Eytys: A Genius

Max Schiller, co-founder and creative director of footwear label Eytys, explains why the late Keith Haring is a constant source of inspiration

Courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation
Courtesy of the Keith Haring Foundation

From scribbling his iconic motifs in the subways of New York, Keith Haring quickly became one of the most recognised and influential artists-cum-activists of the 20th century. To this day, his legacy continues to inspire and help millions of people from across world, in particular, Max Schiller, co-founder and creative director of minimalist Scandinavian label Eytys.

As a homage to the late artist, Schiller and his Stockholm brand have collaborated with with Ukrainian artist Sasha Kurmaz to create a Haring-inspired shoe. Here, Schiller tells us about one of his heroes.

“Most kids worship one or two big idols when growing up. When I was 11, the girls in my class were obsessed with Backstreet Boys or Peter Andre, while the boys idolised hockey superstar like Wanye Gretzky or Peter Forsberg. I tried to fit in by pretending to be a hockey fan, however, being a chubby kid with glasses and bleached hair, often seen wearing pink trousers, I usually failed at my charade; my biggest idols weren’t boy bands or sport stars.

“I’ve always worshipped Keith Haring. While other children collected hockey cards or had their rooms wallpapered with pictures of pop stars, mine was covered in Haring posters and merchandise. At school, I held lectures about Haring’s legacy and grabbed every chance I could get to scribble his figures on test papers and in notebooks.

“To my teachers’ dismay, my favourite motif was ‘Debbie Dick’: the phallic cartoon character Keith Haring created during the AIDS epidemic, to promote safe sex.

“Looking back, I suppose this might’ve been a bit odd, but Keith Haring is still one of my biggest inspirations. I have had many different sources of inspiration since those days, but Haring’s ability to communicate his political views and values through humorous and powerful art has had a huge impact on me.

“Haring’s way of reacting against racial inequality, LGBT rights, environmental degradation and other political issues, has subconsciously affected the way I sometimes choose to be political in my work with Eytys. During the Ukrainian turmoil, we collaborated with Kiev-based artist Sasha Kurmaz to create Keith Haring-inspired prints with graffiti slogans from the revolution. The artwork featured everything from anti-Putin curses to pro-LGBT rights messages, as well as one or two penises… I hope Mr Haring would have been proud.”