2024-07-21
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What were footwear and accessories doing at Milan Design Week?

Of course, Milan's Design Week has furniture as its primary target, but the world of footwear, accessories and fashion also plays its part.

What were footwear and accessories doing at Milan Design Week?

Those who think that a shoe or a backpack or an accessory are only functional objects that must be used to walk and carry things could not be more off the mark. It is now clear that a shoe (take her as an example) can, and today must, be so much more. It is an object of design and style, it is the word of a much more complex language than mere utilitarianism, which with its codes speaks of style, character, uniqueness…

This is demonstrated by some of the experiences during Design Week 2024 in Milan:

  • Birkenstock
  • Gallo
  • D.A.T.E.
  • Vibram
  • Freitag
  • Piquadro.

Two and a half centuries of BIRKENSTOCKS

In our journey through the marvels of design (footwear, backpacks, accessories, even suitcases) we start with the famous brand founded in Langen-Bergheim (Germany) in 1774, which has its deep roots in the founding family’s dedication to the art of orthopaedically inspired shoemaking. Today Birkenstock is led by the sixth generation of entrepreneurs and produces mostly still in Germany, while the iconic shoes are sold in around 90 countries and on all five continents.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

As you know, BIRKENSTOCK’s iconic product is the unique anatomically shaped footbed that revolutionised the industry, setting a new standard for comfort and functionality. Inspired by the action of walking barefoot on the beach, the anatomically shaped footbed, which comes in different versions, makes every BIRKENSTOCK shoe recognisable both for its aesthetics and for its high level of comfort.

The brand wanted to celebrate its two and a half centuries of history with the BIRKENSTOCK STUDIO installation during Milan Design Week 2024: a creative study of the brand’s heritage.

At Via Meravigli 4, the history of the brand was illustrated by celebrating its successes, with an eye to the future. Numerous projects were on display: the most famous collaborations, models, samples, research, sketches, prints and drawings that have defined the brand’s DNA.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

There was many curiosities about the German brand, including tools

archive, the best-known advertisements and a timeline defining the brand’s milestones to date.

A highlight were the workshops open to the public and held by trainer restorer and creative artist Jacopo De Carli, who guided participants in customising their own pair of Birkenstocks.

D.A.T.E.’S knowledge of opposites

Different tone for the event “The knowledge of opposes” organised by the trainer brand D.A.T.E., which decided to host three ceramic works in its Milan shop window.

The creations were made possible thanks to the profound knowledge of the material rooted in Montelupo Fiorentino, a unique place in the world for its history of ceramic manufacturing. Works made by the master craftsmen of the Montelupo Fiorentino Gallery.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

Pieces that are apparently the same, but worked and treated by hand with specific and different techniques that have made them three unique pieces.  Works that speak of the vision and essence of D.A.T.E., focused on attention to detail, on the work that is done to develop each individual model, aimed at bringing to market shoes that look like unique pieces of design.

Enclosed in two such apparently simple shapes are the centuries-old tradition of ceramic production, with techniques that are handed down from potter to potter.

For this reason, the vinegar technique was used for the face: by spraying a solution containing acetic acid into the raw earth, a ‘boiling‘ reaction is produced, which generates the characteristic style that can be seen all over the surface. In a fast and indomitable process, it is the earth that chooses how to modify itself, under the randomness of fate.

The cube, on the other hand, symbolises balance, harmony, rebirth and protection, and is also the main subject in the D.A.T.E. logo.

To make it, an ‘inverse’ face technique was used: the surface of the object was sprinkled with a special sand and then baked again.

Why is the work called ‘CONSCIOUSNESS OF OPPOSES’? Because two opposing ceramic working techniques were used to create a work representing knowledge.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

ECAL x FREITAG and the ‘Access over Ownership’ philosophy

And after talking about master ceramists, let’s focus on some talented students. ECAL (Lausanne University of Art and Design) has teamed up with FREITAG to present a series of recycled, practical and fun objects that can be borrowed when needed. Based on one of the guiding principles ‘Access over Ownership‘ of the FREITAG manifesto, the exhibition at the House of Switzerland in Milan reflected on the importance of access to goods over ownership.

Under the direction of designer Christophe Guberan, students of Industrial Design at ECAL University came up with everyday objects perfect for borrowing in case of need.

So, what did we see at Design Week?

For example, SHIFT, a moving kit in different sizes and made from sacks derived from used truck tarpaulins, through to PACK-A-ROOM, a collection of modular furniture suitable for temporary living situations.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

Furthermore, FIESTA KIT offers a long-lasting alternative to disposable party supplies, while F-BÖÖTLE, made from old tractor inner tubes and discarded truck tarpaulins, promotes more environmentally friendly water recreation.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

Finally, the NEBULA poncho, made from recycled fabrics from B-car airbags, together with the FLAT BOOTS shoe covers, valid alternatives for rainy days, complete a diverse range of products that combine functional individuality and sustainability.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

Speaking of footwear, let’s turn our attention to FLAT BOOTS: waterproof shoe covers that can be borrowed for as long as necessary for rainy days, outdoor activities or for those who have forgotten their boots while travelling.

The shoe covers feature a heat-sealed canvas upper and a rubber sole. The unique split sole design allows the boots to be rolled up for easy storage and optimised production.

