see other people and work in my studio to keep my mind fresh, but during these days my surrounding is most of the time the same. So I try to find newness in other things. I listen to music a lot and keep on searching for new music. That energy I get when I find an obscure hidden gem, can keep me going all day. For my projects I keep on doing research on the internet, on instagram, youtube or even by watching a movie. Everybody has their routine of blogs or accounts to check, now is the time to find new sources of inspiration. Next to that I cook a lot. I’m trying out new recipes and ingredients to not fall back in the same pattern again.

Improve and learn new skills! As I’m working from home, I don’t have my machinery, tools and materials that are in my studio. So I draw a lot of ideas and when working on my projects I have to draw these instead of making ‘m. My drawing skills are improving.  The good thing about the quarantine limitations is that I have more time to invest time in new skills I always wanted to learn. I’m want to learn new skills for my making process like embroidery or so. These are things I can learn easily at home and apply these skills on my future projects when this whole thing is over. I also just order a dj-set because I always wanted to learn to do that. Let’s how that turns out 😉 

Kitty Shukman, Footwear Designer, YEEZY

I think my best advice is to respect how you feel day to day. You can’t push yourself to be creatively your best all the time. Especially with this added anxiety and isolation. Try to be kind to yourself if you are feeling less motivated. Find small ways like simple sketches, researching things you’re already really into as a starting point or my favorite thing to do when I’m stuck; picking up some clay and just playing with shapes to slowly ease myself into a creative mind set.

When you do feel in a creative space, let yourself be and enjoy it as much as possible. I think it’s a special ability we have as creatives to zone out of reality and let our minds take us somewhere else.

Feel free to share your thoughts on Creativity in Captivity on the Conceptkicks IG and stay tuned for more insights.

Creativity in Captivity – Notes from Designers on Creative Life in Isolation | 01

I think its safe to say most of us have come to the realisation that its best for us all to stay indoors for a while. Without wanting to downplay the significance of this fact, are there some positives to be taken from this situation? Sometimes the world is a strange place and with it can come some strange challenges, such as what to do with ourselves for prolonged amounts of time in Isolation. Here are some thoughts, musings, tips and ideas from designers on how we can make the most of our isolation.  

     

Ryan Lovering, Senior Footwear Designer, Paul Smith

Firstly, remember working remotely is creative in itself – especially if it requires finding innovative new ways of working or of fire-fighting the inevitable problems we’re all facing.

My experience is that really successful projects can be realised from home and being under pressure usually enhances creativity. When I designed Alexander McQueen’s oversized sneaker, the schedule was super-tight and most of the design was done after-hours in my London apartment where being forced to make do with anything I could find at home to generate the concept in 3D was actually fun: Screws, duct tape, plumbers’ sealant…

Stay grounded by embracing this time away from the studio or office as chance to explore new ideas. And focus positively on the future by working them into shareable form.

Take the opportunity to be creative with the people you live with too. Making art with our two small children has helped us pass the time and also given us permission to ‘play’ with our own ideas.

My other tips for getting through: keep checking in with colleagues, stay connected, make sure everyone is ok. And, as if anyone needed reminding, listen to Bowie and enjoy some wine. X

 
 

Thibo Denis, Senior shoe designer, Dior Homme

It’s interesting because it’s a different process.

I like to go to the office knowing what I will start with and I will for sure think about any drawings in the metro or when I shower.

Here it’s more spontaneous… I take time to look at books and magazines I didn’t open in ages … I also have to optimize my time so when I start something I finish it.

For calls, when I speak with pattern makers I will be more focus … it’s all about trying to not repeat what we usually do.

It’s all about adapting and finding ways to create without the tools we have.

I’m not sure I will be back with amazing drawings… but I’m sure I will have the ideas clearer…

 

Solene Roure, Design Director, Primury

During these strange times, I personally find it very hard to get out of bed.

Work projects and photoshoots are on hold, we still need to design and think about upcoming seasons yet the future is more uncertain than ever. Social media tell us to use this time to be creative and come up with our best work ever, yet anxiety can make even small tasks paralysing. I am personally trying to take it one day at a time, even if they can seem particularly long…

So in an effort to keep you (and myself) at a level of sanity, here is survival checklist:

  • Get up at the same time every morning
  • Get dressed everyday
  • Exercise once a day (online exercise class are easily found on youtube !)
  • Avoid anxiety snacking and cook healthy meals
  • Call one at least one person/friend per day to check on them
  • Try not to get addicted to Super Smash Brothers on Nintendo switch in my spare time

Now the fun stuff !

Here are some recommendations to keep you informed within the realm of sneakers and fashion

Listen to : Group Chat podcast

Group chat hosts provide a serious yet fun take on the corona virus spread from a streetwear business owner perspective, 3 times a week. (They used to discuss all things pop and business culture…)

Watch : Marc Jacobs  and Louis Vuitton by Loic Prigent from 2007

Before Virgil Abloh, before Nicolas Gesquiere, LVMH bet on Marc Jacobs as one of the first independent designer to be taken to superstardom. This documentary was the first to open the curtains on Lthe ouis Vuitton’s fashion house. It’s very fun to watch.

After that you’ll be tempted to follow Loic Prigent’s youtube page for his unique, comedic eye inside the fashion world.

Read : If you are looking to improve your fashion and business knowledge here are some enjoyable reads :

  • Yvon Chouinard : Let my people go surfing (the education of the reluctant business and founder of Patagonia)
  • Joan Juliet Buck : The price of illusion (A memoir by former French Vogue editor)
  • Emma Gannon : The Multi Hyphen method (An easy read about starting one or more side businesses)
  • School of life : How to think more effectively (actually any book by the School of life is great support, I highly suggest you check then out)

Now is also a great time to update your portfolio, so if you need any tips, check out this article

Stay safe out there !

 

 

Feel free to share your thoughts on Creativity in Captivity on the Conceptkicks IG and stay tuned for more insights.