The Menswear Style Podcast

Stefan Mathys, Co-Founder of VYN / Bespoke Renewable Sneakers

June 11, 2020 Menswear Style Episode 66
The Menswear Style Podcast
Stefan Mathys, Co-Founder of VYN / Bespoke Renewable Sneakers
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Show Notes Transcript

VYN is the first repairable sneaker in the world. The brand was founded by Catherine Meuter and Stefan Mathys in 2019. Their goal is to encourage the customer to re-evaluate expenditure and move away from a disposable mind-set, to one where they take care of sneakers, enjoying them for longer. Together they have designed over 40 collections for various brands in Italy, UK, and Norway. VYN came to life over a discussion about the sneaker industry being one of the most polluting in the fashion industry. Production costs are increasing, and the consumer is being asked to pay more, accept lower quality and less longevity. VYN is the footwear industry’s answer to creating a sneaker that is made to last a lifetime.

With the combined expertise of over 15 years in the footwear industry as designers and developers of world leading footwear brands, Stefan and Catherine wanted to answer a burning question: ‘how do you create a sneaker that is made to last?’ They listened to friends, relatives and experts and based on those insights they started to explore solutions to add longevity to shoes. Besides choosing the right components, materials and adapting the construction, their focus became a repair-solution for the sole unit. VYN sneakers are made to be worn, cared for, and can be repaired by the owner. 

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Co-Founder Stefan Mathys to find out about his fashion background and how the repairable sneaker brand idea was born. Fed up with the season approach the footwear industry traditionally follows, Stefan wanted to create a timeless sustainable sneaker with replaceable pieces. Our host Peter Brooker and Stefan also discuss design challenges, product development, research trips and manufacturing. 

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Hello, and welcome to another episode of The menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete broca. And today I'm going to be speaking to the co founder of Vin, Stephen maphis. Ben, are sneaky or brown like no other, co founded by Catherine Muta and Stephen, who will be speaking to shortly. Together they have designed over 40 collections for various brands in Italy, UK and Norway. So Ben came to life over discourse about the sneaker industry being one of the most polluting in the fashion industry. production costs are increasing and the consumers being asked to pay more, except lower quality and less longevity in his sneakers, then is the answer in their answer anyway, to creating a sneaker that is made to last, their goal is to encourage the customer to reevaluate his spending and move away from a disposable mindset to one where he takes care of his sneakers and enjoys them for longer. What a lovely bio there. It's great reading bios of websites that actually makes sense. I like that. That is coming shortly. The Interview with Stephen is a great one. And by the way, the collection is now going to be available on the website when you hear this Vin dot one, v y n dot one go check that out. In the meantime, make sure you're heading over to menswear that's where you'll find all of the show notes for this episode, as well as all the other articles competitions. It's all over there. And also if you punch in menswear style, follow us on the social and you'll be kept up to date with everything that we post on the website all of the new articles go live and then we let everybody know via social streams you know, if you want to get in touch with the show, then be sure to email us here at info at men's west or Koto, UK okay. And with no further ado, here is that interview with Stephen Mathis, co founder of Vin. Well, it's my great pleasure to introduce Stephen maphis, co founder of Vin sneak aware how you doing today, Stephen? I'm good. Thank you. How are you? I'm real good. So Stephen, maybe you can talk to me a little bit about you and how you got Vin off the ground? Yeah, so, um, me and my co founder Katherine, we met in at university, we both studied industrial design. And we both somewhat got a bit of shoe bark. At that point, I guess she did a final project and shoes and they did a final project and shoes. And so we kind of crossed paths during our studies at the University in Switzerland. And then she went to London, and I went to London as well. So I got my first job in like men's wear footwear brand. Harry's of London, which was like at that point was a startup. So I it was me, the right hand of the creative director and we basically built the whole the whole brand a bit up and she was doing a internship at Nicholas Kirkwood at the time. So we cross paths there and then through my boss at the time the creative director, he came from Armani and she didn't got the connection through to Armani and went to MIT for a few years and worked there in Milan, while I stayed in London and went on to Kurt Geiger. And later on to Reese where I did all the menswear accessories, while she then moved on to Oslo to swims, which is like a loafer brand that does everything in China. And it's like moulded loafers that are really like, cool and fun to play with. And so we kind of we stayed in contact all these years, and we found kind of similar highs and lows, so to speak within the industry. When you think like the new college come out and you're like, Ah, this is great, looks great. new materials, new things, your research. But the longer you you're in like structure like it where it becomes like the six months rhythm and the new