A Minimalistic Duo

The brother sister duo of THEY New York is poised to take the sneaker world by storm with their minimalistic and sleek designs.

BY Sim Wie Boon | Aug 24, 2016 | Shoes

Previously featured in one of our most wanted list, THEY New York is probably one of the most gorgeous sneaker brands you've not heard of yet. Their monochromatic designs and sleek minimal aesthetics paired with high quality craftsmanship piqued our interest. We decided to talk to one of their founders, Angela Lin who serves as the managing director and one half of the brother/sister duo that is THEY New York. 

ESQUIRE: Tell us a little bit about yourselves and how did you guys get into the sneaker making business?

ANGELA LIN: We are primarily a brother/sister team with my brother Jack as the chief designer of our shoes. Our family has long been in the Japanese shoe industry, making shoes for Japanese clients for over 30 years. While we're from the third generation of our family, we wanted to bring our passion to the table and continue the family legacy, but with our own twist.

ESQ: Is that how THEY began? What were the initial challenges?

AL: Well, THEY was first conceived when we saw an abundance of white or minimal sneakers, but none had the kind of “pop” that catches people’s attention. We wanted to create something simple yet boldly representing a unique style without straying far from the minimalistic ethos. Thus we sought to create a design that balances both simplicity and creativity. Initially, the challenge was developing a custom technique for the rubber soles in order to maintain the fluidity of our design. The design looks simple on paper, but in order for it to become reality, we went through multiple trial and errors with our production team to ensure that we can create a seamless construction and maintain the integrity of the design.

ESQ: Interesting, could you run us through the process of how a THEY sneaker is made then?

AL: Each of our shoe is handmade from start to finish. I'd say the special part of our construction would be our persistence on creating a perfect colour block based on the geometric shapes. While it sounds simple, the process is deceivingly difficult as the hand-sewed upper must be hand aligned to our handcrafted bi-colour sole. In order to maintain a clean silhouette, we have to remove all the excessive stitching, so the surface of our sneaker has a smooth look to it. The leather felt that connects the upper and the sole of our shoe is carefully hand-painted in order to continue the colour block design.

ESQ: What does the name THEY signify?

AL: The name THEY represents a conversation we want to have with our audience and fans. When you refer to something, you address it as “they” or “those” and we wanted to create a relationship, where when someone talks about us, they are already in conversation with us. They are referring to a shared aesthetic and style that we appreciate, and clearly they feel the same way too!

My brother Jack has always been a fan of minimal design—particularly with the aesthetic of Kenya Hara and Tadao Ando’s works.

ESQ: Its mentioned previously that the German Bauhaus movement and Japanese contemporary architecture plays a big influence in your designs, why so?

AL: My brother Jack has always been a fan of minimal design—particularly with the aesthetic of Kenya Hara and Tadao Ando’s works, influencing him a lot early on in his design career. The ideas developed during the German Bauhaus movement influenced a lot of contemporary Japanese design which results in them sharing a lot of the same values. The marriage between the two styles served as perfect basis for the designs for THEY.

ESQ: Does living in New York help with the design process as well?

AL: Well, when you're living in New York, you're constantly exposed to the latest creative designs in both the world of art and fashion. It’s a city with such rich culture where you can easily meet interesting people of different professions that can influence you.

ESQ: If you guys could go anywhere around the world right now to draw inspirations for THEY's next sneaker, where would it be?

AL: We believe that there’s inspiration that can be found anywhere really, but if we were to choose, perhaps Japan and Sweden. We absolutely love the clean designs present in their daily life and the values that has been placed on good design.

ESQ: Right now, THEY only produces sneakers, any plans to create leather shoes or boots?

AL: For now, we have plans to develop new colourways and perhaps a higher cut. We want to experiment with various materials such as canvas or linen as well.

ESQ: What about accessories like bags and such?

AL: During our recent business trip to Japan, we were actually inspired by a lot of the small handmade leather goods there. This would certainly be an area we would love to explore in future seasons. But for now, we believe we still have a big area that could be explored with our shoe designs.

ESQ: What are some of your favourite brands to wear right now?

AL: To us, MUJI never goes out of style. Also to name a few, we are fans of A.P.C, Tomorrowland, and Urban Research from Japan.

ESQ: What are your thoughts on the trend of sneakers taking over high fashion runways and editorials?

AL: Its a sensational approach to high fashion, incorporating a traditionally “casual” footwear and styling it in fresh looks. It shows creativity and how versatile sneakers can actually be. They are essentially both casual and formal, all depending on how you style them!

Hype and special brand collaborations are really just different ways of marketing.

ESQ: There are people that say stuff like Kanye’s Yeezys and Supreme collaborations are just hype and overpriced sneakers, do you agree? If so, why?

AL: Hype and special brand collaborations are really just different ways of marketing. At the end of the day, if there’s an audience there will always be a demand.

ESQ: Aside from designing and making shoes, what do you guys do for fun or relaxation?

AL: Our family values travelling as an important part of life, so whenever we have the time, we would try and explore new places, however close or far they are. My brother and I both enjoy playing the piano for leisure. I personally love to read and he likes to spend a lot of time at Kinokuniya and Muji.

To check out more of THEY New York's products, head over here.