Peterson Stoop is the Design Duo You Need to Know
Jelske Peterson and Jarah Stoop form the sustainable design duo that is Peterson Stoop, an Amsterdam-based genderless footwear brand and ethical design studio bringing a ‘fun-loving and witty’ take on shoe production and repair. Before founding their own imprint in 2013, they built up their skills working across shoe repair shops and leather tanneries, allowing them to execute their own vintage sneaker deconstruction concept today. Often creating with natural materials like cork and leather, the final product results in pre-loved shoes from New Balance, ASICS (and more!) getting a stylish new lease on life.
Along with a roster of private clients, they also take on wholesale orders from stores and brands like Kapital, Matches Fashion and Selfridges. Their intention is simple: to make a positive impact with their design studio. Check out the conversation below!
What was the driving force that saw that both of you step into working with footwear?
Jelske and I both studied product design at ArtEZ, Arnhem, Netherlands. In the third year Jelske decided to specialise in footwear design. It was something that really suited her as choosing to design footwear gave her the opportunity to focus on one specific area of design. Working directly on a last is an interesting process where the designer can choose to stay close to the shape or try to create a version that becomes more abstract. The search for balance between the two is one of the elements that makes footwear design so interesting.
Footwear is also interesting because it is not a static design object or piece of art – footwear is meant to be in motion, making it an object that needs to be designed from a 360 degree perspective, because all sides will be seen. Within our practice we like to play with the fact that a pair of shoes are usually symmetrical, so we research ways to make our footwear asymmetrical, adding another layer of interest. At the beginning of Peterson Stoop we were designing footwear and accessories, and doing collaborations with fashion designers. After some time, we choose to focus on footwear because we can tell our story best through footwear design.
Why do you choose to work with vintage sneakers?
In 2015 we had just done a trade show in Paris, where we presented our latest collection. It was focused on creating a more sustainable shoe, we had designed an asymmetrical sole unit, where one side had a step and the other side had a wedge. The feedback was positive, but sadly we didn't get any orders. We sat at our desk feeling very disillusioned, pondering our next move. Jelske was wearing a pair of Nike Air Force 1s and we came up with the idea to merge those sneakers with our sole unit. This was a true light bulb moment for us.
We felt like all our goals for merging great design and sustainability finally made true sense. From a young age I have been interested in the wear of used and secondhand items. Together with my father I would visit secondhand shops and sell vintage home goods at local markets. We never expected our upcycled designs to take off so quickly, but within days after posting on Youtube and Instagram we received personal orders and wholesale orders from all over the world.
Do you approach a sneaker that has already lived a life differently to a new product? If so, how?
Our goals are the same in both products, that is why we approach them in the same way. We want to approach sustainability and design for repair in a fun-loving and witty manner, it can be such a heavy topic, we don't want that narrative to influence the design negatively. In our design practice we are looking to find balance between all elements within a shoe.
What are your favourite silhouettes to work with, and why?
Our favourite silhouette to work on has to be the Air Force 1. They carry such great cultural meaning and are the most worn sneakers of all time. For every individual they can have a different meaning; some wear them for their cultural relevance and others wear them for their minimalistic look or purely for their functionality. In addition to this they are the first pair we ever up-cycled, everything comes full circle when we work on an Air Force 1.
A creative female duo in footwear is hard to find! Were there any hurdles that initially stood in your way? Are they still there?
Before Jelske and I really started working together she had accepted an internship at United Nude. Before the internship was completed, many of her playful designs were taken into production and she was actually offered a job to work there. Jelske kindly denied it because we had agreed to start Peterson Stoop. She had been warned that it was going to be difficult to start a footwear company, and she would need at least $1 million. Luckily we were naive enough not to listen to him and take the plunge.
What advice do you have for the next generation of female designers?
This advice is not only applicable to only female designers, but I think as females we have been taught to be patient, quiet and modest about our talents. I don't think this is necessarily the best way to act when you have something meaningful to say. I feel every young designer will question their right to exist, at least that is what I did. I like to tell young designers that they are special and that they should be proud to share their unique perspective of the world.
One of my tutors at the Royal College of Art in London said: 'Why make something, if it is the same as what already exists.' That really struck a chord with me. The only way to make something 'new' is to add something of yourself. This can be very scary and might make you feel vulnerable, but it is worth it.
In your time in the footwear industry, what changes have you seen implemented that have given women a more equal seat at the table – either from a consumer or designer standpoint?
As designers I don't think Jelske and I are really the right people to answer this question because we would be talking from a privileged standpoint. Jelske and I have been tremendously lucky to have been born into feminist families. We never felt any less than a man. Before I was self employed I would make sure that I was earning the same or even more than my male colleagues, just by doing research into what my possibilities and rights were as an employee. As entrepreneurs we hope that we are setting a good example for other females who are wanting to step into the footwear industry. Since we have this platform I want to take the opportunity to shoutout @girlonkicks and @sneakersbywomen on Instagram, I think they are highlighting women in sneakers in a positive way.
What does the future look like for Peterson Stoop?
Jelske and I have been working on our current concept since 2016. We have been making shoes for private clients but also selling wholesale to shops such as Kapital, Matches Fashion and Selfridges. For the first time in years we decided not to do any wholesale this season, in order for us to focus more on what made us excited about Peterson Stoop in the first place; design. We will be developing new silhouettes, new material combinations and exploring different fields of footwear. We will also be debuting a footwear collaboration with knit developer and footwear innovator, Suzanne Oude Hengel. Together we will be researching alternative ways to keep more shoes from ending up in landfill.
For a collection of in-depth interviews and features, head over to <Platform> – an inclusive space created by Sneaker Freaker, which aims to champion the women who are breaking barriers and are helping to shape the sneaker and streetwear industry.