collection comes out every six months. And you start thinking about like, why are we doing this? How? How are we doing it? Like? Is it really necessary to have blue in the collection today and then next season, it's gonna be green and season four is gonna be yellow. And as interesting and as fun as it is to put together mood boards and work on colour colorways and things. We both kind of felt it was time to start thinking about what is a shoe actually doing? Like, why why are we making it? Who is it for? And what's kind of the life cycle and what what do we want as designers being at the start of the process of everything. What do we want to achieve? With footwear, right? Okay, we're looking now at a brand that will be launched tomorrow. And this is going to be a custom sneaker made to order. But it's also going to have replaceable parts. So that kind of echoes what you're saying about the sustainability element, certain things can be replaced within the seeker. Do you mind drilling down on that a little bit? So yeah, basically, from there, we went on and kind of thought about like, so we want to do a shoe that's obviously timeless, and something that everybody can wear. So sneakers were the choice, of course. And we basically started talking to people about like, what do you wear? What are your pains and gains, so to speak of like, what goes first? Why do you replace them? What what are the main problems of it? So we did like research talk to people. And and we found like, the soul unit, the heel piece is always like something that goes early. And it also if you look back into how benchmade shoes are made with the top piece that is replaceable, and you can replace the soul unit and everything. That's kind of where the idea came from, of like, why don't we integrate the replaceable heel piece in our soul unit. So that was the kind of the first thought we had, like, let's look at the soul, let's find a solution for the soul unit. And but then it doesn't stop there. footwear is obviously comfort and style at the same time. So we found like, we wanted to use a grade leather for the upper that is really like you can care for well, that will last very long. So when you have to replace the heel piece, the upper is still pristine, if you look after it, and really like came to kind of coined the phrase where care and repair as like what the whole shoe is like. So we started basically every piece in the in the shoe, the upper, the lining, the insock, the heel counter, the laces, everything that it kind of wears off. At some point, we wanted to be replaceable. And that's where the first idea came from. And that's what the shoe basically now delivers. Which we are very proud of that it's like the first repairable sneaker on the market that is really like you can wear, take care of it, and you can repair it yourself. So it's all in your hands. Basically, once we deliver it to you, that is absolutely nuts. That's so cool. Well, listen, I'm looking at the shoes now that the train is on the website, which is Vin dot one, by the way, and people can go over there and check these out. What is amazing to me, a by the way, I told you off, Mike that websites fantastic. It's such a relief to go on a website and find a clean website that you can just navigate around without having to kind of get lost and go Okay, well, what does this do over here? It's just a very, it's a kind of a beautifully laid out how you'd want it goes where your eyes want to go, if that makes sense. Anyway, the the trainers don't look like they've been compromised in the design element, a tool to facilitate the need for having every part replaceable. Was there any kind of hurdles or obstructions that you hit with the design element thinking? Well, we need to have this bit so we can switch it out. But then they all kind of look a little bit off that what was the process like when you're actually putting the design together? Well, so Catherine and I were both designers. So aesthetics were always kind of like, key from the beginning, besides the replaceable and repairable and longevity idea we had. And it was one of the main things was, of course, like getting the sole unit to actually be able to replace that heel. like nobody has done that before. This is also like work of like three years basically, of us like doodling around trying different things. We did some like 3d printing, we did some CAD work with a friend of ours to kind of get a mechanism that someone is able to click in, click out and exchange that piece. Because it was so so key that the soul unit has this feature to get to the longevity we want the sneaker to have. So that was really like an engineering piece we then brought to Italy with our product developer who connected us with them one of the best filmmakers in Italy, and one of the like, most beautiful factories that make the uppers and then we brought everything together through that product development stage where we have the sneaker now and in terms of aesthetics, he was always we always wanted to design a shoe that really everyone can wear. Because we believe like, you want a shoe that you can. If it lasts for like, three, four or five, six years, you don't want a shoe that's like a fad that has like, yellow and purple on it. And then like after the season colour is over, you kind of feel like, well, I can't wear it anymore. What's the point Canada. So the idea is really like, fine, like a great design, executed, and then all the pieces kind of almost like fell in place at that point, really, when we looked at like, how do we want to design? And what is the what is the key pieces we want to play with? So how you've mentioned that three years is basically the amount of time that you got from concept to market very much. But