On our first interview of the year, we sat down with the folks over at PACE Company. Juliana and Felipe Matayoshi told us a little bit more about their new sneaker, the S.A.L. 18, a hand made product that is composed of 74 different pieces on each pair. We also talked about how the company works, the challenges of making a new sneaker, and are the future plans of the brand (I see collabs coming).
This is the second time we do an interview with PACE, but the last time was we only interviewed Felipe. So, Juliana can you tell us a little bit about you, what you do, what you like?
JULIANA: I graduated in economics and then I worked for a long time in a bank, in the
financial area, and that’s something that really helped me out here. I can very well control the
financial part of the company, which is very important, right. Felipe handles more of the
product side of things and I do more of the administration of the company so I can handle all
the finances. And besides all that, I do all the rest, so he doesn’t have to worry about
anything but the product.
FELIPE: But she also has a hand in product, she really likes it and she gives a lot of advice
and good ideas here and there.
What’s your every day like? How do you guys divide work? Or do you even have an exact division?
JU: We are a team of three, me Felipe and Anderson, so there is no real division, everybody does everything that has to be done. Felipe stays focused in product but even so, sometimes he tips in a little bit in my things and in his.
FE: Ju handles all the budgets, costs, suppliers, product pricing and etc. But when I go to the factories, I have to call suppliers, go to the print shops, and basically run after everything, I look at what changes have to be done and I call Ju and say “I’m going to need this, I’m going to need that”, so Juliana stays at the “base” doing what can and can’t get it done.
I think that at the beginning of every company you have to do everything. For the release of this last sneaker we practically didn’t sleep for two days, we stayed up for 2 days gluing stickers on each box, putting tips on every single shoelace, and everything else that needed to be done. And it’s also really good for us to be doing everything because that’s how you learn, how you understand when you’re doing it wrong, it’s good so we can evolve. But this upcoming year we’re definitely going to need some help, we want to add another person to our team.
JU: We are real perfectionists, we like everything to be perfect, so whoever works with us has to get that. Obviously, not everything can be perfect, but it has to be good enough for the standard we set here at PACE.
WE MAKE SNEAKERS AND WE WILL ALWAYS MAKE SNEAKERS BUT WE HAVE EXPANDED WITH CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES AS WELL. WE HAVE PUT SOME SPECIAL ATTENTION TO OUR ACCESSORIES. AND OUR GOAL FOR THIS NEXT YEAR IS TO RELEASE WAY MORE PRODUCTS.
What has changed for PACE since our last interview last year?
JU: I was working at the bank in doing all the stuff for bass at the same time I would literally get off work and go home so I can work more on the company. So it got to a point where it was too crazy and I was doing neither of my jobs right. So it came at a time when I decided to leave the bank because for our business to take off I needed to dedicate myself to PACE entirely.
FE: This was a big change and it showed right in the first week. We were able to organize and separate our tasks and create a routine. We wouldn’t have done three drops in a year. We would be releasing the first one just now.
Now speaking about PACE, the main thing that changed is that now we have a clothing line and that completely changed the way we communicate with our customers. We make sneakers and we will always make sneakers but we have expanded with clothing and accessories as well. We have put some special attention to our accessories. And our goal for this next year is to release way more products.
JU: This year we are working on some really cool and important collabs, with some smaller and bigger brands. We haven’t set exactly defined anything yet, so we rather not tell with whom it’s going to be or what it’s going to be (laughs).
It’s so cool to see your evolution – on our last interview you had just released those 11 sneakers and that was already pretty big. But nowadays it got so much bigger we see people wearing PACE all the time.
FE: Yeah that was something that was really hard to see with our sneakers because the sneaker Market is a very complicated place and the bigger brands are always in the spotlight. It was really hard to see people wearing our sneakers but now we see people wearing our clothes and our accessories it’s really cool. Our accessories are what we sell the most ever since the first ones till today they are our most successful product.
When we dropped our clothing line we wanted to do a very handmade kind of style focused more on lifestyle. We already had the models finished 4-Hour shirts pants and jackets and
we would use them for our personal use, and our models we’re 100% inspired in those friends that we discussed in our last interview. and you know, making sneakers is insane, it’s a long process that has many stages – so, since we had experienced this, it helped us on the process of making clothes. not that making clothes is easier it’s also really hard but the process of making sneakers it is way longer and has so many stages.
