TOD’S collaborate with Hender Scheme on a crafty collection

Sandra Bem was a US psychologist whose pioneering work in the late 20th century proposed that traditional gender roles are restrictive for both men and women, and can have negative consequences for individuals as well as society as a whole. It is her ‘gender schema theory’ – research that interrogated social beliefs that gender roles are “opposite, bipolar, and mutually exclusive” – that Hender Scheme derives its name from. Founded in 2010 by Ryo Kashiwazaki, who first studied philosophy before turning to leather, the Tokyo-based label is built around balance and craft, focusing on footwear and accessories.

For the fourth instalment of the TOD’S Factory project, in which designers are given access to TOD’S craftsmen and savoir faire in the Marche region of Italy, Ryo has created a playful capsule for both men and women together with creative director Walter Chiapponi. Using creative free association, Ryo flipped the luxury houses’ logo to spell DOT’S, leading him to zero in on the dots of the brand’s iconic gommino sole. Experimenting with scale, these dots became large pebbles on the bottom of tasseled loafers that combine different leathers and textures in organic modulations of natural colours. The collection also has a crafty contemporary take on TOD’S classic Oboe bag, as well as ample trenches, knit shawls, tracksuits, shirts and trousers.

To celebrate the capsule being presented at Milan Fashion Week this month, Port spoke to Ryo about balance, craft and non-verbal communication. 

What was the push and pull, balance of collaboration, between yourself and Walter Chiapponi? It sounds like it was an equal and open exchange of prototypes, samples and products between the two brands.

We had contact with TOD’S several years ago, since then I have been communicating casually. We started more concrete conversations around the Fall of 2019. We met Mr. Della Valle when he came to Japan and we were invited to the TOD’S factory in the region of Le Marche, Italy, and the head office in Milan. We interacted with TOD’S Creative Director Walter Chiapponi, with craftsmen and people at the head office, and the collaboration started.

One of the images I have of Italy is that there is unique taste in colour scheme, and TOD’S is no exception, it is good at matching colours. In this capsule collection, I think that the colour diversity is higher than in the usual Hender Scheme collections, partly because I challenged that colour scheme. It’s a real design balance.

Why is ‘flip’ your creative slogan? How is it a useful prompt when approaching design?

Since both of us are brands that mainly focus on shoes and leather, I decided to combine the specialties of both by looking at the commonalities and differences. At that time, the keyword “TOD’S ⇄ DOT’S” came to my mind.

Based on “FLIP”, the keyword for making things in Hender Scheme, the idea is to flip the TOD’S logo and interpret DOT’S as pebbles on the sole of TOD’S. Using this idea as a starting point, I expanded this collection.

Everything looks relaxed, many pieces have a generous silhouette – did anything inspire this finish?

Overall, I really like the balance that the products have – it’s a unique one that combines Hender Scheme and TOD’S, but enough to recognise both brands’ presences.

I think this can be created by accumulating fine details, materials, colour schemes, etc., so from either point of view, it seems that either brand can be recognised. That is the balance that I aimed at from the beginning.

Could you expand on the thinking behind the materials that were chosen for the collection, I know leather is one of your (and TOD’S) fortes

With the intention to work on RTW as Hender Scheme, I considered leather as a material for clothing and added details cultivated in my shoe making experience, such as stitch work and hole decorations of medallions. And I think we came up with a collection that goes well with shoes, combining contemporary and modern ideas and designs with something very classic. I designed the products with the intention to create a strong identity.

Why is it important items have a manual imprint of the craftsmen/women who created the garment?

Craftsmanship is an important element in Hender Scheme’s manufacturing, and collaboration with brands that also celebrate craftsmanship is very inspiring. By visiting and observing the factory, I was able to create things by imagining the people and environment that work there, even when making things remotely. Since manufacturing started when COVID-19 became widespread, it was difficult to actually go back and forth and face-to-face communication was not easy. We tried to communicate through the objects between us and I was able to overcome the difficulty.

It was a very valuable experience to be able to share and understand each other at once by communicating through things such as mockups, prototypes, and patterns rather than through language. Also, there were many surprises when I received the samples and products, such as the high level of techniques and the excellence of the materials.

Do you have piece from the collection you’re particularly fond of?

This is a difficult question … Every item is indispensable because it is a collection with all items.

However, the most iconic item in this collection is the tassel loafers on the maxi pebble sole. This product embodies the concept of the collection as a completely new sole. The upper part has also modernised classic loafers with a manufacturing update with the Hender Scheme’s way of creation, described with keywords such as “NEW CRAFT” and “contemporary”. I think it became a very nice shoe.

Homage to a Classic: Adidas x Hender Scheme

PORT sits down with Adidas Originals and the iconic Japanese leather atelier, Hender Scheme, to discuss their latest collaboration

The adidas x Hender Scheme Micropacer

Fashion has long tried to redefine the concept of ‘luxury’, and to figure out what it means to consumers in 2017: just because something is expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s luxurious. Over the years the focus has moved on to the design process and, even more so, the craftsmanship needed to manufacture a product. How long did it take to make it, and how long will it last? Arguably, luxury is a combination of all aforementioned factors, and a high price tag the inevitable outcome from that.

