NYC’s Ronnie Fieg is acknowledged as a collaborative master crafter. A sequence of consecutive major league home runs with ASICS, New Balance, PUMA and Clarks have forged an impressive legacy for his Kith store in a very short period of time. Known for vibrant colour blocking and the use of premium raw materials, Ronnie decided to buck his own trend this time around, producing these two starkly minimal and completely monochrome (aka achromatic) versions of PUMA’s XT-2 runner. Devoid of any Kith or big cat branding, their anonymous identity poses an interesting dilemma. Has Ronnie drawn a blank or is there more to this double pack than meets the eye? We asked the man himself…
How did your Paris pop-up go back in January?
The Paris pop-up was very successful. Seeing the amount of people that travelled from Europe, and even outside of European countries, to come and have the experience that we set up there was very inspiring and rewarding. I think going forward I will always have to keep that market in mind. For me it’s an opportunity to expand the brand into unchartered territories.
So tell us about your PUMAs. The monochrome look is pretty stark. Did you have a freakout about using colour or something?
No freakout about color. I just wanted to offer something completely different from what I’ve done in the past and to give people more to think about than color blocking and different Pantones.
What’s the story with the leather? It's as soft as silk BUT pretty tough though, it’s not garment leather a la Reebok Freestyles. This is top shelf stuff I bet.
The materials to me are everything. With this project, it was really important to go through different options to get it right. We ended up with an Italian glove leather, so you can see the grain and you can see the ‘pull’ when you try them on. It’s a very rich leather that is extremely expensive and rarely used on footwear. You can see how the leather moves when you wear it. When you step, you can see how the leather reacts. It’s very soft, and also very sturdy. The combination of the two to me is important for texture.
The other thing you’ve done is remove the branding. No PUMA or KITH logos anywhere. Is this some sort of Barbara Krueger comment about consumerism and logo worship. Or are you all-out of ideas?
All out of ideas, I think not. (Laughs). The concept of this project was to remove any branding – including retailer and manufacturer – to really give the consumer more than that. This way the product can live on its own without having to pay for a brand name or a stamp. You’re really paying for what you’re getting. By removing all logos, it really amplifies everything and leaves you with no other choice but to either love or hate it. For this project, you won’t buy the product because of the stamp or a name. Here you’ll be able to see the people that really appreciate materials, and the people that appreciate the final result. The strategy with the concept was to really put things in front of the consumer and to tell the story for what it is – it’s the most premium upper I’ve ever seen on a trainer. Hopefully the no-branding translates and the consumer can see what they’re actually paying for.
It’s an interesting philosophy.Colabs generally push the boundaries with colour and concept. You’ve gone super minimal. Were you conscious of THE risk that you might have underplayed the design?
I think in today’s market, people are more educated than ever. We are overplaying the design instead of underplaying. I think we’re overplaying different materials and giving people a sophisticated look with a minimal feel. It’s rarely been done correctly. The way myself and Dover Street Market will tell the story, people will really see that they’re getting more than what they pay for and that’s always been the goal. The risk of the colors is high, but my following knows me for supplying them with materials that are usually better than what is out there. I think people will take a risk and really support my work and trust me that I’m giving them the best possible materials.
AMEN to that. On a scale of one to ten, how impossible are they going to be to cop?
They’ll be available at all Dover Street Market stores across the globe as well as Kith New York and Brooklyn. I don’t think it’ll be easy to buy since they’re very exclusive, but they’re not for everybody. I think that my fanbase might steer away from this release, which is okay. People that are really into having a premium product and those who are not worried about branding will fall in love with this project the way I did the first time I saw the sample come back. So on a scale of one to ten, I assume pretty high up there. Dover Street Market is one of the best retailers in the world and we’re going to tell an incredible story together.
The PUMA x Ronnie Fieg for Dover Street Market Achromatic XT-2 will launch exclusively at KITH and all Dover Street Market stores on July 26th.