Designer To Know

Weber Hodel Feder

What possesses three young men - one Swiss and two German – to start their own footwear label in the city of Antwerp? “Belgium has always been incredibly good to us; from the very beginning”, tells Matthias Weber, who runs the cult-status worthy footwear label WeberHodelFeder together with his creative partners in crime Niklaus Hodel and Florian Feder.

by Siska Lyssens

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Matthias, Niklaus and Florian see themselves as true kids from the Nineties. 'Our youth is super relevant. We used to skateboard, listen to Wu-Tang, we love graffiti …', Matthias reminisces. It all adds up to the authenticity of their designs, and the sub-culture they represent.

Their footwear label WeberHodelFeder reflects these influences through a unique aesthetic: a hybrid form of shoes infused with both street style elements and a particular propensity for classic gentlemen’s styles. Brogue detailing and the highest quality leathers abound, but so do thick rubber soles and Velcro straps.

Celebrating their fifth anniversary this year, WeberHodelFeber can look back on an interesting progression as a label: from meeting at Antwerp’s respected Fashion Academy and earning the encouragement of Geert Bruloot and Eddy Michiels, founders of the legendary footwear boutique Coccodrillo, to running a successful brand with loyal fans all over the globe.

Belgium has always been incredibly good to us; from the very beginning

What are the biggest lessons you’ve gleaned in that big learning curve of founding your own label?
We knew nothing when we started! We are still learning every season and every day. If I could give one piece of advice, it would be to learn by trying things out and by making mistakes. From school until now, what we have realised is that fashion is not about making crazy shit. You have to think of your customer. We still have the freedom to be able to create what we want to the most extent, but some people get a harsh reality check after graduation. At the Academy, they kept us as far away from the industry as possible.

Tell me about those Academy days - how did you three meet?
Florian and me (Matthias) met in Munich, and we met Niklaus in Antwerp. In a school with so many nationalities, you find each other quickly when you have the same interests. We had a culture in common, and a love of football. As you can imagine in a fashion school, preferring to go to the Irish pub and watch the game instead of going out clubbing made us outsiders. But it brought us together.

What made you want to work in fashion?
For me personally, I was never the kid who dressed up their Barbies. I came to fashion as a consumer. When I was younger, my dream was to become a football pro, and my first serious interest came from looking at what David Beckham wore (laughs)! For me, it was always about desiring things. Luxury fashion is about creating something authentic that people will desire. If it’s not authentic, there’s no point.

How do you approach the design process as a team?
We share a quite specific and strong ethos. We always set a mood before we start designing. Antwerp is quite a dark and romantic city, and this affects the designs. At the very start of each season, we collect inspiration individually – we have equal input – and this can be everything we’re looking at, from travel, Instagram, to blogs.

WeberHodelFeder has a signature piece: the Velcro shoe. What do you think is responsible for its unisex appeal?
Several things. The customer range who we reach with it is wide: from young kids to grandmas. Then there’s the functionality – you don’t have to lace it. This shoe also transports you back to your childhood; the Velcro fastening is really nostalgic. It’s just the right amount of classic with a sneaker twist. A modern hybrid. This season, we’ve updated the Velcro shoes with a lighter weight Vibram high-quality rubber sole.

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