what about cost? I mean, trips to Italy must be the bottles of wine in Italy, the good stuff, you know, you gotta have some of that for your business lunches. How much are we racking up? Well, we, we we finance it, obviously, because we, we are veterans in the industry, like we both have, like 1015 years of like, we kind of like, know what we're doing. And we knew when it was time to actually, like, get involved and put some money on the table to do prototypes, because a lot of a lot of like, probably year 122 there was a lot of like, actually thinking about like, what, what is the product gonna be? And how, how are we making it different? And what are the key elements we want? And just trialling things on our own with like little cutouts and like cutting sneakers up and trying to like, what can we do? And how can we do this. And then after the two years, we basically got to a point where we had like a 3d print of a mechanism that worked for the heel piece, which was really like the crucial point where we were like, okay, now that we have something that actually works, let's now involve like, the sole maker, the product developer in Italy, there we can really like, see what the shoe is gonna look like and how we're gonna develop it further. But in terms of money, yeah, it's, I don't know, we, we calculated it up one one day with a very, like low our hourly rate of things over the three years. And we probably in that terms, we invested each like I don't know, 150 k, in terms of hours and days spent and trip spend and money spent for prototypes and things now, so yeah, it hasn't been but the main, the main thing is, for both of us. This is like the first time we we have a product, both of us within 15 years of doing collections and things where we say like I've never made a better sneaker than what this is. Yeah, and I've never done like a concept that is as sound as what we have right now. Of course, there's improvements to be made. It's not perfect, nothing is ever perfect. But we're like at the stage where we can say like, this is really like the sneaker we wanted to build from the outset. And we made a fair first step to get very close to where we want to be, was probably gonna sound condescending, but really proud. You see, I mean, that I mean, putting your heart and your money and your balls on the line to get something like this off the ground. And it looks so cool as well. I mean, it has that like you say the timeless aspect of it. It's not kind of drenched in insignias or kind of splash colours, which you know, it's that is for someone else, it's not for me, but I'm just really really fascinated with this product once it's launched. Now how do consumers get involved? Do they reach out to you do they email you and say I need a pair of these immediately what's what's the process from the end user. So, we we start the process sale tomorrow or today depending like when this goes live. And and basically we we designed the one collection we call it which is an exclusive collection. We are planning to make only 500 pairs of it. And it will come with a 2012 Brunello Reserva that in the vine spectator scored a 96. So it's like a beautiful wine bottle with a beautiful pair of sneakers in white or black with some colour detail. And it will be life on the website. You can just go on Buy it straight up, we will deliver it in November, I think we will timeline we're still working on exactly when it comes. But it's every everything will be made to order, every signs will be made to order. And everybody will have a specific customer number, which will also guarantee you like laces for life, and have some other perks that will come into play during your wind journey with us. So it's going to be like, amazing first package and amazing one collection. And then it will be Yeah, it'll be really cool. Oh, I'm so, so excited for you. Again, people go on the website, because you can sign up now to have like, can you get the heads up of what this is gonna look like, if people sign up? Well, the shoe you can kind of see what it is. And again, we we just do black and white to start with, which you can obviously choose from. And, and then the brunella will be there, which is beautiful. And the other details are kind of like we're we're still like in the fine tuning the details. But um, it will be it's gonna come with your face on it, isn't it? Yeah, I've changed my mind. I'm gonna put the logo on the front. No, luckily that that will definitely not happen. We're both aesthetically, we're both somewhat on the minimalist side of things. So it will it will be like, somewhat what you see on the website right now in terms of like what the shoe looks like. But yeah, it will just be like a great first splash, it will be like I said, it will be numbered, it will be up to 500. And they will be just that basically a starting point for us also to kind of like invest the money people will give us almost like a Kickstarter idea to then deliver all of it. And yeah, basically start a brand with it. I don't want to say it's but imagine that you only get like a handful of people that do sign up. Do you still go through with the product and the production? Or do you need like 500 sales up front? Like you were doing a Kickstarter, you know, to get over you got to get your achievement go and your budget. We have we have a few scenarios where we am when we looked at like the numbers and what what we need to invest, obviously, to get it all off the ground. And so we're, we're confident that like even under 500 pairs will we'll be more than able to do it. So basically up from like 100 pairs Plus we're basically doing this. So the it will be it'll be delivered. Great. Well, we'll make it we'll make it happen. I really hope so man because