Contradict. Oppose. Counter-react.
Fashion can often be a circular motion, forgetting the privilege it has to touch upon so many lives while growth usually means cutting ideals, pressurizing designers into corners they had previously wished to avoid. Therefore, it is remarkable to see brands, such as THE LAST CONSPIRACY, take another turn and work from traditional knowledge fused with an innovative newness—the way it should be—with a sense of meaningfulness, functionality, and superiority.
On a recent spring journey to Portugal, we visited the atelier of this Danish outfitters tucked away on the hills outside Porto. Its founder, Roald Nore, is somewhat of a footwear maverick using his extensive technical knowledge to create understated pieces. Not a man of compromise, each shoe is constructed with care and the utmost precision. After all, to do what matters is simply because you see the need.
Roald, good to see you again. Could you tell me a little about your heritage?
Likewise Marlo. I grew up in Norway and Denmark, connecting profoundly to their nature, ruggedness and Nordic senses. As a backdrop, this makes you think about innovation from a young age, pushing the boundaries. In my creative career, I worked with shoes for a long time, first as a buyer and later as a designer for several brands. For me, the tactility of making something with my own bare hands was magical. It speaks so much to me, to touch materials, construct pieces and to be hands-on. At some point, I felt the need to develop my own universe. THE LAST CONSPIRACY is this lab we created, where I explore, conduct research and develop.
If we look around us today, in the atelier here in Porto, there is so much history. Could you tell me more about this?
Indeed, we are surrounded by centuries of craftsmanship. When it comes to footwear, these hills have so many stories to tell. The first time I came here, over a decade ago, it was very touching to see how local artisans work here with a complete devotion to their craft. Making a shoe is a long process—it is not something you do lightly. From developing to researching materials, techniques and constructing, there are simply so many steps one has to take into account. Therefore, I choose to surround myself with intelligent souls that respect this trade and can take it to a next level.
We met so many amazing characters today, what does your local team mean to you?
So much! Over the years, I have developed a strong connection to the local people we work with. They simply are crucial to what we do. Often one finds factories that are merely into cranking out massive amounts of pieces. We like to slow things down and work with people we trust and that share our vision. THE LAST CONSPIRACY has a unique approach to footwear, based on our quality and durability. One of the things that is most striking of working with such traditionally schooled craftsmen, is the fact that they also work in a most tactile way. When it comes to translating leathers into forms, welting and developing pieces, they understand me, and I follow them in turn. It is a strong bond.
In addition to the fresh sneakers, clean Nordic styles and sleek boots, you also developed this capsule line, ASGAARD. What does this line stand for?
This was a personal desire to develop a special line of shoes that have that bit extra. Here, I was able to completely immerse myself in construction techniques, novel ways to treat leathers and the immersion of new lasts. ASGAARD is a unique combination of strong willful leathers, traditional innovation and understated expression. For instance, when we craft a boot, we take Culatta horse leather, which has to be cut very precisely by hand, each piece matched so you get a set. This means no wastage and making the process of getting to a shoe most delicate and technical. With these pairs, we celebrate the art of true shoemaking.
How do you wish to contribute with your brand?
For me, it is important to remain true to our roots. We are shoemakers first and designer second. This is the key. It means that we work with solutions that are practical and will last. If I look at the elements in the North, our rough winters and unbalanced summers, you need a set of trotters to step out without worrying. We like to supply pieces that become a part of their wearers. I always like the idea that people set out into the world wearing our pieces, exploring and interacting. Shoes are the most personal item in our wardrobe hence they have to perform well. That is what we are about.
Last one Roald, what would you tell upcoming footwear designers?
It is most important to remain true to what you see and feel. You should never compromise or feel pushed into the wrong direction. If you stand tall and focus you can achieve so much. I know that this is part of a learning curve, but in the end, it is worth it. Making shoes that you are proud of and that are worn by people across the globe is simply unique. Trust your spirit and stay with it!
For more on Roald’s world: www.thelastconspiracy.com