Get Familiar: Studio Hagel
As a small, independent brand, almost all our business is based on personal relationships. Coming from the same city as ourselves, Studio Hagel is an Amsterdam based design studio: driven by experiment. From Mathieu Hagelaars' own words, get familiar with the creative process behind one of Europe's most interesting footwear design houses. Studio Hagel designs collections for brands and gives them creative impulses. The way to innovate is to experiment and push the boundaries of the designs without losing the brand's identity.
Can you explain to our readers how the studio was started and what you set out to do?
Before I had my footwear design studio I worked in sales and learned a lot working with retail stores, but I also found out that sales wouldn’t be my end-station. I had more love for product rather than hitting sales targets. At one point I decided to focus on design and so I did a masterclass industrial footwear design. Here I found out that my future would be in footwear design, so I started to apply for design jobs. Literally nobody wanted to hire me because I didn’t have any experience in the industry. That’s the reason why decided to do it on my own and founded STUDIO HAGEL in 2015. It definitely wasn’t the easiest path, but I believed that I could design footwear. I then started doing design projects from some small brands. At one point I didn’t have any projects so I focussed on my MAKERSMONDAYS. It was something that started as a joke by making spoofs of popular sneaker releases, but then slowly escalated into something bigger and opened the door to working with internationally renowned
Through your Maker’s Mondays we get to see loads of raw ideas. Are there any ideas that you came up with that you yourself were surprised actually turned into final product?
My MAKERSMONDAYS are a way to show the world my creativity. While making these experiments I never thought someone like Virgil Abloh would reach out to do a project together. We literally worked on designs like you see on my Instagram account. He loved my creations and wanted to capture that feeling in an Off-White product. Products like the "Off-Court" or the “Low-Vulcanized” started the same way as my MAKERSMONDAYS. I always use my creations as an inspiration for future projects. In the Valentino footwear collections there are also products that were inspired by earlier MAKERSMODAYS.
Can you explain your creative process?
The foundation is ‘fun’. I strongly believe that when the vibe is good it elevates the design process and results into a better product. For MAKERSMONDAYS there are several starting points; sometimes we find a weird material or product that gives us an idea and sometimes we start with an idea already in our mind. We are very hands-on and this can influence the end-result. Unexpected mistakes or “what ifs” during the making process can result in a better idea than the original concept. For commissioned projects we get total creative freedom, so we need to create a clear starting point ourselves. A concept that we always can go back to when we’re a bit lost. After that the concept is clear and we start making, sketching, collaging, etc to come up with ideas. Once the idea is finalised, we do everything necessary to translate it into a quality physical product.
You seem to have a lot of fun with your work, does it ever really feel like work? Like, what parts pf it are the least fun?
Once I decided to switch from sales to design, I was focussed on being active in the field of footwear design. But, I never imagined it would take the studio towards working the way we do now. We definitely have a lot of fun and I feel blessed to be at the point we are right now. Of course there are parts of the design process that are less exciting to work on, but we always want to keep a good vibe at the studio; whether that’s by installing disco lights at the studio, cranking some good mixtapes or having a drink after a hard day’s work.
Explain why this product isn’t finished please.
There’s always room for improvement. As a designer you constantly think about what to do next and how can you make a product better than the last. Sometimes you even have to remind yourself to enjoy the moment you’re in right now rather than constantly thinking about the next steps. The endless process of improving of a design is also a trap for designers. At some point you have to say that the design is done, but you also know there are things to improve. I strongly believe that there isn’t a “ perfect” product or design. If there was one then we should all stop designing now.
What is your favourite part about being a designer?
Turning an idea into reality. That moment you see the first prototypes is always a magical moment. Even though the first prototypes still need a lot of improvement, you have your idea in front of you as a physical product.
What do you want consumers to take away from your projects, what’s the objective here?
We want to push the boundaries of aesthetic innovation by experimentation. The consumer has to look at the designs and have to have an opinion about it. Either they love it or hate it…that’s up to the consumer. The worst thing that could happen is that they don’t have an opinion and see it as an average design. We want to stand out and do things that are special.