There are plenty of comfortable shoes out there. But an easy-wearing shoe that makes you feel something, deep down? That’s the mission behind Native Shoes‘ new Mercury Liteknit sneaker capsule collection.
True to the Vancouver company’s progressive roots, the limited-edition style updates the now-familiar moccasin silhouette with featherweight ingredients like an EVA outsole, Superfoam insole and elasticized 3D-knit upper. The shoe’s high-tech materials are also beast-free, down to the glue holding them together.
Of course, approaching the design of a fun-loving shoe like this requires its own brand of lightness. I met with the label’s new creative director, Michael Belgue, at Toronto’s Park & Province for a personal introduction to the kicks before their wide release in Spring/Summer 2017.
What does Native Shoes’ ‘Keep it lite’ motto mean from a design perspective?
“Keep it lite” is sort of the marriage between the physical and the metaphysical. Taking a really lightweight product from a physical stance and melding that with an irreverent, fun voice, telling people not to take things too seriously. It means a democratically designed shoe that’s not concerned with running faster or jumping higher, but putting smiles on people’s faces.
How does the Mercury Liteknit fit into your line-up?
The Apollo of 2014 was our first real foray into soft-top materiality. We looked back at the most iconic shoe of all — the moccasin — and that really opened up a lot of doors for us. The Apollo allowed us to wear a shoe all day, in all situations, as a lifestyle sneaker.
That brings us to the Mercury, still within the Apollo family. We wanted to take that idea, take that feel — the lightweight, really innovative shape that references a sneaker — and move it into emergent technologies with a full 3D-knit construction, which, up until this point, has been the pinnacle of technology in footwear. People haven’t seen this technology in a purely lifestyle shoe.
From the design to the focus on comfort, it seems to be more than just a nod to the athleisure trend.
I would say so. For us, athleisure means getting outside, walking around, having fun and wearing shoes that are really comfortable, lightweight and easy to pack. They can definitely be styled in that capacity for sure.
Why the focus on minimal, unisex styles?
I think it’s very egalitarian and accessible — [unisex style] is beyond a trend, since it’s gone on for a number of years and outlived the usual trend cycle. And I think it’s getting back to what was happening in the ’70s and ’80s with things like classic Vans, Chuck Taylors and the original iteration of the Stan Smith — they started to be worn off the basketball courts and turned into lifestyle shoes. I think it’s something that’s really come full circle.
What are some of the creative influences behind the Liteknit’s design?
From a film side, I would say Wes Anderson’s works. From a musical side, I’d say our brand’s more of a Gilles Peterson playlist from the BBC, mixing everything from West African afro-pop, to reggae, to Icelandic orchestral music.
What’s the most fun you’ve had creating a shoe?
Everything is fun, but what is the most fun right now for me is getting excited about stuff that’s coming next. I think the next shoe is always the most fun.