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In conversation with Eckhaus Latta's Mike Eckhaus

“I never felt like I had to wear clothing of an exact gender, and always was searching for a space which blurs these boundaries”

Step into the luxurious world of Eckhaus Latta, the New York-based brand known for its innovative designs with a conceptual approach to creating. Exploring their latest footwear creation, we spoke with Mike Eckhaus as he introduced us to the three stunning ankle boots made in collaboration with Zalando. Zalando has partnered with Eckhaus Latta — alongside other esteemed designers— to launch a groundbreaking footwear collection called ‘Walk a Mile’. This campaign highlights the brands’ commitment to driving change and offers customers a wide range of sizes, from 35 to 46. Each pair of boots from this collection tells a captivating story, rooted in a design process that values intuition, emotional connection, and a conceptual approach to proportion. Captured by the talented Parisian photographer Tom Blesch and styled by the incredible Glen Mban, this collaboration pushes the old-school remaining boundaries in fashion and sparks a revolution of accessibility. The exclusive collection is now available at Zalando in all 25 Zalando markets, inviting you to enter a world where fashion transcends limitations.

Hey Mike! Great to be chatting with you — how are you today?
I’m good. It’s the beginning of my day here, but it’s beautiful and it’s spring in New York, so that’s a nice feeling.

Let’s begin with the philosophy of Eckhaus Latta…
For us it’s always been a very intuitive process; exploring the world through the work we make. For us, clothing, accessories and footwear are not necessarily about creating something that defines you, but rather, something that you can use to help you further realise yourself. Within this, it should help make you feel more like yourself rather than feel like you’re trying to play the role of somebody.

Totally. You don’t create costumes, or identities, for people to partake in. But authentic items.

How does this philosophy translate into the design process?
The design process between Zoe and myself is very conversational,  given that it’s a collaboration between the two of us and then with our team. Within this, however, our work is not autobiographical by any means, but it’s reflective of our lives. We have been doing this now for a bit over 10 years now, and it’s never been something like, this season we’re inspired by XYZ.

Are there particular points in the process or design motifs which motivate the creative process?
We are very informed by materials, our friends and the world that we exist in. We then explore how all of these elements get synthesised into our work. It is rather organic and intuitive, but this is how we always go about the development of collections.

Eckhaus Latta from the beginning has never been guided by gender or placed itself within these limitations. Is this an active decision you made from the beginning or something that the brand has grown into?
From the beginning, it was always something we wanted to do. By asking questions about the role of gender in fashion, and what in itself defines a garment and its gender, we saw little connection. I mean, there are elements on the construction level, however, we play around with things that historically have signified certain gender constructs. It is something we have always been interested in, also on a personal level. I never felt like I had to wear clothing of an exact gender, and always was searching for a space which blurs these boundaries.

Within this, I love that you work with silhouettes that fit many different forms. It is easy for a brand to say that they’re unisex or gender neutral, but in reality – they only fit one body type.
Exactly. And I think what’s exciting is trying to find areas and ways we can do this. We work on refining the design and exploring silhouettes, rather than just saying everything is going to be best for everyone — this is never going to be.

Yeah, it’s just not possible, except with footwear…
Exactly. And that is what is so exciting about this project with Zalando. We have a lot of customers, whether it’s men, women, trans women or so forth who are limited as footwear only goes to a certain size due to stores and manufacturers. It’s exciting to be able to figure out spaces and ways of working with retailers and for manufacturers to make shoe sizes more inclusive. It is really important, and also really fun and necessary.

It’s overcoming a challenge in the industry, and it’s so great seeing retailers like Zalando taking this step!
It’s great, as I just don’t think that enough retailers are taking on this shift and realising this need on a larger scale. When you’re a small brand,  it’s hard to find the financing internally for projects like this — because you have to create the moulds.  We are so happy that they’re using their resources to showcase and cater to this audience and customer base. I think that’s special; to see a retailer care and want to explore this rather than deeming it unnecessary as they have the infrastructure to do so. I think it’s cool that they’re making this happen.

100% and then talking about the shoe specifically, can you tell me the inspiration behind the design?
We began with sculpting this heel out of clay to try and get it right. We went back and forth to the factory, before finalising the shape. I feel like for a while the world has been leaning towards the square toe for a while. But now we’re trying to shift away from that. It’s been so popular over the past few years, but I think also on a personal level, it’s time for a change… I still love square toe ha-ha. Footwear is relatively new for us, so it’s exciting.

The three colourways have their identities. Each carries the hourglass sensuality, but through the use of the suede and then the painted leather, they have completely different energies.
Yes, completely. For example, painted leather is such a great material to watch change over time.  It transforms and promotes the idea that when you have something that you like, you wear it, it’s not about being overly precious, instead, It’s about having fun with the materials and letting them speak life when you wear them.

This reminds me of the contrast between like today’s depictions of Hermes’ Birkin­­ bag and then like how Jane Birkin wore it all hanging out and worn. It had a story and a journey. ­
I love wearing my clothing until it falls apart and I think that’s important, especially when you buy something that makes you feel great! When you buy something nice, I like when people live with it and truly incorporate it into their life.

Enjoy it, essentially.
Enjoy it? Yeah!

This campaign is titled, Walk a Mile, whose shoes would you like to walk a mile in?
Helmut Lang during fashion week, just to be able to see what it was like for him. He is someone who I deeply respect, so I think that would be very cool. 

Words by Grace Powell

Images courtesy of Zalando

Shop the shoe here!