When socks are bought in GALLO’s pharmacy

Let’s indulge in a digression that always wanders around footwear and our feet. During Design Week 2024, the Milanese Gallo store in Via Durini was transformed into Gallo Pharmacy.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

That is, the meeting place for a community of creatives, who can choose their terrycloth socks with contrasting stripes and phrases that stimulate the imagination. Positive Energy, to surround oneself with positive people. To Be Creative, to ignite the spark of intuition. To Be Curious, to observe reality with curious eyes. To Be Original, to explore all diversity. And finally, To Be Innovative, to think beyond and indulge instinct. Also, fun and creative is the pill-shaped packaging, a sort of ‘supplement’ to creativity, and the theming of the shop.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

GUCCI and the limited-edition trainer

Well, let’s get ‘serious’ again… and let’s do it in style, going to the heights of luxury. A luxury that indulges in trainers, and what trainers!

Gucci, in fact, has created a model exclusively for Milan Design Week, the Gucci Cub3d. What makes it special is its sole, produced using a selective laser sintering technique (SLS) to have a lattice structure inspired by the polyhedron, a geometric solid at the base of the sole’s lattice structure. The profile of the Gucci Cub3d, on the other hand, is reminiscent of modern architecture also thanks to the upper made of Demetra, the material developed by the Brand and designed specifically for the new trainer using raw materials of 70% vegetable origin.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

The other materials that make up the upper include 100% recycled polyester, while for the lining, leather obtained from a metal and chrome-free tanning process was used along with 88% recycled polyester. This version, in true Gucci style, is then enriched by a colour scheme that fully recalls the now unmistakable Rosso Ancora launched by Creative Director Sabato De Sarno at his debut show.

The trainer, which aims to combine Gucci’s craftsmanship tradition with technological research, is a small collector’s piece: the Cub3d is produced in a limited edition of only twenty pairs, each pair is silkscreen printed with a unique serial number to mark the reduced quantity.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

Even LEVI’S sprouts a shoe

The days of the Fuorisalone in Milan take you far and wide around the city and you end up landing in places that you would not think are connected to design. Like the Cultural Space at MUDEC in Milan.

Right here, Levi’s presented ‘Icons, Innovations & Firsts. Stories of Heritage and Progress from the Levi’s Archives’, an exhibition of garments from the Levi’s archives in San Francisco, the brand’s hometown. An exploration of the brand’s rich and fascinating heritage highlighted the evolution and impact of modern blue jeans since its invention in 1873.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

But yes, a little history doesn’t hurt: it all began with a collaboration between Levi Strauss & Co. and a tailor named Jacob Davis, who added rivets to the pockets of work trousers, creating a major design innovation. Davis shared his trousers with copper rivets with his supplier of goods, Levi Strauss. The two joined forces for a US patent that was granted on 20 May 1873. Levi Strauss & Co. embarked on its production by making Levi’s patented rivet dungarees, later identified by their three-digit lot number: 501.

We also found a pair of shoes in the exhibition. Amongst the jeans worn by Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein’s jacket, LEVI’S X AIR JORDAN SNEAKERS from 2008 popped up. The two iconic brands teamed up for one of Levi’s first cult collaborations, Nike Air Jordan trainers featuring the traditional Jordan brand elephant graphic design. Other hallmarks are also present, including the Levi’s Red Tab and Nike’s ‘Jumpman’ logo.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

VIBRAM and the history of the Carrarmato sole

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

A route, a sort of treasure hunt, to discover all the secrets of the iconic Carrarmato sole, developed in 1937, which revolutionised the world of mountaineering footwear. This is what Vibram organised inside the Vibram Connection Lab in via Voghera. For the occasion, it was also possible to discover several innovative products and prototypes designed and manufactured inside the Milanese hub.

PIQUADRO and the Formula 1 backpacks

We cannot but close our journey in which we touched on the stages of Design Week where they talked about footwear and accessories without mentioning luggage, the accessory that cannot be missing on a trip.

At Rho Fiera Piquadro presented a spectacular installation inspired by Formula 1, a world of which the brand of tech-design accessories for work and travel is part as Official Luggage Partner of the Visa Cash App RB Formula 1 racing team.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

The area of about 300 square metres set up by Piquadro was a lime green container at the centre of which was a luggage conveyor belt, while on the 27 metres of the wall facing the windows was the actual installation: a tale of Piquadro’s research path towards performance in a parallel between the materials and shapes of Formula 1 and those used in the creation of trolleys and backpacks.

Protagonists of the installation are the trolleys of the PQALU line in anodised aluminium. The essential and linear design of PQALU and its refined details in fine water-washed leather make these trolleys absolutely unique pieces, while the resistance and great durability of the materials make them highly performing.

Milan Design Week | shoestechnologies

Also, on display in the Piquadro Lounge were the backpacks from the Corner 2.0 line, also part of the equipment supplied by Piquadro to the Faenza team. Characterised by the rubber corner, an original detail of the Corner line that sparked Piquadro’s great success in the early 2000s, these backpacks are made of water-repellent rubberized technical fabric.

You may also be interested in the following articles:

The return of peep toe shoes and the trend of the moment

The return of peep toe shoes and the trend of the moment

From heels to open-toe boots: The 2024 trend, inspired by Victoria Beckham

Italian luxury brand Golden Goose and its Haus of Dreamers

Italian luxury brand Golden Goose and its Haus of Dreamers

Discover Golden Goose’s opening of Haus of Dreamers and the triumphant debut at Paris Fashion Week

When a Color Sets the Fashion: The White Shoes Trend

When a Color Sets the Fashion: The White Shoes Trend

From the tennis courts to the hottest catwalks of the moment. White shoes have become a must-have for any occasion!

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