WE BROUGHT BACK THE TRADITION OF HANDMADE SNEAKERS BUT WHAT’S THE NEW SILHOUETTE. THE S.A.L. CARRIES THAT 90S DNA BUT IT’S NOT QUITE A DAD SHOE, AND NOT AS CHUNKY, BUT IT’S ALSO NOT A PERFORMANCE SHOE. IT’S A CLASSIC SNEAKER MADE WITH LEATHER, SOME COOL COLORS, PREMIUM MATERIALS, AND A DOPE DESIGN, AND I REALLY LIKED THE RESULT.
Now talking about the S.A.L. 18, toddlers event how was your creative process and some of your inspirations.
FE: Right from the start I knew I wanted to work with a Vibram outsole. But they were just starting their activities here in Brazil, they only had outsoles for outdoor sports hiking and military boots, they took some time to bring these outsoles out here. other brands light Off-white and Brandblack also use this outsole, I even think it’s one of the most used soles in 2017.
Right off the bat, we knew we wanted to completely change the shape of the sneaker, all our previous models hand pre-crimped soles, that were assembled by hand but for the S.A.L. we manage to get this Vibram outsole. It was not easy getting these soles, that’s why we made them super limited with only 50 pairs. To get the Vibram outsole we had to talk with their representative for three months. And only after we got the outsoles we started thinking about the upper.
Our first idea was to make a more “technological” shoe, using Cordura or other different materials because we only use leather for neoprene on our last models. So we made three prototypes – which we really didn’t like, it looked like we were trying to be something that we’re not. It was a good idea but the execution did not work. So we decided to stop and we took some time to come up with other ideas.
This was around the same time as the release of the Adidas Futurecraft with the 4D outsole, which is absolutely dope, and at the same time that Nike was dropping some stuff with translucent uppers, and a bunch of other crazy stuff. So we thought “let’s do the opposite, let’s go back to something more tradition that looks cool and fancy.”
FE: We brought back the tradition of handmade sneakers but what’s the new silhouette. The S.A.L. carries that 90s DNA but it’s not quite a dad shoe, and not as chunky, but it’s also not a performance shoe. It’s a classic sneaker made with leather, some cool colors, premium materials, and a dope design, and I really liked the result. From all the other shoes I’ve made this one I like the most. And it was also the biggest challenge we had, it was very complex to produce and to reach the results we wanted, I got very emotional the first time I held them in my hands, I just stood there for 5 minutes looking at them (laughs). It’s far from being exactly what we wanted, but I’m still very proud of it.
Another cool thing to add is that our prototypes are entirely White just like Nike does with its shoes till this very day, they make the first one entirely white, so they can, later on, make the official one with official colors.
The sneaker has a lot of references to other silhouettes, what were your inspirations? That’s one of the things I like the most, you know how to use your references the right way, there’s a bit of everything, but it doesn’t look like anything you have seen before.
FE: The tongue is inspired by the Jordan XI silhouette, and so is a bunch of other things. But since it’s made from a whole bunch of different references, it ends up being an extremely authentic sneaker. I do a lot of research on shapes and Silhouettes and honestly, this one has come out quite original. That’s something I was really glad I managed to do.
What does S.A.L. 18 mean? If it means anything.
FE: Self Adaptive Lug 18. The number 18 is nothing technical, it’s literally to mark the year of 2018, which was a good year for the brand. We were able to stand as a brand, and of course, it’s not all good yet but it was an extremely crucial year for the growth of PACE. We participated in a lot of events, we got way more positive feedback than negative ones, people really like the products, and started buying stuff again, it was a really, really special year for us.
And does “Sole Hunter” have any specific meaning?
It’s just a joke that we decided to put on the sneaker, but it’s “Sole Hunter” because I always think about the outsole before the upper, I look up what outsoles are available in the market, so, later on, I can look at the upper. And that’s the meaning of Sole Hunter. These sneakers were by far the ones that gave me the most work, the other ones were pretty hard to do but this one is the most complicated one. We had to make 74 different pieces just to make one pair.
The sock liner is made out of and viscoelastic, which is very bad to say what it’s the same material as NASA pillows, do you know, those that don’t deform? (laughs) This sneaker was really thought out from beginning to end and during the entire process. It was a lot of work, but in the end, it’s always worth it.
