PUMA Sky Hi x Eva Gronbach
- MODEL: PUMA SKY HI
- TYPE: BASKETBALL
- DESIGNED BY: Eva Gronbach
- MADE ON: --/04
Digging through the dust of our unreleased archives we came across this pair of in-production PUMA Sky Hi’s designed by German fashionista Eva Gronbach.
Considering they were never released there’s no readily available information on the pair anywhere on or offline. To solve this riddle of PUMA’s past we approached Eva Gronbach for a sit down chat in her Cologne-based studio to see what she had to say about these Sky Hi’s.
Hey Eva, thanks for inviting us over, please start by telling us a bit about yourself.
I haven’t, no, that’s new to me.
It’s a label I founded ten years ago based on coal miners’ clothing, specifically inspired by the rural region in Germany. I took all this old coal miner stuff out, reused the fabric, and called it German Jeans. And now I’m not using any of the original fabric, but instead trying to keep the same spirit with a new fabric, more with an industrial product. That’s what I’m working on at the moment.
Very cool! So how long have you been designing for?
I did my diploma in 2000 but I started selling in ’98 so it’s now more than fifteen years I’m in business.
And when was this collaboration you had started with PUMA, what year was that?
And how did that happen, what was the story that led to that?
At this time I started with this black, red, and yellow collection called ‘Déclaration d´amour á l´allemagne’. I had a huge press success and I was invited to be one the designers at MTV. And so I showed this collection in August the for first time at the first Bread and Butter – at this time in Cologne – and then MTV came and in October I had the whole week during the MTV music awards. That was in Barcelona. And in this one week, this very important MTV week, the people from MTV were wearing only my collection. People like Markus Kafka, Xavier Naidoo, Heidi Klum, and Patrice. This was not so well seen by PUMA because they paid a lot of money to get their own product placement. So they paid a lot for publicity from MTV and then in the end MTV used Eva Gronbach instead. This was the moment that PUMA saw Eva Gronbach; it was MTV.
And this collection, you said it was called ‘Déclaration d´amour á l´allemagne’?
Yes, Déclaration d´amour á l´allemagne.
Sounds like French, or?
Oui! Ah, [laughs], I mean ‘yes’! I studied in Brussels and Paris so I did this as my diploma collection and I did it first in French. Déclaration d´amour á l´allemagne. In this first collection there was no black, red, and yellow, there were just philosophical aspects. It was not so much about playing with the symbols; this came later. I was more in conceptual elements like the idea of using something very rough, because for me the German identification is in between very rough and very romantic. And in this collection I really fell to my knees in front of Germany and said this declaration of love to Germany. Because in my generation it’s very important to know I never identified as being German. I grew up with all this very heavy historical identification and this very heavy heritage of the second World War and of the holocaust and so I always wanted to go out of Germany; I didn’t want to stay in Germany and I didn’t want to be identified with it. I wanted to go out. And then once I was out I realized it’s not that bad. This was a really inner process, a very intimate inner process that I went through. My Belgian professors always asked ‘who are you and where are you from’. This is very Belgian actually and they always wanted me to go back to my roots so I had to go back to Germany in the end. I’ve been in Brussels, Paris, and London in my studies and I realized it’s not so bad what’s happened in Germany. All the questions of integration or immigration works much better here then in other places.
Would you say that this ‘Declaration of Love to Germany’ is one of your most personal collections that you’ve done?
No, they’re all personal!
Ok, fair enough.
But what was very interesting was once I went back to Germany and I suddenly said ‘this theme is one in which I must to go deeper’. I started this black, red, and yellow aspect. Actually back in Paris I did a shooting of the Declaration of Love to Germany (because I lived in Paris at the time) and I was searching for a very German location and I found a brilliant German photographer and an absolutely top model and we were shooting in the German embassy. It was then that I recognized the German flag and I realized how ugly the colors appeared to me; black, red, and yellow. I really hated them somehow and I really got sick of it. Intellectually, not emotionally, I began to wonder ‘why do I get bad feelings when I see these colors, they’re just colors’! And this was the moment I said that I have to go through this idea deeper when I have such a negative vibe. I have to check it out. I wanted to work it out, because it’s not negative and this was the moment that I started to work with the same theme but in a more surface-level way.
A much more literal approach.
Yes. So I started with black, red, and yellow, and did this collection with a German title. Remember, before it was from a French point of view; a perspective from outside to inside. But this time I went back to Germany physically, arrived in Cologne, and started to do this Declaration of Love to Germany in German. And during my moment at the Bread and Butter it helped me a lot when Markus Kafka and the other celebrities and MTV personalities were wearing it because suddenly the people came from MTV directly to my website.
Right so it got you a lot of attention, a lot of publicity.
Exactly! And PUMA came directly to me.
And what did they say, what was their project idea for you?
We started to collaborate to make four remakes of the Sky Hi shoe. They wanted to relaunch the silhouette more in this ’80s style. They said ‘we want to make it exclusive and we want to work with designers’. They asked me to design this collection in a way that it would fit with my collection. So it was this black, red, and yellow theme and when I was working on the German version of the Declaration collection I told myself ‘I have to develop something that is equal to the flag’. For me, the equal symbol was the eagle, so I incorporated that. Now with PUMA we were using the same theme, using the colors and adding an eagle to side of the shoe. As I told you there were four prototypes made.
