For fall ’16, Japanese designer Junya Watanabe and German heritage footwear maker Heinrich Dinkelacker are teaming up.
The two collaborated on two lace-up styles: the Anilou black lace-up features calf leather, while the brown Hillbilly style is made of waxed nubuck. The collaboration debuted on models during Watanabe’s fall ’16 men’s runway show in Paris.
Here, both sides reflect on their creative path together, a relationship that will continue for the following season.
Step 1: Mining a Passion
Junya Watanabe’s admiration for Heinrich Dinkelacker’s footwear began long before their partnership did. “They are my favorite shoes,” Watanabe said. “What I like about them is they are perfectly refined for what they are, regardless of what’s in fashion. There is nothing superfluous about them; they are expertly made.”
Step 2: Fruitful Discussions
During their early conversations, the Heinrich Dinkelacker team was drawn to Watanabe’s emphasis on the essentials. “We were impressed that he immediately took to our classic Rio last form,” said Maximilian Lehmann, CEO of the German company. “After seeing our shoes for only a few seconds, he already had an idea in mind. He is a great talent and determined to translate his ideas in the right way.”
Step 3: Uniting Two Identities
The mutual respect translated to a joint creative vision. “Junya did not try to change our Rio to another kind of shoe or emasculate it,” said Lehmann. “He focused on its unique-looking style and refined it. Now it’s a Dinkelacker shoe with Junya Watanabe’s influence.”
For Watanabe, he said he thrived on — and celebrated — the differences between the two companies. “We propose different styles every season, while at Heinrich they pursue a classic style that won’t change. This combination of the two opposites is essential in collaborations and makes our partnership unique,” he said. “I am not interested in redefining their work. Instead, I would like to honor it.”
Step 4: Crafting a Unique Product
The shoes were handmade in the Heinrich Dinkelacker factory, which Watanabe said was a vital asset. “The factory is currently housed in Budapest, but the company is originally a German manufacturer. I can identify the German craftsmanship in their products,” said Watanabe, who chose the leathers from Dinkelacker’s inventory. “Although it may sound a little exaggerated, I sympathize with their soul — the way they work, think and their attention to detail.”
Step 5: Presenting the Total Look
The collaboration debuted on models during Watanabe’s fall ’16 men’s runway show in Paris, which also featured patchwork shirts, slouchy trousers and leather-sleeved coats. This fall, the shoes will be available for $835 at Dover Street Market New York and Comme des Garçons stores, as well as boutiques like American Rag and Totokaelo.