Respecting and employing the traditional codes of mens footwear design, New York-based No. 288 produce high quality sneakers using only the most superlative materials and craftsmen on a slew of considered, simply designed silhouetted.
Now in their third season, designers Jung Suh and Benyam Assefa meld these classical elements with their multi-cultural backgrounds to an ever expanding range for Autumn/Winter 2015. Look for the No. 288 AW15 Collection online now at EndClothing.com.
END. spoke exclusively to both Jung and Benyam about the brand, the collection, their history and what the future holds for No. 288…
With No. 288 being a new brand to END., can you tell us what the brand is all about?
Jung: No. 288 is a New York based footwear brand producing high quality men’s footwear with a focus on classic sneaker silhouettes. Applying an avant-garde and minimal aesthetic, the brand offers a modern twist on high quality leather sneakers. We try to take the best of our influences and New York City.
Autumn/Winter 2015 is your first collection at END., what is it about?
Benyam: We don’t really have themes for each season. Autumn 15 was about expanding the collection; I really looked at the runner and explored the iconic (Alden) Blucher shoe as a reference construction. We selected a technical ballistic nylon and married that with nubuck and suede as well as natural vegetable tanned leather, which we have been mixing in our collection from the beginning. This adds character to the shoe as it transforms with the wearer and becomes more personalized.
Craftsmanship is quite obviously key to your product, how do you ensure you are utilising the best craftsmen for the job?
B: Craftsmanship is something very personal. You appreciate it or you don’t. We partner with what I believe is the best footwear factory in Portugal. Visiting often and sharing ideas and learning from each other has been invaluable and that is the key, pushing each other and developing our aesthetics, concepts and characteristics under one roof, I always wear the prototypes w/o socks, just bare feet to really get a sense of the product, as it breaks in and I feel more intimate w/ the shoes.
Production is kept solely to Portugal. Judging by the quality of your product, the choice seems very much a considered one. Why Portugal and not the stamp of authority that ‘Made in the USA’ badge has?
J: Portugal is known for its leather manufacturing; Lanvin, Givenchy, a lot of high-end brands have moved their leather production in there, and the country’s shoemaking industry is the second most expensive in the world behind Italy’s.
How do you feel No. 288 sets itself apart from the rest of the market?
B: We have to continue to make products we feel passionate about. We think if we continue that direction we will set ourselves apart with genuine product.
You met at Parsons School of Design with alumni such as Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs and Donna Karen amongst others, do you seen any of them as role models as such?
B: For me Alumni were the biggest attraction to attending Parsons. I didn’t have a formal fashion background, my interest started late after studying other design disciplines, so I just went on their reputation. But I think the creative environment that is nurtured and the bonds you make are the reason you attend (an influential University)
Hailing from Ethiopia and South Korea respectively, do you feel your native influences make their way through to your designs?
B: As the collections grow you will see more personal references. We both have such rich heritages and we want to express that in our brand.
J: Indeed. Being a Korean-American is a good mix of Western sophistication and Asian practicality. I grew up in several countries with interpreting and combining Western fundamentals and Eastern elaborated details. Korea is an interesting country has perfect mix of style and sensibility. There is a big movement towards a global market in today’s Asian fashion, especially in Korea.
Each style has a distinctly minimalist feel but has roots in more traditional shoe making, how much does traditional shoe design play apart in your own design process?
B: It is the foundation. We reference it all the time; we look at material, construction, hidden construction, balance, fit and proportion. We have to also add value, and it is always that balance of value, clean design and (innovative) construction.
As mentioned, design recognisably plays a significant role within No. 288, do you have any standout design heroes or influences?
J: I respect Junya Watanabe the most. He has different concepts for each collection, yet there is a link that connects them all. He shows the brand’s consistency and craftsmanship. An evolving theme that does not lose the brand’s identity is what I can learn and admire from his collections.
Ben and I, we are also interested outside of our own designs lie primarily in innovative sportswear, this combined with elements of architecture in fashion are of particular interest.
It seems a natural conclusion to talk about the future, where do you see the brand in the coming years? Is there an instinctive progression you feel No. 288 needs to move on to?
J: Our future goal is to continue to preserve the integrity of men’s & women’s footwear and to communicate the pride and innovation we feel embodies the brand. To balance commerciality and design through our continued efforts to develop an aspirational brand with craftsmanship at it’s core.
We could begin to look at the diversification of the brand as we look at small leather goods and possible collaborations with both established and emerging designers, especially from New York.