Right now, the Netherlands is a hotbed for the convergence of sneaker culture and men’s style. Just look at some of the latest names to arrive online - NO LABEL, Unrecorded, Filling Pieces et al. for evidence. Well, one of our favourite footwear brands, ETQ Amsterdam, embodies this growing trend.
The trailblazer of understated Dutch design, ETQ has built a reputation for a restrained and uncomplicated approach to well-made footwear. ETQ grew from the idea that sneakers didn’t need to be over accessorised, but would rather stand on their own two feet by letting the quality of the product speak for itself. So, in 2010 ETQ Amsterdam launched a range of modern, minimal footwear and has continued to design under the same three rules – elegant, timeless and quality – ever since.
We sat down with ETQ Amsterdam co-founder Robin Engelen to talk troubles, sneakers and making a mark in the growing world of men’s fashion.
We try to stay true to our own philosophy as we believe that there are enough hype products around. What we’re trying to do is bring a quality product that provides timeless quality and transcends hypes so we naturally stay clear of that world. We’re driven by a mindset that values the elimination of the unnecessary, we’re driven by the idea of creating footwear that we ourselves really wanted, and would enjoy wearing.
At ETQ Amsterdam we believe that the quality of the product speaks for itself. We invest a lot in sourcing the right materials and finding the best way to manufacture. When buying a new pair, a consumer should look at the same: what materials are being used? Is it stitched or glued? Are they comfortable? Things like that really make a difference.
Before we (Robin founded the brand alongside Nick van der Pijl) started ETQ, we worked together at a local luxury brand store. After a while, we started to get annoyed by the exaggerated branding and pricing. We shared a common love for sneakers and fashion so we decided to dive in.
We wanted to make clean, premium quality shoes for a fair price. We transferred that idea into our first shoe design which now has evolved into our Low 1. At first, we just sold them to our friends and after a while, we were able to take on larger productions. Now, as our principles matured, ETQ matured with us into a carefully selected range of handmade footwear, menswear accessories (Leather Jackets, Basics, Chelsea Boots), and since September 2015 the multi-brand store in ETQ’s home city of Amsterdam (etq store).
One of my earliest sneaker-memories must be of black Nike Cortez. A classic shoe I still wear now, actually.
It’s hard to choose, but currently, I really like the Nike Air Pegasus ’89 (in OG Blue) I think that shoe shows the transition Nike made from making running shoes to an aesthetically well-designed sneaker.
For the coming seasons, and our current AW collection, we are looking at new technical materials and fabrics. We perfected our runner line-up a little further, and the staple models now provide even more comfort than they used to.
Like I’ve said, we try to stay true to our own philosophy and I think the products embody that. But then again, you can’t make the same product every season. That is why we try to optimise the quality, search for different colours and materials and look for new possibilities within the boundaries of our own collection. I think this season’s knitted Low 1’s are an example of that.
Sonic All Black, Low 4 White, and Low 1 White and the military-inspired Low 5s. These are the shoes that most of us wear at the office.
Dutch Design has been a worldwide renowned export product for decades but it has always been a somewhat elite thing. Same goes for fashion. The thing we have in common with these other guys is that we tried to do it ourselves. None of us had a fashion background, which made a lot of situations very difficult, but also benefited us, as we weren’t constricted by conventions.
I think all these brands show that you can do whatever you want.
It’s very hard to choose one person. Patrick and I are both big fans of the design philosophies of Dieter Rams and Steve Jobs, but those are not really the greatest style icons imaginable. In sense of style, I would have liked to see Steve McQueen and James Dean in ETQ’s. They were icons who really knew how to dress well in a clean and sophisticated way.
It’s a bit of a cliché, but we find inspiration in everything. For example, we are currently designing FW18 and our design director found inspiration while being on vacation in Marrakech. The colour palettes of this beautiful city got stuck in our minds, and we are now translating that into a strong collection.
Dress understated, but with good materials and fits. The luxury of an item is not in the branding but in the way it fits.
I recently discovered a Japanese ambient artist named Hiroshi Yoshimura. I’m also really into minimal classic music with artists like Steve Reich and Philip Glass.
Loving Vincent, an animated story about the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh.
Personally, I think BAK is one of the best restaurants in Amsterdam. It’s a beautiful restaurant and they have great wines, just like Café BinnenVisser which is a really cosy place just outside the centre. Huis Marseille currently has a nice expo with photographer Jamie Hawkesworth and if that doesn’t feed your visual appetite you can always pay a visit to our friends at MENDO.
Even though our huge Autumn/Winter collection is still going steady, I’m really looking forward to SS18 which, materials and colour wise, might be the boldest collection we’ve made so far. So you will have to wait and see for that!
Shop the latest ETQ Amsterdam collection at OPUMO.
Be sure to check out our ultimate guide to men’s trainers.
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