Will Smith does it. Missy Elliott does it too. And so does Chiara Ferragni. With its LED illuminated soles and fluorescent uppers, the nat-2 sneaker brand seems to be attracting quite a few stars and party people. nat-2 was founded in 2007 by Sebastian Thies, who comes from a family of shoe manufacturers and is real sneaker freaker himself. “We’ve combined our brand heritage, which goes back to 1856, with advanced products and offer new shoe concepts and classic silhouettes with incomparable materials,” says Thies, whose brand is in the meantime being sold at stores internationally and has also been sold through its own Coilex concept store in Munich since 2010. Thies shares the story behind his label and talks about the power of heritage and innovation.



When and why did you found your own label? After all, there are a huge number of sneaker brands...
We founded nat-2 in 2007. Because we have a long history in manufacturing shoes for other brands, for example a licensee for MCM, it was time to start our own project in which we can implement our own ideas uncompromisingly. We established the brand after developing the 2 in 1 concept. I myself have collected sneakers since the age of ten, but at one point I became bored by the monotony and dullness of many big brand. In the 80s it was totally different when big sneaker brands tried to maintain themselves through innovation and design and also smaller labels had good styles. This did not exist in 2007. Meanwhile, the situation has improved ;-). We develop sneakers which, as sneaker lovers, we have always dreamed about ourselves.

What is the USP of the brand? What distinguishes Nat-2 from other brands?
We’ve combined our brand heritage with advanced products since 1856 and offer new shoe concepts and classic silhouettes with incomparable materials. What sets us apart is how we develop all concepts around an idea and our willingness to implement and market our innovative products. We believe in the present and what we do, even if it is sometimes too early. But to be faster and earlier than others is our identity and in the medium term we turn out to be right even if other, larger players take up this pioneering work (and sometimes copy it). We take this as a compliment and benefit now from our image as trendsetters.

What are your core markets? How many POS do you currently have?
We currently serve about 150 POS worldwide. Our core markets are the EU, which is served through our Coilex concept store in Munich and our online shop of the same name as well Asia and the Emirates. From the very beginning we have partnered with international boutiques such as Opening Ceremony in Tokyo, Galeries Layette in Beijing and Paris, La Rinascente in Milan, Kastner & Ohler in Graz, Bongenie Grieder in Switzerland, The Level in Dubai. But there are also very exotic locations such as a store in Bermuda.

Filzwarenfabrik Pegau
Filzwarenfabrik Pegau

You are known for your sneakers with an LED sole. How did that come about, or the idea of processing fluorescent uppers?
My father developed a sole with LED lights for Kangaroos in 1987 together with an Austrian light artist. But only part of the sole was illuminated for that project. Since I had a sample of this in my collection and we laid many LEDs in our Coilex concept store, I came up with the idea of using it for a sneaker design. On one of my trips to Asia I happened to locate a sole supplier who had worked on a similar project before, and that is how the first sneaker came into being.

What do you have in the pipeline in terms of product innovation for your sneaker range?
We are working on a truly innovative vegan high-end line for SS17. To my knowledge, the material has never been used in sneakers before.

What does the name nat-2 stand for?
First, it was a pure fantasy name that could be easily copyrighted as it is very short and concise. Meanwhile, the name also stands for the initials of my two young sons “Neo” and “Arian,” our family name of “Thies” and “2” because our first product was the 2 in 1 sneaker.

Your family has a long tradition in the shoe business. To what extent does this heritage help you today?
Without my father, who was my founding partner for nat-2, an expensive project like that would have never been possible. His know-how and decades of experience as a shoe producer, sneaker buyers and the associated contacts to suppliers and customers are not going to make up for other things like money. About 160 years of history also form a very large archive and a genuine heritage that is reflected in the brand nat-2. German engineering is one of our core messages. After all, at one point the Filzwarenfabrik Pegau – a felt goods factory from which we later emerged – and its workforce of over 1,000 employees was the largest shoe factory in Germany.

Coilex concept store in Munich
Coilex concept store in Munich

What are the main trends for men and women for Fall/ Winter 2016/17?
High-tech materials, wearables and metallics, especially bronze and champagne color shades are (still) strong. High-tops are very important. As exciting countermovement, we also see a strong tendency to reinterpret lambskin as a material. Unisex styles will work here, too. Plus, new vegan and ecological approaches are on the rise.

You said that ecological issues will become more important in the future. Nat-2 is doing a lot of things with plastic. How will you respond to the move toward sustainability without losing your DNA?
We are currently working on a line that is completely vegan, with uppers that consist mainly of sustainable, renewable and ecological material. This is a line within our product portfolio. More details will be released after we have finished feasibility, quality and comfort testing currently being carried out.