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!


Matthew Taylor

Footwear designer | Founder + Creative director of Auxiliary

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