Right, and we’ve had the luck to come across this pair, the black, red, and yellow pair.
You can see my drawings here too. We started in March I think… because in October we had the MTV awards that put us in touch with each other and then through October, November, and December we communicated and then started in March.
In 2004 then, right?
Exactly. Then we got the prototype in August or September, and sadly in the end of November they said ‘no thank you, Eva’.
Do you have any ideas why?
They told me it’s too dangerous, that they worry about some things. But I felt this wasn’t true because one week later they had their own collection – PUMA Black Label – with the eagle theme and with the black, red, and yellow colorway, and basically copied the pieces I’d developed. I guess once they had the them they didn’t need me anymore. They decided to make it on their own, with their own corporate identity.
Got it and so obviously it probably wasn’t such a positive experience. Can you tell me how you felt about it?
No it wasn’t. But what was interesting was the moment afterwards, when all the people said ‘wow, Eva Gronbach did a PUMA collection’. They saw the textile collection and they saw that it’s obvious that some of my ideas were mine. People said ‘wow, Eva Gronbach’s working for PUMA now’, you know? But I had no salary from it, they just took the ideas. I was quick to remember that whenever you get copied from a collaboration, a big cool label, it has two sides: one one side is that it’s flattering that they like what I’m doing, but on the other hand a cash flow would be nice, of course.
Right, of course, I definitely understand that. And if they came back to you again would you work with them?
I have to say that I would never ever close all the doors in my life; everybody as long as we speak, can work with me or talk with me again. It’s a second or third or however many hundredth chance. I think people always have to speak again, so it could be, and I think PUMA is still a very nice company. But first we would have to make a very good contract.
Yeah, for sure! So how did you feel about this particular pair, not connected to PUMA, just in your own line of work… did you like it?
I really like the suede we used and the fact that it’s something very posh. I really like the idea that it’s something very soft and handsome, because handsome is not sweet, but also not hard. It’s black, red, and yellow so it’s literally the German flag but it’s what I like the most is the use of the yellow. That’s what makes the German flag ugly maybe. The yellow is not always nice, it really depends on the combination of red and yellow. The combination is not very ‘fashion’, if you know what I mean. And I think if you put this yellow on really thin, and just this half centimeter or less, then it comes out great.
On the outsole, you mean?
Yes, it becomes something very light underneath. More of a symbol then really a color.
Well I love them, I definitely love them.
And they’re your size?
Yup, luckily enough they’re my size.
For me it’s just a miracle that they still exist.
I can understand that feeling. I really wanna see the other ones too.
Yeah, so what else to say, they’re definitely quite pure, clean, and reduced. That’s what I also love. Classy.
And are you doing anything else with sneakers now or in the near future?
I did have another collaboration with Moobus, the third historical sportswear company from Nürnberg.
So are you also personally into sneakers as well?
Really? So do you have a sneaker collection yourself?
I have sneakers.
That’s a good answer.
Yes, I have sneakers but for me when I have sneakers they stand for a period of time. They stand for an age in my life.
Ah, ok, I understand.
You know? So in my studies I had one pair, or when I as in London I remember which pairs I had there, and it comes together. I always had several towns or countrys in my life and several moments in my life and therefore stand these sneakers when I was working through these things of my past.
I understand, they represent these times or these moments for you.
Yes, so I don’t’ have a ‘collection’ per se, though I have to say I’m girl so I certainly have a collection of shoes, but I don’t celebrate them that much and I don’t celebrate clothing that much actually. I’m more a person that works in fashion so I forget that I have to use it. I don’t celebrate fashion very much on me.
I think there’s a new generation of designers, it’s not so much this superstar, Dior, ‘I love my ego more than something else’ generation, but instead it’s more ‘I am really, really interested in my clothes more than how I look’. You know what I mean?
Definitely. It sounds like it’s more about substance than it is about status, which we totally subscribe to here at eatmoreshoes as well.
Absolutely, yes. And it’s more that I’m doing a service for my clothes and not that my clothes are there to celebrate me. It’s not just me either, in fact I think it’s a whole generation. Alexander McQueen, Hussein Challajan, Isabel Marant, and Olivier Teyskens are some that were perhaps the first to work like this.
Right and McQueen was working with PUMA too before he passed away. Well, I guess as a sort of an outro do you have any final thoughts you want to tell your fans or our audience?
What I think is interesting is always an overview of what has happened in our time, in our world, in our society, in our politics, in our gender, and I think there are so many things happening and many changes in the world and society in general is a big topic for me. This gets a symbol in the collection I’m doing at the moment, in this German Jeans collection. The symbol of the coal miners who were the base of Germany because they made the coal and they made heat and the people could live well and this was very important to get work. This was from another world they came, and this was a new generation, the ’40s and ’50s, and after the war the ’60s. This was the symbol for something very peaceful, something about people working together from several countries and they all had one mission. You can say in German they had ‘kumpelschaft’, or companionship. They had this high solidarity between the people, one to another, and this is something that has a very, very high ethic for me.
Yes, absolutely. Togetherness.
written by Dylan Cromwell
photography by errol