In the mind of casual-to-contemporary footwear designer Wells Stellberger, there’s a prominent and unacceptable problem when it comes to men’s shoes. “You see people wearing formal footwear, broken in, as an everyday shoe and on the contrary you see someone wearing something very casual to a formal event,” says Stellberger. Looking to fill this sartorial void, the former Marc By Marc Jacobs designer launched his line Heutchy (pronounced Hi-Chy) in 2008. Comprised of shoes constructed from rich, supple leathers set atop Japanese soles, the Spring 2011 line reflects Stellberger’s footwear philosophy. “That’s the beauty of shoes. There’s such a wide range where the wearing is really defining how the shoe is functioning.”
Life + Times: What defines a good shoe?
Wells Stellberger: Shape, fit, design, materials, construction, not in that order necessarily. A good shoe is a shoe that you want to wear, a shoe that feels good. To some people their shoes are precious but a good shoe can stand the test of time. Personally I think a good shoe is one that looks like it’s had a good long life and still looks great.
L+T: What’s the worst mistake a man can make when buying a pair of shoes?
WS: Misjudging fit. We make our shoes pretty true to size but if a shoe is uncomfortable, no matter how it looks, you’re regretting every step.
L+T: What’s the concept behind Heutchy?
WS: Top-level construction, interesting materials and unique design details combined to create the everyday basic with a twist.
L+T: Who’s the Heutchy customer?
WS: Our guy is an independent. His style is an extension of his personality. He knows what he looks good in and he buys pieces knowing he’ll wear them for a long time. The ideal Heutchy customer values simplicity, subtlety and detail.
L+T: Shoe trends come and go. How does Heutchy stay consistent in such a fickle market?
WS: I design the type of shoes that I want to wear. I’ve always looked for shoes that I can wear forever, something sturdy and timeless. I didn’t see that in the market so it’s what I created. For me, if it is too trend driven it feels somewhat dishonest. My design sensibility tends to lean toward relevant classic.
L+T: Outside of footwear, where do you find inspiration for the shoes?
WS: I love art and photography. For Spring 2011 I was quite moved by the photographs of Joseph Sterling. They’re all about a youthful generation coming into their own. They’re all about discovery and rebellion but a lot of classical elements of dress carried over from the previous generation. It made for an interesting tension in Sterling’s photos that I tried to capture. People, personalities, clothing and movies also inspire me. I love being inspired by something completely unrelated to shoes, and figuring out a way to apply it into their design.
L+T: Heutchy shoes are a blend of leather and Japanese soles. How did you reach this goal of global hybridization for your products?
WS: I really just want to use the best materials available to make the most beautiful shoes possible and I hope that the materials enhance and add depth to the overall impression of the shoe’s design. I guess it kind of happened by accident.
L+T: What can we expect from the Spring 2011 collection?
WS: I love texture and detail and it’s the specific, subtle elements that make our collections so distinct. Fine hair English suede, soft leathers and a translucent rubber sole. We have another collaboration with Danny Roberts. We did this impressionistic, nature abstract on canvas that utilizes unnatural colors and layering, which we’ll be using on our Slip On. The samples look amazing, actually. This collection was really focused on dressing down the formal and taking a very classic base design and twisting it to make it applicable as a shoe that can be worn everyday for today. I think we have a very versatile and modern collection for Spring.
L+T: In addition to designing shoes, what are your other passions?
WS: I love art and have always wanted to support myself as an artist but sadly was never any good. I have such an appreciation for those that are dedicated and passionate about their trade. It really shows in their work. It’s a very honest place and at the root it isn’t about selling but just about being. I also have a passion for Mudpie Milkshakes. They’re pretty amazing.