For the release of the shoe, we made 2 videos, the first one ends with the phrase “last comes first” – we wanted to put out the message that before aesthetics, before the terms grail, deadstock, hype – “last comes first”. First comes the last which is a term used by shoemakers around the world, especially guys who have a name in customizing. So what we wanted to say was that first, we’re going to put our attention into the shape and the silhouette that we want. The mold what was the second thing we did in the process of making the S.A.L. 18 – first we got the soul and then we made any impeccable mold, it’s a really good looking mold.
BEFORE AESTHETICS, BEFORE THE TERMS GRAIL, DEADSTOCK, HYPE – “LAST COMES FIRST”. FIRST COMES THE LAST WHICH IS A TERM USED BY SHOEMAKERS AROUND THE WORLD, ESPECIALLY GUYS WHO HAVE A NAME IN CUSTOMIZING. SO WHAT WE WANTED TO SAY WAS THAT FIRST, WE’RE GOING TO PUT OUR ATTENTION INTO THE SHAPE AND THE SILHOUETTE THAT WE WANT.
And how was the production process?
FE: When we closed down on a prototype, the Factory went into production for 30 days, on a regular Factory schedule. I would basically open up the factory with the guys, and I would stay there looking over the production line. The white sneakers came in a little bit dirty so we also had the job to stay up and clean all 25 pairs. One thing I can say for sure is that everyone put their hands on this shoe so we could get it done, it went through my hands, Juliana’s, Anderson’s and everyone who could help.
We had to produce them in small little factories, with family seamstress that tiny rooms in their houses packed with five sewing machines, this is how our sneakers are being made, there’s nothing huge or industrial about it, it’s just people who know how to do it with without technology and no whole lot about assembling and product modeling. We just adapt to it.
JU: this was the third part of the RESONANCE collection, and now we’re moving on to the next one. And to the next sneaker as well.
In this year of 2019, are you guys going to focus more on clothing or sneakers?
FE: It’s going to be a balance of both, course we’re going to do more clothing because it has a very large output and acceptance, now if it sneakers we’re going to release a model with 2 colorways every semester. It’s not economically viable to release a whole bunch of sneakers like we did last time, I can see that now, but it was necessary. We can’t go head to head against these huge brands with is there almost daily releases. We are making sneakers for those who really appreciate, it’s for very few people, it’s for those who have a sneaker collection and are looking for something different. Or for someone who is just getting into the whole sneaker universe, because there is a lot of people that are just now starting to like sneakers and that appreciate well-made shoe even if it’s from a smaller brand. That’s what we want.
JU: There’s going to be a lot of new stuff, a lot of cool stuff, we are going to change a lot of things.
Nesse ano de 2019 vocês vão focar mais em roupas ou tênis?
FE: A gente vai equilibrar mais, claro que vamos fazer mais roupas porque tem uma saída e aceitação muito grande; já o tênis a gente vai lançar sempre um modelo com duas variantes de cores por semestre. Não é viável economicamente a gente lançar um monte de tênis como da outra vez, hoje em dia eu reconheço isso; mas foi necessário. Não tem como a gente bater de frente com esses lançamentos quase diários dessas marcas grandes. Vamos fazer tênis para os que realmente gostam, é para bem poucos, é para aquele cara que já tem uma coleção de tênis e quer em sua coleção algo mais diferenciado. Ou também para a galera que tá entrando no universo de tênis, porque tem muita gente agora que tá começando a gostar e que aprecia também um tênis de uma marca que não é tão conhecida mas que faz um trabalho bacana. É isso que a gente quer.
JU: Vai ter muita novidade, muita coisa boa, vamos mudar várias coisas.
WE HAD TO PRODUCE THEM IN SMALL LITTLE FACTORIES, WITH FAMILY SEAMSTRESS THAT TINY ROOMS IN THEIR HOUSES PACKED WITH FIVE SEWING MACHINES, THIS IS HOW OUR SNEAKERS ARE BEING MADE, THERE’S NOTHING HUGE OR INDUSTRIAL ABOUT IT, IT’S JUST PEOPLE WHO KNOW HOW TO DO IT WITH WITHOUT TECHNOLOGY AND NO WHOLE LOT ABOUT ASSEMBLING AND PRODUCT MODELING. WE JUST ADAPT TO IT.