Last November, Tod’s launched No_Code, which the label describes as “an innovation workshop dedicated to experimenters and all those who feel themselves part of this collective to rewrite the rules.” Its goal was to create products that, as the name suggests, would eschew conventional style standards.
The first visionary that the Italian luxury leather goods brand tapped for this project is Yong Bae Seok, a South Korean designer who has done capsule collections for the likes of Pony, and even has his own eponymous shoe brand.
More spectacular shoes:
Seok is a prime example of a contemporary creative, one who takes risks and seeks out what the world has to offer. Nearly two decades ago, without knowing a word in Italian, he hopped on a plane from Seoul and flew all the way to Turin. There, he pursued a degree in Istituto Europeo del Design with the hopes of getting to work with such brands as Ferrari, whose cars he describes as the most beautiful in the world. After earning his masters in industrial design, Seok was given an opportunity to work at Pininfarina Studio. This led to working on a Fila and Ferrari shoe collaboration that got him his start in fashion. He has not looked back since.
For his first product under the No_Code banner, Seok introduces the “Shoeker,” or a line that combines the aesthetics of a shoe with the comfort and ease of a sneaker. It makes use of a special blend of rubber that extends over the sole, combined with an upper composed of lightweight feather and neoprene as well as bands of knitted fabric.
ANCX reached out to the Milan-based South Korean designer so he can walk us through (pun intended) what the shoeker and No_Code is all about.
How did the initial conversation with Tod’s go for No_Code?
There is an evolution we’re seeing in terms of design, a new age which requires new rules, where old codes are being broken. The consumer now wants a contemporary product which is designed for these changes. No_Code is a community, where visionaries and creatives in the design field are encouraged to feel free and express themselves. If Tod’s No_Code is the brand, the Shoeker is its first product.
The codes we were used to are now obsolete. We need projects that can provide us with contemporary objects designed for these changes. Hence No_Code, where visionaries and creatives in various sectors are left free to express themselves. If Tod’s No_Code is the brand, the Shoeker is its first product.
How would you describe your creative process for this?
The aim in the design process was to create a shoe with the characteristics of an elegant and formal shoe shape, but one that also combines the characteristics that give a sneaker the sport style look while being comfortable to wear. With the Shoeker project, we intend to add elements of quality to the classic sport shoe. This is a performance shoe, yes, but on top of this it’s also elegant, crafted in Italy, handmade by Tod’s craftsmen using the finest materials and following the proportions of Italian lines. It’s suitable for morning use—running maybe—but also for the evening, or more formal occasions.
What drew you to working with Tod’s?
The remarkable experience of three generations of artisans, the craftsmanship and quality of Made in Italy and the use of special, natural raw materials.
In what ways is Tod’s similar with your own brand, Seok?
I am a No_Coder, I am a hybrid person, I am a mix of two different worlds and cultures. I was born in Asia and I live in Europe, which means that I have a combination of styles and different perspectives. What I do and what I love is No_Code.
Where do you find inspiration and what inspires you?
The market changes at a fast pace and the consumer is affected by lots of information on time and from many different means. Social media, especially, allows people to discover the products and the new trends. I have always been attracted to the new trends and I am personally interested also in technology, it’s my source of inspiration. I am inspired by what it’s going on in car industry because they are advanced. For example, with the materials and technology they use in order to create something new. I like to adopt that same ethos when I design, my aim is to create something unique.
Since I was a young child, I have loved Italian design. During my studies of fine car and Industrial design, I had especially been attracted to the automotive Italian designers of 70s and 80s like Marcello Gandini. Even music has inspired me, particularly Ennio Morricone, from my point of view design needs music to accompany it.
Why do you think the luxury sneaker market has become so popular?
We are living in a world where we are constantly on the move, whether it’s a boardroom or weekend coffee with friends, the way we dress needs to adapt with ease.
How different is your “shoeker” from other luxury streetwear?
We didn’t use a rubber outsole for the No_Code Shoeker project, because it’s heavy. Instead we created a special outer sole made with a mixed EVA material, plus rubber to make the shoes lighter. That’s the added value that enables us to differentiate from other brands, it is our unique selling proposition. With the Shoeker we’ve created a new category of footwear, not just a sneaker. It’s not a strategy, it’s a fact: we have the practicality of a sneaker enhanced by the elegance and high craft quality of a Tod’s Made in Italy shoe.
What other collaborations or projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on next steps of No_Code. And, of course, it’s a secret!
Tod’s is at Greenbelt 4, Ayala Center, Makati. For more information, visit Tods.com.