If somebody likes to experience what real passion means, one should meet Patrick Rüegg and Stefan Rechsteiner the co-founders of the design label VELT. The Berlin and Switzerland based label focusses on shoes, bags and accessories made of fine leather. Tom from Superior Magazine talked to Patrick and Stefan about their world of leather and design.
Patrick and Stefan, you are the co-founders of the fashion label VELT. Before we talk about your label could you please tell us a bit about your professional background and how you met?
We both met at the University in Switzerland where we studied product design, this was in the year 2006. We became close friends and spent a lot of our free time together, but at that time we never worked together.
We both moved independently to Berlin. Stefan did his master's degree at the University of Potsdam and I was working in a product design company.
At that time we started to hang out again and with a glass of wine the idea of starting our footwear label came up. As we both were working in the field of footwear design, the idea came up to start with our label focusing on contemporary leather shoes for men. This was in the year 2010, more or less. Officially we founded VELT in 2012, so we took the time to think about the concept and the design of the first collection which was immediately recognized and awarded with the Swiss Design Award.
VELT has two home-countries - Germany and Switzerland, right? Do you see yourself as a “Berlin” brand or a “Swiss” brand?
We are considering the label both as a Berlin and a Swiss brand. Of course, it is nice to use the power of the brand identity depending on where and what you communicated. In Switzerland, it is, of course, a big advantage to be a Swiss brand. The fact that we produce shoes in Switzerland gives it a very authentic and transparent touch. And the other way around here in Berlin. To be a Berlin-based brand adds coolness and the focus to be an international orientated brand. Berlin is very inspiring for us and we also want to show that in our brand-communication. But in the very end, it all came up with a very simple fact that Switzerland is not part of the European nation and we had to find a solution for all the shipping problems. The borders make it very complicated with shipping goods between the countries. So, we decided to have a base in both countries.
VELT offers high quality shoes, bags and accessories for women and men? What are the collection characteristics?
Overall our items aim to be long-lasting and timeless pieces with the best quality to be achieved. We are not thinking in collections in the senesce of inventing new styles every season. We are focusing more on how can we use the materials over a longer period as we have to use big amounts of quantities. The material we use in current models should also work in upcoming pieces. That fact requires planning over several seasons.
I think, the result is that our products are reduced in its style, but with details of the manufacturing process and the pattern making. There is always a little extra that gives the special uniqueness to the product. But of course, we love the geometrical approach to find the patterns.
Leather is your key-material. Where do you get it from and how do you process it? How important are sustainable aspects for you?
It took us a while to find the material and the quality in the world of leather production that we were looking for. In the end, we found a tannery in the south of Germany with which we were developing our leather.
It took us about two years to reach the characteristic and the quality of our leather that we wanted to achieve. We want to have the leather as little treated as possible so you can see the structure and all varieties of this natural product. Leather is such a wonderful material with unique characteristics. But it is also a difficult material as it is very complex in the production the consumer often has little knowledge about it.
Some customers are used to cheap leather with a lot of finishing on top to look it 'nice', but it has little to do with the natural structure of the skin. Customers tend to see natural differences in the skin as a default rather than the uniqueness of natural skin. It takes a lot of work to explain the material of leather for its good quality. But of course, it is very important to know where it is coming from and how the leather is treated.
So, we really need this close exchange with the tannery to be sure what final product in the end we receive. It is only three hours away from Berlin, so it allows us to have our proper impression of the source of our products.
Who are your main customers and in which markets are you?
We mostly sell online via our web-shop, in Switzerland, we are represented in various cities, mostly boutiques or concept stores focusing on the mix of product design, living accessories, furniture, and fashion. Also, in Germany, Austria and Brussels, we are represented in different concept stores. I think this also says a lot about our customers and target group. It’s not the super trendy fashionista, but the lover for design, details, and quality.
Beside your core products you also offer a studio service. What does that mean?
We founded our studio five years ago in which we have built a creative community. The idea is to have a creative space where we share facilities, but also to have an exchange about professional work topics, share knowledge, and support each other to grow as a creative. In our studio, creative can rent a workstation and use the common workshops like the photo studio or the textile workshop. It should be an open exchange of disciplines and inspire each other or even a joint work to promote your own label professionally.
Thank you for the interview!