One of the most striking new footwear brands we’ve seen is Native. Founded by Damian van zyll de Jong, we introduced their quirky one-piece footcovers in the last issue of Sneaker Freaker. Don’t hate on us, we know they’re not sneakers! They might look like the bastard offspring of Vans and Crocs, but their new hiking-style Fitzsimmons bootie has to be the raddest thing with laces right now. Time to go native! As seen in Issue 18 of Sneaker Freaker
Hey Damian. Every brand has a story, what’s Native’s?
Around three years ago, on my way home from a snowboarding expedition, I was talking with a few friends about starting a shoe company and out of that conversation grew the idea to start Native. All I knew was that I didn’t want a canvas or vulcanised shoe.
Good start, we’re sick of that malarkey. I mentioned Crocs in the last issue, was that fair?
There have been instances where the shoes have been associated with Crocs but that’s probably due to the need people have to place new product in a space so they can understand it. I get where they’re coming from, given there aren’t too many products out there that look like ours. Whenever you mention it’s an EVA full-injection moulded shoe, the first response is ‘What the hell is that?’ so I always say ‘It’s like a cooler Croc’ and they say, ‘Oh, now I get it’.
You’re definitely redefining simple. ‘Native’ implies an organic nature but your shoes are a contradiction – they’re totally synthetic.
Yeah, for sure, the name is a hook that all people can understand. I do believe that the thought process for this company had an organic origin and that’s how I’ve always gone about doing things. I guarantee that a green shoe takes way more energy to make than your standard issue footwear because of the point of view that’s required when you look at materials, waste and consumption. I like Karl Lagerfeld’s view that the most simple and stupid ideas are the best.
How do you keep diversifying Native, other than using colour?
I think we’ll always keep a simplistic approach when it comes to colours and construction. Of course, that is combined with our goal of comfort and to create shoes that are stylish but not over-the-top. We’re not about just attracting the eye, we’re about making your feet and soul happy.
The Fitzsimmons hiking boot is one of the coolest things. I don’t know how many people will wear it but it makes me smile.
Thanks, that means a lot given how many shoes you see. Yeah, I’m really happy with how it turned out. It was all about reducing the process to its core and using the EVA as a shell.
The reaction we’ve seen is WTF, but people connect with it right away. How certain were you that people want to wear a one-piece rubber sneaker?
I believe people are open to anything if it’s done in an appealing way. EVA has been accepted by the masses, even with wacky styles because it’s so comfortable. I figured a little more style might help it grow but in the back of my mind I was always thinking about whether or not this would work. I was fearful that someone might have used EVA like this by now but… let’s say it has been a great challenge and it’s especially rewarding when you can make it look good.
Do you wear yours with socks? I’m never too sure about the etiquette?
Whatever floats your boat. If you’re asking me, I don’t wear them with socks, I’m not a big fan of socks.
I know they’re ‘anti-microbial’, what does that mean?
It’s a closed-cell foam so nothing can penetrate its skin. No need to fear any stink bugs! We put the EVA through extensive testing and because it’s such a widely used material we were fortunate enough to benefit from other people’s research. We then formulated the mould into our own special blend.
What’s with the scent in the shoes?
It could be cherry or strawberry or even banana, we’re lucky in that we’re able to manufacture the shoe to capture any smell we like. We might go for a more neutral fragrance next time, just plain old no scent!
Can Native go normal?
I hope we don’t go ‘normal’! There’s plenty to come, you’ll just have to wait and see!