Adidas, the German sportswear giant, is not a stranger to expensive fashion. Over the years it’s worked with various designers – everyone from Yohji Yamamoto and Raf Simons to Rick Owens and Alexander Wang – on short and long-term projects. At the same time, the bulk of its trainers and apparel are affordable and accessible, the definition of democratic fashion, as opposed to luxury. As such its latest collaborative partner, Japanese leather experts Hender Scheme, perfectly illustrates Adidas’ ability to scale ‘luxury’ in order to offer different types of products to different customers, without losing its DNA and brand personality.

The adidas x Hender Scheme Superstar

Founded by Ryo Kashiwazaki in 2010, Hender Scheme makes a wide array of leather goods, though is best known for its ‘Homage’ footwear line. In it, Kashiwazaki recreates various iconic trainers, from the likes of Adidas, Vans and Nike, using his signature ‘nude’ leather. The rawness of the material makes the craftsmanship that goes into the handmade trainers evident for the wearer as well as distant observers. Because of this, Hender Scheme might seem like an obvious collaboration match for the cherry picked brands, but in today’s design climate, with corporate trademarks and the red tape of intellectual property, it could also have lead to an expensive lawsuit.

It’s this that makes the Adidas x Hender Scheme project even more relevant. Based on a mutual respect, it is the ultimate collaboration in that it combines three mainstream Adidas silhouettes with Ryo’s intricate and limited interpretations. The styles – the NMD, Superstar and Micropacer – have all been stripped of its technology and remoulded in Ryo’s fine leather. They are no longer digital sportswear icons, but wearable and analogue pieces of art. PORT sat down with Kashiwazaki and Erman Aykurt, Senior Design Director for Adidas Originals Statement, to discuss the design process, the role of psychology in footwear and how Kashiwazaki retains ownership of his trainers.

The adidas x Hender Scheme Micropacer

Ryo Kashiwakazi, you studied psychology before going into footwear. Have you ever had any use of this experience in your current job, in an abstract or concrete way?

When you manufacture something, you always involve a group of people who actually make the product. I can apply my knowledge of psychology when communicating with them. The process of shoemaking involves a lot of divided labour, or divided roles. To make a shoe like this you probably have about fifty people involved one way or another, from the leather supplier to someone stitching them together, so it’s always important to create a shared goal among all of them, and to make everyone feel valued and involved. So, yes, psychology comes in handy!

You started out as a cobbler. Do you think that formal shoes are the foundation of footwear? Is that why you wanted to start at that end of the industry as opposed working with trainers straight away?

From my experience of repairing shoes I gained a lot of knowledge about how shoes are worn, and what happens to the shoes once they’ve been worn for a while. That helped me build my shoes and trainers, trying to foresee what will happen to them once they’ve been used for a while.

The adidas x Hender Scheme NMD

More than shoes you also produce other products, but what runs through the company is the use of leather and colour. What qualities does leather have that makes it so great for you?

For me, the thickness and tension are very important. For example, leather can be shaped into softness. If you don’t shape it, you can keep it hard. And the reason I use this natural colour is that you can see aging very clearly.

There’s a sense of purity to this colour, which makes it a great starting point, no?

Usually we dye from this colour, so this is starting point. It’s very delicate and sensitive; it can easily get stained as it’s basically untreated.

Another thing that strikes me is that you’ve borrowed existing silhouettes, and you’re using a colour that lends itself to the wearer putting his own stamp on it. So how do you retain ownership? Are you even interested in that?

Not sure it explains the ownership question, but the point of re-creating existing styles is to show off the work of the craftsmen, to introduce the work they do. So I suppose the product making is more important than the ownership.

You’ve reworked quite a few different brands. Is this the first time one of them has actually come to you and said, ‘let’s do something together’?

Yes, and because I was ultimately doing this out of respect for Adidas, it made me very happy that they respected me in the same way.

On that note, over to you Erman…  What was the initial Adidas reaction when you saw these products?

I can only say that, within the Originals department, we were really honoured. From a company perspective, there’s always two different ways how to look and deal with someone paying homage. But as we’re a global organisation with an office in Tokyo, there was already a personal relationship in place with Ryo-san. And it was very clear to us from the beginning that Ryo was working out of respect for our brand. And the mantra for everything we do in Consortium is based on mutual respect, so we wanted to meet him halfway and start a dialogue based on that.

The adidas x Hender Scheme NMD

What was it that impressed you? Was it the craftwork, or the craftsmanship?

Obviously the craftsmanship is something we admire and that we look up to. Even people who have been with the company longer than I have wouldn’t be able to do that even themselves. I know out of experience that what Ryo-san is doing is impressive. When Ryo-san came to Herzo , we gathered lots of people from across different Adidas branches and everyone was putting their latest innovations on the table, and he was known to everyone.

How did you end up with these three styles?

All of these shoes have been technological advancements of their own time. The NMD consists of Primeknit and our boost technology, the Superstar Shell Toe was high-tech at the time and, obviously, the Micropacer stands like nothing else for this sort of future-retro expression of the past.

From left: the adidas x Hender Scheme NMD, Micropacer and Superstar

Would you say that this is the ultimate in trainer luxury?

Well, what defines trainer luxury? It’s about combining a globally known silhouette with any form of limitation. In this case you have three of the most iconic sneaker silhouettes in the world, and you have, through the manual labour, one of the most authentic but at the same the most extreme limitation when it comes to creating quantities. It’s not limiting for the sake of limiting; it’s limiting because it’s not actually possible to create more!