Hudson London Sneakers: An Interview with Rachel Alsbury
Hudson London Sneakers are designed for movement. Launching exclusively today at our online flagship, the collection is a close collaboration between Victoria Haddon, Creative Director at Hudson, and Rachel Alsbury, Former Creative Director at Puma.
Sneakers move with the times. The world of fashion is evolving. In 2016, Athleisure grew by 8% – more than twice as fast as any other category. And it’s set to continue. As we become more active and health-driven, luxury fashion brands are embracing sportswear. It’s no longer just a trend – it’s functional yet more fashionable than ever before, and it’s here to stay. With this in mind, it seemed like the perfect time to catch up with Rachel in celebration of the Sneakers launch.
Discover the campaign here
HUDSON |Tell us about your background; how did you get into shoe design?
RA | I studied at Cordwainers College as it was then (it’s now part of London College of Fashion). It just seemed like a perfect combination of craft, fashion and design, and having done a Fine Art Foundation shoes were like sculpture to me. As a small specialised craft college, we focused heavily on practice over theory so we learned how to make shoes and leather goods from scratch which is quite unusual now
HUDSON |Why did you focus on sneakers especially?
RA | Initially I didn’t. I tried women’s high heels for a luxury manufacturer as well as fast fashion but didn’t like either that much. Starting at Clarks Originals got me hooked on causal fashion and it was this that led me to Sneakers. I interviewed for PUMA and worked on the fashion collaborations they pioneered, from Alexander McQueen to Hussein Chalayan. Sneakers have changed rapidly in the last 10-15 years and I think it’s by far the most interesting, technological and radical in its design out of any area of apparel.
Hudson London Sneakers
HUDSON | How did the collaboration with Hudson come about and what appealed to you about working on the project?
RA| I knew Victoria from college and from a distance we’d always keep up with what each other was doing. Hudson London wanted to do a sneaker collection but not off-the-shelf – they wanted something unique. At this time just started my own design consultancy specialising in collaborating with brands to translate their handwriting into sneakers or casual footwear, so it seemed like a natural fit to do the project together.
HUDSON |What was the inspiration behind the range and what makes Hudson London Sneakers unique?
RA | The starting point was Hudson’s brand heritage and the idea of mixing craft and technology. What made the project interesting was translating a rich heritage in leather and handcrafted footwear into a genre of footwear that’s about technology, performance, flexibility and movement. Kind of the opposite of a full leather shoe in many respects. We wanted the uppers to reflect Hudson’s crafted heritage but the technology in the form of the outsole and the interior of the shoe to be performance inspired. So lightweight, flexible, cushioning designed for movement. We also wanted to make sure it would appeal to the current Hudson consumer and potentially a new one, too.
HUDSON | What influences you? Do you have a particular person in mind when designing a collection?
RA | I start every project with a lot of thought and consideration for the end consumer, so I do always have an end consumer in mind. But it’s usually more of an association with a type of person or a particular movement or group rather than an individual.
HUDSON |Do you have a particular city or place that you love? Does it influence your work?
RA | So many! But London always wins – because I live here, because of the diversity of the place, because of the fashion and creativity it never stops inspiring me somehow. Even if it’s sometimes a tough place to live, it never stops evolving.
HUDSON | What trends do you think we’ll be seeing in footwear in 2017?
RA | Sneakers and athleisure are not going away. It’s one of those major consumer shifts that’s driven by how we live rather than just fashion. It will continue to evolve and raise the bar for comfort, and performance expectations. I think we’ll see distinctions between sneakers and other kinds of shoes break down further and more merging of influences and references. I mentioned earlier the idea of craft mixed with technology and that bringing together of two different worlds is really interesting at the moment – think about the Nike Flyknit as a perfect example. Knitting, an ancient craft, realised for a mass-produced performance shoe. More and more we’ll see handcrafted looks produced by cutting edge technology. I think we will continue to see a steady move away from basic, clean minimalism as the market is so saturated, into more ‘designed’, unusual and unexpected looks again.
HUDSON | Lastly, tell us, which is your favourite pair of Hudson sneakers?
RA | That would be the Sime runner in rust nubuck!