It’s always inspiring to come across individuals who make the choice to veer from the commercial or established choices in life & forge their own path. The independent shoe company ZzyxX caught our eye recently for their approach and aesthetic. “Created by shoe designers, surfers, artists, musicians, misfits, cast-offs that grew up in Huntington Beach, CA. What started as a passion project for friends has grown and evolved slowly.” Established in 2013, the idea behind ZzyxX was the brainchild of Chris Nakamura who had experience building successful lines of shoes for brands in the Women’s Fashion world as well as in Action Sports. He eventually teamed up with friend & fellow artist/photographer Adam Fedderly to launch the company. They wanted to keep things simple and for the love of Art… something to share with the world. We asked Chris some questions about his background and the philosophy/inspiration behind ZzyxX and its hand crafted, hand lasted shoes.
You came from a background of working for large/ well established shoe brands (DC/ Madden) what was the impetus to start your own company?
It was never my initial motivation. As in life, things just progressed organically and built up to this point. At first when starting in the footwear industry, I just wanted to learn shoes, footwear making and designing. It just happened to be making women’s shoes. Looking back, i’m thankful it was, because its allowed me to work on so many different kinds of shoes like boots, pumps, flats, sandals, etc., rather than just one kind of shoe.
After traveling and seeing production in so many different places, I just felt a bit sad that there was such an emphasis on the bottom line rather than the pure pleasure of the overall process. I understand it’s business, but working on products and correcting prototypes and fit issues are fun and challenging to me.
So then that thought of contradictions run strong with me. A Man doing womens shoes/ Day kids having fun at night and so the thought of Skaters/ Surfers wearing formal footwear kinda embodied where my head was at so…its just rolled.
Can you tell me a little about the ethos behind ZzyxX?
Well, first of all, it’s about the product. It’s about insole shapes and lasts. I’m big on insole shapes and lasts…especially the last…A last is the most beautiful thing in the world to me, it’s art. You can have the most amazing material, stitchers, etc., but without a beautiful last it’s not worth it to me. I feel that in the women’s game, insole shape and last shapes are cherished, but in the men’s game, the insole shape and toe character are less of a factor. At ZzyxX, we’re a “product first” company because we simply love unique shapes and working closely to the foot. We have a tailored approach to footwear where just as you see a rad car, you’re seeing the lines of the body. The same goes true with shoes..you’re really admiring the shapes.
Well, after seeing production in Europe, US, & China, I’ve come to believe that it’s not the country that makes the shoes….but the people. Not all factories can make any kind of shoe. Some factories can’t make pumps, but they can make boots or vice versa. There’s a deep history of shoe making in Leon. I always loved the old black and white westerns and a lot of those boots were made in Leon. Not all factories can make any kind of shoe and we’ve found a good balance here being in Leon. The tanneries are there, and leather making is second nature as it is in North America. We at ZzyxX think of ourselves as North Americans, we live in such a wonderful continent.
As far as long term, do you see ZzyxX growing much larger or is the desire to keep things more contained?
Good question and the answer to that is, I believe in having “good problems” vs. bad problems. A good problem is that we need to grow because that means the demand is there. I believe in patience and exclusivity as well, and doing the simple, little extra things for our customers that larger companies aren’t really able to do. Being a product-driven brand, we want to keep this balance. We feel our customers will also care about the same things, so to answer your question its going to be balanced and not over extending ourselves.
Who are some brands that you admire or may have inspired you to start Zzyxx?
Actually, there’s a great Women’s brand from Spain called Coolway. I always liked how loose they did things and very unpretentious and the product was/is casual in nature, without feeling cheap or gimmick-y. Meanwhile, a lot of bigger companies have tried to copy their style, but they don’t care. They just keep coming up with unique ways to build shoes and tell their story.
What music have you guys been listening to lately?
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