Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Summer Repeat - It's Gotta' Be The Shoes!

This originally aired several years ago.  I had the very good fortune to meet the owner of ilmia (who also happened to be the designer of the MIH watch) and buy a pair of his sneakers.  I later bought two more pairs.  

The world needs more Christian Gafners.  The world needs more romantics, more people willing to put themselves out there.  It does not need more cynical celebrity (or Outlet X chasing) brownie hounds who prostitute themselves for a quick gain.  

I don't claim to know him well, but I can say that the one quality that comes through in truckloads is sincerity.  His focus and passion for ilmia is inspirational, on a par with Phil Night traveling to Japan to try and launch Blue Ribbon, which went on to become Nike so many years later.

The world needs more dreamers - and let's hope that this is a dream that will again become a reality.  Here's to Christian, and here's to ilmia.

And now -

It's Gotta be the Shoes... and the Watch Designer!

I was the ORIGINAL sneaker nut! When I was a (younger) Northern Youth, my friends and I became obsessed by Puma, Converse and most clearly - Adidas! And to all of you "millennials" out there, this was 1976/1977 Northern Ohio - Nike was not what it is today!

So I became obsessed with getting a REAL pair of GENUINE, MADE IN EUROPE Adidas shoes. There were two small drawbacks:

1. I had a kid's size 3.5 - which meant Buster Browns or Keds, but no Adidas available in our exotic location for such small feet.

2. Being all of 8 years old, pocket money would not nearly cover such a lavish expense as $30 - $40!

So enter my mother - who secretly scoured most of Northern Ohio to find a pair of Adidas Cadet shoes in my size, and they were under the Christmas tree! MAN - I LOVED THEM! They were white leather, with red and blue stripes. Made in France - which to my way of thinking might as well have been the moon! I wore them EVERYWHERE! In the snow, in the rain, in the mud - always taking great care to clean them up after.

Years later when I worked at Tourneau, customers would often state that the high end watch they were going to buy was an investment. I would say - yes and no. It is an emotional investment for sure, and if you keep it on that level you will never be disappointed. That very small pair of Adidas Cadets was for my mother an emotional investment in me.

And now, I am older. I see things a bit more cynically. But last year while visiting the oxen space in Lucerne, I felt the first stirrings of youthful enthusiasm for sneakers again -

Courtesy of Ilmia

This the ilmia in white. A lot like the Model T, you can have it in any color you like, as long as it's white, black or brown ; ) And I like that!
Courtesy of ilmia 

I know what you're thinking - so "OLD FASHIONED"...
YES - thank goodness! There is something in all of us that wants the original - not an "homage", but the real deal, or as close as you can come. So it took a man with a bit of vision to bring back this classic.

Courtesy of ilmia  
WAIT - what has this got to do with watches??!?
I'm glad you asked!

Courtesy of ilmia  
This is Christian - watch designer formerly of Porsche Design. And here is the rest of the story courtesy of ilmia -

2004, Swiss industrial designer Christian Gafner discovered the limited-edition ilmia shoes on the Internet. It was love at first sight. Contact with the project’s Berlin initiators was quickly established and the whole story surrounding the sports shoe multinational and its injunction came out. Gafner’s practiced eye immediately spotted the shoes’ potential. Unpacking the pair he had ordered over the Internet, he breathed in a set of familiar scents: the hint of adhesive and the fragrance of leather that took him back to his childhood and the hours spent in his grandfather’s shoe making workshop.

2006 found Christian Gafner working for Porsche Design, designing wristwatches for the prestigious brand. Deciding to take on the challenge of ilmia, he paid several visits to Berlin and spent the following two years preparing for the brand’s definitive relaunch. As a result, the shoes continue to be handcrafted in Weissenfels (Saxony-Anhalt, Germany). Through skillful application of the rules of shoe making, every upper is hand fashioned from high-grade full-grain leather and fitted with an out sole.

The design reinforces the brand’s authenticity, steering clear of short-term fashion trends. ilmia has no graphic logo as such, preferring instead to embroider its distinctive logotype on the outer flank of the left shoe in acknowledgment of the orphaned left shoe found in the Berlin flea market – the event that triggered the brand’s rebirth.

So lace up a pair of ilmias and embrace your inner sneaker freak!

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