Sneakers are the great unifier. Every man has a pair;,every man appreciates a pair and every man wants a new pair. They’ve become such a big influence in today’s world – and in the minds of so many of us – that we’ve all got a bit carried away at one time or another and we’ve thought we can design sneakers better than the brands themselves. Think about it. There’s been a time in your life when you’ve dreamt up a pair of sneakers in your head or wished you could invent a new colourway of your favourite pair. Well, Andreas Klingseisen and Joerg Rohwer-Kahlmann, founders of VOR, certainly had that dream.
The pair founded premium sneaker brand VOR in 2010 in search of absolute perfection. It’s a strong mission statement that has earned the brand a reputation as one of the world’s best new footwear brands, renowned for its luxurious shoe and sneaker designs. To capture their story, and to find out how they’ve turned their sneaker obsession into a full-time job, we sat down with both Andreas and Joerg to talk inspirations, aspirations and the real quality of German craftsmanship.
Growing up, who was your hero?
Joerg: There were several, but the main three for me growing up were Colt Seavers in The Fall Guy, Rodney Mullen and Eazy-E.
Andreas: For me, Guy Mariano of Blind Skateboards, Jam Master aka Jay Run DMC and Steve Reeves as Hercules.
What initially inspired the start of VOR?
J & V: The truth is that sneakers were big for the both of us from day one of our teenage years. We collected rare sneakers and exclusives in a time where there was no easy access because there was no internet at the time. Over time, our taste got more refined as we got more mature and at a certain point we couldn’t find any new sneakers that would match our standards and requirements. That’s when we decided to create new standards and that was the time we started VOR. It’s quite romantic looking back, but it’s the truth.
What has been the biggest calamity along the way?
J & V: The process of making the shoes for the very first time, for sure. Starting the production in Germany with all its rebuilding was tough. Completing the sourcing from scratch, finding suppliers for all sort of pieces here and there. All this searching for the right pieces and the right craftsman lead to nearly a year in production down-time.
What has been the biggest breakthrough in that time?
J & V: When we realised the full potential of producing in our country, knowing all people involved personally, craftsmen as well as suppliers. That was a special time. When we mastered that we were then able to do things at a level we couldn't even think of before.
The moment it all changed; when did things really click into gear for VOR?
J & V: When we had finally set up and released our first ‘Made in Germany’ shoe; including all the improvements and innovation techniques united in one all-new product. Thankfully, it was very well accepted, and people gave us a lot of positive feedback for it. Not just the level of refinement, but for the great comfort and fit and the premium materials used to create our products.
The other big moment for us was when we established VOR’s signature design. The lines, shapes, colours, nuances and balances that we wanted were finally transferred into a product that we were really satisfied with both as designers and aesthetes. And, apparently so, a lot of other people out there too.
What are the three most important things you’ve learned along the way?
J & V: Cutting a high-top sneaker by hand to a low-cut version can work, but it might end in a not fully satisfying result. We did that back in the time when we were 15 or 16 years old, so thankfully we’ve learned from that. But seriously, be passionate, be hungry, stay humble – that’s the most important thing to remember.
Which project or period of your career have you enjoyed most thus far?
Joerg: For me personally, my entire professional career has been one long journey. I feel that all of this is one path, a personal development that not just started with your first job, but much earlier.
I would say that you get your first strong influential impulses when you are much younger, when being deeply impressed by something for the first time. For example, that influences and somehow defines you on a profound level. So, all sort of creative excursions during my youth; trying new things and experimenting and so on, I have enjoyed that as much as I did when my very first footwear design for PUMA was released. Of course, bringing your first product from your own brand to the market, together with your best friend, was a very special moment.
It all goes along with some hard times, some hurdles to overcome, but also with so much positive experiences that shape you and bring you forward in your further life.
What do you do to keep your ideas fresh?
J & V: Being interested and fascinated of all sort of things in life, people and work that have nothing to do with fashion yet being creative or inspiring in what they do. Music is very important to both of us. Music is next to us and around us since we first met each other, so we always see music as one of the strongest influences of all.
Do you have any superstitions, beliefs or self-imposed rules that you live by?
J & V: Simple. Trust the process of life.
What is it that drives you?
J & V: The passion for the nice things in life, living life self-paced and doing everything in our way.
Be sure to check out our ultimate guide to men’s trainers.