Interview by Marlo Saalmink with Roald Nore of The Last Conspiracy. Many of us, turn to these bad-boys, the moment we head out. They take us where we need to go and hopefully put a proverbial spring in our step. Bang on point, we simply must take better care of our shoes. As these are not just items, that need to be functional, (or cheap) and solely exist to get us from A to B. There definitely is more to them. As the fashion kaleidoscope turns onto the ladies, with surely another record amount of designers offering their work in New York, London, Milan and Paris, the timing could not be better. For what? To speak of items made with love and care, pieces that last beyond a trendy fling at the back-end of the season. You guessed it, footwear, is on the top (or bottom…) of the agenda, with sneaker sales soaring through the roof yet again.
In this wave of offerings, it is rather easy to get lost. To offer some guidance, we spoke with Mr. ROALD NORE, shoemaker by trade. This gentleman dealt it to us, as it is. Super direct, without any frills and bang on point. THE LAST CONSPIRACY, his brainchild, is a brand we have featured before in these pages. Their dark, monotone and perhaps austere visuals, have marked them down as an artisanal and perhaps slightly unaffordable provider. How wrong could we have been. Mr. NORE, is not one for beating around the bush. As he tells us, he simply set out to craft well-made shoes, that have a story and the quality to back this up. So adventurist, footwear afficionado or plain ole’ sneaker-head, stayed tuned as Roald takes us for a spin…
Bangerang. Roald, you have many years of experience as a shoe-maker, what lessons have you learned?
It is important to respect the past. Without it we are nowhere. To create means to be informed on how you must do things. Of course I like to bend the rules and experiment. When we first founded our line, we focussed very much on connecting with craftsmanship. This is still the case. We work very closely with our suppliers and artisans, to create a product that is honest and real. So I guess I learned that you should always follow your gut feelings and remain true to the traditions and values found within your craft.
Turntables. So what does craft mean when it comes to THE LAST CONSPIRACY?
For us it means to create from origins. To handle materials, to do all the finishes by hand, to really touch the product we make. For me, the foundation lies with the leather. It is a unique fabric/foundation, so versatile, breathable and of course alive. Also, we develop our own lasts in-house. This is very special and takes a lot of time and research. Lastly, we work with unique soles, to add further depth to our creative process. We are not about mass production, but instead take the time to innovative, improve, re-adjust and only send out a product, of which we are proud.
1st Option. Could you walk us through the leather selection process?
Of course, as this is special to me. First of all, we hand-pick all the hides we use. In order to prepare these for production, we work with vegetable tanning (no chrome), which is better for the environment. Next to this, we re-use all the scrap leather. So nothing goes to waste in the end. If we look at the culatta (reversed horse-hides), it is fascinating to see the structure, possible scarring and real ‘‘flaws’’ that you can find. It is a natural material, so rich and special. We love to work with it. Also, it allows me to experiment freely.
Basics. So what makes for a good shoe?
For me, there are two things important here, the technical aspects or functionality and the aesthetics. When it comes to boots or derbies, it is important to accommodate the foot and make a piece that is resilient, sturdy and powerful. For sneakers, we look even more at flexibility, movement and comfort. When it comes to the aesthetics, I like to look at architecture as an example. When drawing a floor-plan or design, all lines have a purpose. So to, when it comes to footwear. It is not about graphics or flashy-ness, but about utility. What you design needs to work, it needs to support the shoe’s foundation and of course has to work well, when in movement.
Sportsmanship. Speaking of sneakers, you are quite keen on these lately, right?
Indeed, we are. In the beginning, we started to add a couple of styles, to see how our customers respond. A lot has happened ever since. We have developed a lot in our approach. Innovation is important to me here, I like to go place, where others have not ventured yet. One of the most exciting things we have done lately, was to develop a completely new sole from scratch. Not just the sole, but also the direct injection technique by which we fasten it to the upper half of the shoe, is revolutionary. Together, they mark something new, something exciting to me. I like to be at the forefront of things.
Reflect. But innovation, surely must also mean reflection, how do you merge the future with traditional craftsmanship?
Yes, when I say, I like to innovate, this also means we continuously do so, in close conversation with our artisans. Without them we cannot move forward. Together, we are a perfect team. Old and new, work incredibly well together. It is important to keep a certain sense of pace, we like to advance, yet in a controlled manner. We learn from others and vice versa. I like to be in positive design dialogues, they keep me focussed and motivated.
Heritage. What does this term mean to you?
You can approach this from several angles. Naturally it connect this concept to what once was. Something we must respect and value in our work, which is what we do. From a sartorial perspective, there are many new definitions. For me, it is important to break away a little from such boxes. As we are not just a ‘‘dark’’ brand, we are humble shoe-makers, that do not wish to exclude anyone. Instead we are very Nordic and like to include, by providing understated designs, that work well in any lifestyle. Open-ness is more important in design, categorization is not that relevant to me.
Stylism. When it comes to your own personal style, does it resemble what we see in your designs?
To a certain extend, surely yes. I like my clothes to be calm, democratic and like an armour. I choose to dress rather monochrome. Black is a quiet colour, it does not shout, nor does it impose itself on any environment. Next to this, it feels comfortably empowering. As I travel a lot, it is important for me to turn to some wardrobe staples, that just work and keep me focussed. Naturally, I keep my shoes nicely polished!
Engager. What places or things do you cherish most on your travels?
For my work, I travel a lot. This means a lot of different scenarios. I can really enjoy the calmth of a deep black coffee at my favourite downtown roasters in my hometown of Aarhus. But, a wonderful bistecca meal in Florence or a good glass of red in good company in Paris can be just as rewarding. When it comes to inspiration, the rugged nature of Scandinavia, certainly remains a pull, also noting my Norse heritage. Combined, with the slower lifestyle and laissez-fair of Porto, where we have our atelier, I like to embrace all sides of the world. If we look to urban spaces, New York always delivers.
Carry-on. So when it comes to exploring, what do you carry with you?
I like to use the leather packs and hold-alls, that we develop ourselves, they symbolize my love for leather as a source material, and simply hold everything nicely. Everybody who travels knows, that your bags often take a beating. So I like to keep things functional and resilient in the luggage department. Naturally, I carry a small camera to document my surroundings and a leather bound note-pad, for sketches and ideas. As I am a highly visual person, it gives value to me, to observe things deeply. Inspiration can be around the next corner, I like to be ready when it does!
Advancement. Are there anythings that you wish to achieve in the coming year?
We will certainly explore new horizons, when it comes to the collection designs. For this season (ed. SS17), we have added new shadings of grey and khaki to the line, subtle adding some new tones, in order to explore new silhouettes, cuts and designs. Also, we are constantly looking for new leathers to work with, as these give new dimensions to what we can do, and how we can shape the surfaces of the shoes. Also, I am keen on exploring our new Paris showroom, which will allow us to create a fully rounded experience, when presenting the collections four times a year. Lastly, you should surely watch this space, for more sneaker developments, as we are really looking to shake things up.
Concave. A last poke, what would you like to develop with the lessons you learned over the years?
For me, it is important to look back, but even more important to take what I learned to a new level. I have always been intrigued by the more technical facets of design. That is also why we spend so much time on research and development. One of the things, I am following closely, are the innovations that are happening with outerwear, as this resonates well with me. It might be something to explore further, when the timing is right….
For more on Roald’s work: www.thelastconspiracy.com
All images shot by Mikkel Völcker