First look

The Belgian designer trio injecting footwear with youthful nostalgia
By Nik Patel | Fashion | 5 June 2017
Photography Senne van der Ven

Weber Hodel Feder SS17.

All having studied at the prestigious Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, the trio of Matthias Weber, Niklaus Hodel and Florian Feder came together to launch footwear brand WeberHodelFeder in 2012. With a collective 30 years of experience at some of Antwerp’s biggest fashion houses, they channel their respective backgrounds into a progressive take on premium footwear inspired by art, travel, youth, and creative collaboration.

Exclusively premiering here, the lookbook for their latest collection was shot in the process of moving studios (cue many boxes). Shot by Senne van der Ven, the raw images capture the sense of nostalgia that comes with a move, leaving old memories behind to make new ones. 

In collaboration with Swiss graphic designer Thomas Berger, and artist Marcel Freymond, the corresponding collection utilises a combination of calfskin, velcro and a wedged sole, alongside the classic lace-up. Handmade in both Portugal and Italy, the eclectic mix of faux-snake brogues and military-reminiscent oxfords reflect the high levels of craftsmanship that are the focal point of this trio’s vision. Here, Niklaus gives an insight into the collection, their design fluidity as a three, and reflects on where it all began. 


Nik Patel: So how did the three of you originally meet?
WHF: At the Royal Academy in Antwerp it is very common to do the fittings of the clothes on other students. Florian once approached me in the hallway, asking if I could wear one of his looks at the upcoming presentation. Soon after at his birthday party he introduced me to his friend Matthias from Munich, where we spent the whole night talking about football and cars not knowing that we would still do the same seven years later.

Nik: And so what inspired the formation of the brand?
WHF: It was the conclusion of several things happening at the end of the curriculum in 2012. What first seemed like a romantic pipe dream of three friends eventually started to become more realistic when Geert Brulot – co-owner of Belgium’s finest shoe boutique Coccodrillo – approached Niklaus to inquire about the Velcro Shoes he just showed at the graduation runway show. Being famous for picking up brands first, Eddy Michiels & Geert played a key role in encouraging the formation of WHF by placing an order for the first 49 pairs.

“What first seemed like a romantic pipe dream of three friends eventually started to become more realistic.”

Nik: Having such a vast body of experience between the three of you, do you find it can be conflicting during the design process, or do you feel that pooling your individual experiences has helped to push your ideas forward?
It was always a big advantage to have different backgrounds und opinions united in one company. But to be fair, it did take a while till we understood how we can use those different skills efficiently without doing things double. When we started, we were under the impression that every decision should be taken with all of us being present. Voting on which printer to get feels very amateur now, but when it comes to design we never had issues to work with different inputs that were worked into the collection. Also, after five years it is easier to see a coherence in the brands image and designs than in the very beginning. We now know what we feel comfortable with and from which materials or styles we better stay away. 

Weber Hodel Feder SS17.

Nik: The SS17 lookbook is really raw, and evokes a sense of nostalgia. Why did you decide on shooting the images mid-move to a new studio?
We saw the move not only as an upgrade in terms of location and space, but also as a chance to draw a line and take the next step. This included cleaning out, letting go of old furniture and reduce the archive. We wanted to pay tribute as well as invite everyone one last time into our old office, documenting this literal next move. With Senne van der Ven not only being our friend but also an extremely talented documentary and fashion photographer, we both were excited to mix the two and try something different.

Nik: How do you go about creating your collections? Could you give us some insight on your design process?
WHF: We are very lucky to be able to travel a lot for work, seeing different cultures and markets. It can be very refreshing to see how the same shoe is worn completely different in Tokyo or New York. A lot of our inspiration comes from what we see on the street, as well as from our private archives. We normally collect individually and throw everything on the table at the beginning of the season where the theme of the collection is born. We then divide the different stories and work on the sketches individually before considering materials. We then meet again with first prototypes to discuss possible changes and add or retire certain styles. These meetings then continue till the end of the season.

Nik: Looking to the future – and with a new studio to work in – what’s next for you?
WHF: The past few months saw a lot of change, the most crucial one probably being to add a wholesale manager to our team and the decision to host our very first own showroom for men’s and women’s during Paris Men’s fashion week. As for the creative direction of the brand we do not want to give away too much, but surely the next collection will be a big step forward with the addition of many new styles and a print collaboration with the Lisbon Graffiti Crew, ‘Germes Gang’. Stay tuned.

For more on WeberHodelFeder head to their website


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