James Dean was the ultimate of cool and a shit load of brands have broken hard sweat and tears trying to recreate his untouchable style. S***R’s ‘Dean’ design features a pointed shoe with a rubber sole and iconic ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ graphic. Seen on the soles of many industry insiders, including the highly respected designer Matthew Williamson, Thom York from Radiohead, and Orlando Bloom, S***R continues on their journey of outfitting the cool.
“There’s some scenes that are very purist when it comes to the brands they wear. I don’t even try to sell S***R to some stores because our brand will not fit, even though the price range is alike and they have Converse and Keds.”
Format: Please state who you are and your role at SWEAR.
Jorge: My name is Jorge Sampaio and I am the brand manager/marketing manager.
Format: Please describe your inspiration behind the brand.
Jorge: Music has always been part of our mood boards, we always pick the bands we’re listening at any given moment during the design period to enhance a particular idea or to source some material. We don’t usually follow any trends or design collections according to concepts apart maybe from collaborations. Nevertheless we do have a ‘conceptual’ collection, called ‘Greatest Hits’ which revolves around the S***R classics (three lasts: Dean, Grant and Jimmy) which we update every season and follows a more “rock n roll” vibe, making some of them the perfect gig shoe.
Format: The brand began in 1996. Please give us a brief history about how it all started.
Jorge: In fact it started in 1996 as a collection, in our store, in London (we opened the first SWEAR store in November 1996 in Covent garden) but the first ever SWEAR collection happens in 1995, we did a few trade events to get feedback from buyers and because the reactions were so good we went with the idea of the store in London even before we established the brand worldwide. We waited almost one year to get a space in Neal Street.
Format: ‘Swear is about freedom of expression, thinking forward rather than reinventing classics. Twisting trends in our own way.’ Please elaborate upon this statement.
Jorge: Freedom of expression because we don’t follow trends, we design any conceivable upper and then just get materials and leathers we find are suitable for the season, we tend to get the more special colours and leathers from Italy, some exclusive to the range. We don’t reinvent classics, say oxfords will be oxfords, we just twist them, and mount them in pink rubber soles if we feel like! Well, we did that, adding detailing that turn them into the S***R shoe everybody expects. There is a common comment among buyers that some shoes “look like S***R” so we do have a signature, sometimes they get it wrong and the shoe in discussion is actually not S***R… but looks like S***R.
Format: Where do you source your materials and where is the product produced?
Jorge: We source our materials from Portugal and Italy. The shoes are produced in Portugal. We also have a small line we call Tier3, 5% of the production, which is vulcanized in China. Portugal because both me and Jose (founder) are Portuguese.
Format: For SS2009, you are pulling inspiration from punk, b-boys and skate. If there was one song you would associate with SWEAR, what would it be and why?
Jorge: I guess one song is not fair. it would have to be a compilation because S***R is such a mixed bag, every season. Even though we don’t design shoes having “scenes” or “looks” in mind. For instance, we never intended to design for the urban/hip hop crowd even though we have designs that they like, but this is probably the one scene we will always struggle to “convince” as they tend to ‘follow rules’. There’s some “scenes” that are very purist when it comes to the brands they wear. I don’t even try to sell S***R to some stores because our brand will not fit, even though the price range is alike and they have Converse and Keds.
Then we have our ‘greatest hits’ cd-lookbook project which will feature ten bands from London, all indie, some post rock, some very punk-rock in essence, psychobily even. In the end, guitar bands, rock n roll for the young edgy brit.
One thing I know, S***R has been at the forefront of the skinny jeans explosion in the early 00′s with the DEAN design and since then we have sold 1/2 million pairs of that design alone, and they don’t particularly look good with baggies or shorts.
But I will give you one track that we would be happy if they wore the shoes as we like their music a lot. These new puritans “Colours” from their beat pyramid album.
Format: You create unisex shoes. But don’t men have different shaped feet than women?
Jorge: Well, we do men’s lasts in smaller sizes that can fit women. I guess ethnic origin and type of feet influence foot shape and it’s size so even if we were to design lasts specifically for women we would still have trouble, but we do sell more and more of our Grant and Jimmy designs for women and we’ve been lucky so far, no complaints. Still, S***R is mainly a man’s brand; I would say 90% of production is mens.
Format: Matthew Williamson is a fan of your footwear. Are you a fan of his designs?
Jorge: I like the colour and prints but I am not a huge fan, not in the same way I am a fan of Pucci or Eley Kishimoto.
Format: Who are some fashion icons that you are inspired by?
Jorge: James Dean, we have a shoe dedicated to him, our ‘Dean’ series, now in its design number 104. Hedi Slimane and The Hives to name a few. I grew up listening to Sex Gang Children and The Cramps, I guess they count.
Format: What was your strategy in becoming a worldwide brand?
Jorge: A great network of agencies, a great team in sales and brilliant, read flexible, account managers. Apart from that, being true to ourselves in everything we do helps.
Format: Tell us about NUMBER, the store concept.
Jorge: It’s an idea of store put together between S***R and People’s Market: two showrooms contributing two brands that look good together. Than, we have a few other brands and accessories in store but not too many, it is mainly a joint venture between these two brands.
Format: What does the future hold for S****R?
Jorge: Don’t really know, I guess we are happy about the present, the future means headaches for us right now: we are opening a new store in London, we need a bigger showroom, we are faced with some changes in the distribution network. That’s enough to give us some headaches. Sales wise we want to grow in the USA and Canada, now that we found a new agency based in NY but who is eager to do the right shows and travel!
Format: Finally, is it SWEAR, swear, Swear or S***R?
Jorge: It’s S***R (3 asterisks), and it reads swear. The idea behind the asterisks is to present the word swear as a swear word, showing in the same way as say f**k (fuck). The change of the logo from SWEAR to S***R happened in 2006.
More Info: www.swear-london.com