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Innovation first in sneaker line HAGEL - Interview Mathieu Hagelaars

April 27, 2022 12:03 PM
Innovation first in sneaker line HAGEL - Interview Mathieu Hagelaars

On December 6, 2021, Studio Hagel teased the first images of the sneaker line HAGEL. Now, four months later, the first colorway of the Shroud has been released and the brand is coming up with the second colorway. Mathieu Hagelaars explains how HAGEL came to be and how innovation is at the heart of everything the studio creates.

Studio Hagel

The new sneaker line called HAGEL is the younger brother of Studio Hagel. Mathieu Hagelaars, the founder of Studio Hagel, started his studio 7 years ago. With projects like MakersMonday, Mathieu wants to expand the concept of a sneaker. "Studio Hagel is mainly about aesthetic innovation. So not: how can we improve sneakers in terms of performance? But rather: how can we make something aesthetically that hasn't been done before?" explains Mathieu. "That is the focus in every project."

Studio Hagel

This method of working has taken the studio far. With collaborations with names like Virgil Abloh, Takashi Murakami and Valentino, Studio Hagel has become a well-known phenomenon in the sneaker world. "We are known for our creative and innovative designs and practices," Mathieu explains. "Brands that approach us do so for that reason as well and give us all the freedom in their project."

For example, the studio is approached when a brand is in an identity crisis or wants to release new models. Studio Hagel's creative vision can help these brands release new collections. "We have built up so much trust as a name by now that brands give us complete freedom in their projects. That's kind of an ideal position."

MakersMonday as the key point

Those familiar with Studio Hagel have most likely seen the creative and quirky creations of MakersMonday pass by. "We started MakersMonday to push our creativity further," says Mathieu. "In the designs of MakersMonday, we use materials that don't really belong in sneakers and turn them into sneakers."

In MakersMonday, existing sneaker models, such as the adidas Superstar or the Nike Cortez, get a Hagel makeover. This involves using not-so-obvious materials such as foam and IKEA bags in creating a new silhouette. "This initially started as a joke," Mathieu explains. In doing so, he pulls out a mockup of the Yeezy 350. The sneaker is immediately reminiscent of the famous Yeezy model but is made from a sock and a vacuum cleaner hose.

"I profiled myself as the worst sneaker collector around. The sneakers I couldn't cop, I then made myself. What started as a joke did eventually become the core of the studio," Mathieu says.

Own sneakerbrand HAGEL

MakersMonday has taken Studio Hagel far. In late December 2021, the studio announced the next step: its own sneaker line. "Actually, it has always been my dream to design my own sneaker line, even before I started MakersMonday," Mathieu says, as he pulls out his first self-designed shoe. Compared to the MakersMonday creations, this shoe looks a little cleaner and more subtle.

"I had everything all figured out and I knew how I wanted it to be, but at the time I had just started MakersMonday, which I liked much better at the time," Mathieu says. "MakersMonday had become a bit of the identity of what I wanted to put down. I parked the idea of my own sneaker line at the time and started focusing more on MakersMonday, but the idea never went away."

On February 21, 2022, the first Shroud from the HAGEL collection was released. The 'RTE (Ready To Eat) Mango', as the name suggests, is orange and has a 'Shroud' on the upper. The Shroud takes its inspiration from the shrouds on cars and is reminiscent of previous MakersMonday creations.

The idea behind the Shroud

"You can see very clearly how MakersMonday influenced the design of the Shroud," Mathieu says while holding the new colorway of the Shroud. "The sneakers we have made and will make in the HAGEL sneaker line are inspired by an old MakersMonday creation or are made in a MakersMonday way."

The Nike Cortez from a 2017 MakersMonday session was used as inspiration for the Shroud. "Of all the MakersMondays I've designed, the Cortez was the most important one." Like the Shroud, this Nike Cortez also features an overlay on the lace-up. Details on the outsole and lacing also hint at the Cortez.

"I also selected the Cortez for Takashi Murakami, and the Cortez has become a kind of signature design for Hagel," Mathieu explains. Mathieu's fascination with "wrapping and covering" sneakers also shows up in several MakersMonday silhouettes and in the next model from the HAGEL collection.

Innovation is key

The HAGEL sneaker line shares the same mentality as MakersMonday. Here, innovation is key and every silhouette has to have something new. "On every level, we think about how can we do it differently. How can we make it even more interesting to the point of almost being annoying." For the HAGEL Shroud, Studio Hagel partnered with Ecco. The two names have worked together in the past and are a perfect match.

Hagel Shroud

"Ecco may seem very conservative from the outside, but the company is hugely progressive," Mathieu explains. "We learn from them and they in turn learn a lot from us because we can push their innovations to the limit. That's a very interesting interaction." The sole and color of the 'RTE Mango' was designed specifically for the Shroud. Also, the model is made of premium leather manufactured with Ecco's DriTan™ technology.

Innovation is thus at the forefront of HAGEL's approach. "At HAGEL, we try to look at other shoes as little as possible," says Mathieu. "We look more at what's happening around us and how we can take inspiration from that. That's how new things come about." With the Shroud as result.

With sustainability in mind

These days, sustainability goes hand in hand with innovation. "We don't profile ourselves with a green leaf, sustainability is not our main factor," Mathieu explains. "But in the process, those steps should definitely be considered." For example, the Shroud is made with Ecco DriTan™ technology, which consumes only one-twenty percent of the water in the leather tanning process. "Ecco is very far along with that, which is where we lift on as well."

Also, overproduction is something HAGEL does not go along with. The Shroud is an exclusive sneaker and is therefore not dropped in large numbers. The Shroud's sneaker boxes are also designed with sustainability in mind. "What you often see with luxury sneakers is that there is a lot of packaging also in the box. With HAGEL, we deliberately chose not to put any paper in there, but the sneakers are given away in a bag that can also be used in everyday life."

HAGEL doesn't portray itself as sustainable, but it is certainly working on sustainability. "Every step we take, we do with a lot of consideration. Also with the idea of whether we can make it sustainable in some way or make something that can also be reused," says Mathieu.

The future

Mathieu has big plans for the future. "The focus now is on building the brand, without concessions. At least as few concessions as possible." The second colorway of the Shroud is already in the planning stages and the next models are also already in the making. Mathieu also doesn't rule out the possibility of releasing other items under the Hagel name in addition to sneakers. "This must then be done with the same values and principles that are central to our studio," says Mathieu.

Whatever the future holds, Studio Hagel continues to challenge itself to create new things. "We don't want to repeat ourselves," Mathieu explains. "Straining an extra lace over the sneaker, we know that by now. Instead, I want to explore techniques that have not been used before." We will see this in the next items from the HAGEL collection.

The second colorway, the "Barely Blue," will be dropped at HAGEL in the coming weeks of Mai 2022. Also, the third colorway is already planned and the sample of the second HAGEL sneaker is almost fully ready. "We don't want to get too caught up in just new colorways," Mathieu explains. "If we do something then we want to do it right."