this is such a great project such a great design, how much are people going to be looking at for a pair of these what what can people expect to pay? So for the for the one collection obviously with everything it comes with, it's um, it's gonna be 500 euros and a pair with the with the wine and everything. And then when it goes to like a normal like when we do our normal collections, which will probably start just after we finished a one collection presale. The shoe will be around the 385 mark euros. Okay, so the first one's gonna be a collector's piece, right? I mean, yeah, well, the first one is going to be it's gonna be once in a lifetime right. Also the the Brunello as well it's kind of like there's not that many bottles left and things will be quite quite the good. It will just be like a great package for anyone. And then with the with the longevity of the piece. Of course we will will always be there to like support you will get you'll get you trees with it, you will get a care pack with it. You will get the Prunella with it. You got the pair with it. You will get we will on the website. We don't have that yet. But we will obviously make a care section then you can you can see how to care for your snakes, we'll do events and things like so. There's a lot in the pipeline that we haven't finalised yet, but um, yeah, it's gonna be it's gonna be one of those really fun cool things and for 500 years it's in my head. It's really steel like because the sneakers Yeah. Oh, by itself, it's already worth it really. And so you touched upon it there but the aftercare people will be able to buy individual little heels they'll be able to buy it in little pieces and bits and bobs. Have you ended Yes. So basically, basically how we will structure it is you so this these first two packages are kind of somewhat given because we can do like hundred different things and stuff but Then on the on the wind collection, we will then have like heal pieces and heal counters basically that come in the same colours. So you can even like exchange colours if you want to. So it gives it a bit of a personalization touch if you want to, and then we will will also sell shoe trees separately and will sell nice little care set separately for the sneakers to really care for it. So everything will come in like these small packages. And then you can basically build your own idea of like, what do you want the sneaker to look like? To an extent with that? Right. Interesting. And And listen, Stephen, this comes as great news to me because I go through sneakers and trainers like there's no tomorrow because effectively I'm pigeon toed. So my feet kind of always go inwards. And the first things to go are the innards of the soles. Or that in a midsole, I should say towards the toe, especially if I've got a white crap, it really does kind of show up. And it's super annoying. Things like this that come along really do appeal to the people like me. And I guess everyone else that kind of goes through their shoes knows how much it costs to go to a cobbler and get replaced replacement heels for shoes, but there's not so much of it. With sneakers, I don't find you know, you never hear about going to a cobbler, or at least I don't. Is that a thing? Can you like replace heels with sneakers at Cabela's. There's there's a few people that do it, you need like a special stitch through machine that basically the cops all and that attaches the capsule and stitches through the upper again. So the capsule stays on the sneaker. But it's it's fairly rare, unfortunately, but we it's kind of like a 2.0 version, what we want to do is kind of also because the the sole unit at some point, obviously the heel will be replaceable, and that's fine. But the forefoot and everything obviously takes some wear as well. So we will have to see when that happens as well. And then maybe in a 2.0 version, we might be able to do like a replace that whole soul unit and get a completely new soul for it. But that's kind of future music right now. Right now we're concentrating on like selling the first 500 pairs basically, which may what they'll fly out, they'll fly out. Yeah, I do really hope so that it's gonna be like, especially right now I know. Like, obviously there's people have financial constraints and things. But if you think about how much money you spent every, let's say 1218 months to buy a new sneaker, like hundred hundred 50 bucks. And then if you have a sneaker that lasts for 45678 years, that's like 350 395 whatever. Yeah, you got appears along the way. And you go, you've got things as an investment. I mean, imagine having sneakers. Stephen, listen, thanks so much for coming on. I really wish you all the best mate with this. I think you've got a great product in your hands. I think it just ticks all the right boxes for everyone. Vin dot one v y n dot one is a website, people can go and check out like say when we released this, hopefully I'll even be on the day or the day before the launch and everyone can just dip their toe in it and see what's see what's going on with the campaign. So once again, seven thanks so much. Thank you very much. Brilliant. take pleasure. Thank you. Thank you. Stephen Mufasa Thank you so much, Stephen. Please, everybody, head over to the website. Take a look at how cool these trainers are. Seriously Vin dot one that's v y n dot one. Thank you for listening. There's a bunch of podcasts out there. You can be distracted elsewhere but you choose to be distracted here. We thank you for that. We thank you for all the reviews. We get to read them all again if you want to get in touch with the show informations westone coda UK is the place to go. In the meantime, remember, it's only fashion people and you're never fully dressed without a smile.