Cole Haan and Hiroshi Fujiwara's fragment design Give a Streetwear Spin to the Classic Penny Loafer

In an exclusive conversation, Japanese streetwear icon Hiroshi Fujiwara speaks about the collaboration.

Footwear 
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Cole Haan and prolific Japanese streetwear designer Hiroshi Fujiwara have come together once again to release a new limited-edition footwear collection. First debuting a collaboration in 2012, the latest collaboration combines Japanese precision with the classic American lifestyle. Fujiwara brings his unique sense of design to the staple penny loafers in his newest collaboration with Cole Haan.

Bringing a sense of formality to the project, the collaboration sees Fujiwara apply his artistic touch to Cole Haan’s American classic loafer collection. The penny loafer juxtaposes the formal, traditional dress shoe with the everyday casual lifestyle. In the present day era where sneakers are in abundance in the footwear market, it ushers in a new age of classic shoes. The current street style trend sees the frequent pairing of a relaxed look consisting of baggy trousers and perhaps an oversized sweater or blazer and t-shirt paired with a dressy loafer to keep it formal yet informal. The Cole Haan x fragment design collaboration does just that, bringing a fresh perspective on the classic American penny loafer.

The collaboration arrives in three colorways across two silhouettes. Constructed out of premium full grain leather with a special finish that balances the matte and shine, the American Classics Penny Loafer comes in an all-black iteration and black and white, featuring the “fragment” logo hidden in the tongues. As for the American Classics Tassel Loafer, it arrives in the dual black and white tone as well. Each of the shoes feature a debossed lightning bolt on the lateral rear quarter, a nod to fragment design and Hiroshi Fujiwara’s signature moniker.

The last time you collaborated with Cole Haan was over 10 years ago. How did this project come about?

It was more like working with Cole Haan or Nike, which was the parent company of Cole Haan at the time of my first collaboration. This time, my friend Jeff Staple was involved in the creative side, connected me to Cole Haan. I have always liked loafers and tassels, so I accepted the offer because I thought it would be great if I could make a dress shoe like that.

So you had the idea of working with loafers from the beginning?

Yes, I did. I looked at a lot of different styles, but from the beginning I wanted to work with this silhouette, which later became the base model for this project.

What is your impression of Cole Haan compared to other leather shoe brands?

Dr. Martens is more street-like or youth-oriented, whereas Cole Haan feels more classic and traditional.

How would you compare this collaboration from your previous one with Cole Haan?

In the previous collaboration, the premise was to use Lunar soles for dress shoes, so the concept was different from the beginning. The Cole Haan model that served as the base for this project had a small outsole and was what you would call a dress shoe. For my model, I asked them to give it more volume overall. I used a sole that is one size larger than the upper size to give it a slightly sturdier look. Ordinary leather shoes have a voluminous upper part, but the lower part is thin or small, don’t you think? Recently, some luxury brands use thicker soles, but I don’t think shoe brands do so often. I myself rarely wear shoes with leather soles, and I have no desire to do so in the future, so even for dress shoes, I prefer rubber soles or Vibram soles. This sole itself is unique to Cole Haan, so I used it.

After all, these are shapes of dress shoes, aren’t there? The tip of the shoe is slightly pointed. I am very cognizant about the balance of shoe sizes when viewed from above and I am particular about the shape of my shoes. I am part of the rubber sole generation, so I like larger soles.

The color scheme is quite interesting. Can you describe the way you have designed the shoe, specifically the color blocking?

I wondered how I could play with it and it was one of the many things I tried. It is certainly an unusual color pattern, separating the upper into two parts. It seems like a lot of trouble for the production team, doesn’t it?

How long did the collaboration come to fruition?

It took a lot of time because of COVID. I think we had to redo the sample about three times. But I think that’s why we worked so hard on it. They look like they could be made anywhere, but I think they have a unique finish.

Can you describe the feel of the shoe? They are surprisingly lightweight.

It’s really light, isn’t it? Heavy things have an image of luxury. I want you to try them for yourself to see how comfortable they are.

When you think of Hiroshi, many people think of sneakers, but have you been wearing tassel loafers for a long time?

Yes, I have been wearing tassel loafers for a long time. Sneakers give off a youthful aesthetic when you wear them and I think fashionable adults tend to wear leather shoes. Loafers are in a completely different category.

Do you change your styling when pairing with leather shoes?

I don’t change much, but maybe a little. With larger denim, sneakers fit better, so I make adjustments from time to time.

Is there any difference in the way you design leather shoes compared to sneakers?

I don’t really create something new from scratch. I mix multiple elements to create a new form, so there is continuity in my products.

Which loafer is your favorite?

Personally, I think it is the all-black Friends and Family model. I usually wear sneakers, but lately I’ve been wearing these all the time!

Each pair is priced at $220 USD and will be available online at Cole Haan starting on March 8 in Japan, South Korea, and Indonesia. Stay tuned for more information on the US & global drop here.

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