Welcome to the future. The new Uniform F.D. Dichroic Shoes and Boots from CASBIA offer a mesmerising look with cutting-edge, cyberpunk style, all tied together by CASBIA’s commitment to both quality and innovation. Since its launch in 2009, CASBIA has set itself apart from other footwear labels by continuing to push the envelope. Today, that tradition continues with its Uniform F.D. Dichroic Shoe and Boot — footwear with mind-bending colour supported by an accompanying art project. Schön! spoke with Manuele Bianchi, Creative Director of CASBIA, to hear more details about the shoes and boots and what the label has in store for the future.
What is your personal history with design, and what inspired you to launch CASBIA?
I’ve been essentially designing accessories for almost 30 years. I was born outside Milan to a father who was a shoe pattern-maker, and I approached the fashion business at the age of fourteen. I worked my way up from product to design and had the chance to work with some of the most influential brands and designers through one of the greatest eras of fashion.
My classic, graphic foundation is thus complemented by the practical approach I honed through the years: I am a craftsman, I love to personally work with my own hands… This technical know-how helps me put my sense of proportion and personality into what I do. I believe you need to master the art of shoemaking to fully explore design in footwear… I am glad I had the chance to learn that on my journey.
I am also very passionate about motors and interior design, which I am an avid collector of. These elements have surely played a big role in my aesthetic: I believe in desirable objects that last more than one season, something you can use even 20 years after you bought it, like a beautiful chair or a beautiful lamp.
The idea of a shoe that never feels out of style combined with the desire of innovative products are surely reasons that brought CASBIA to life in 2009. That, and the fact that I was essentially bored [laughs].
In the wide world of shoes and boots, what makes CASBIA different?
The very definition of CASBIA might be “different”.
We design shoes we like with no compromises, focusing on design rather than trends and staying true to ourselves. We approach every project with timelessness in mind, carefully choosing materials and refining details to make every project have its own personality and look.
Everything in CASBIA is developed in-house, starting from scratch: each part of our shoes is custom designed, as it always should be in my opinion. CASBIA outsoles represent the perfect example: they are proprietary, designed and engineered internally by the team, an expensive and time-consuming choice not so common for an independent footwear brand.
This attitude, combined with experience and craftsmanship, gives us the chance to look like no one else and provide original and unique products.
Introduce us to the concept of “Dichroism”. What does that term mean, and how does it influence these pieces?
The term refers to the property of a material to split-up and spread light into distinct beams of colors without dispersion — a concept that plays a leading role in the new UNIFORM F.D. DICHROIC through the use of the signature upper material. The shoe may look as an elegant black style in the dark, but it then reveals different nuances and tones when hit by light.
We also picked the DICHROISM concept cause it represents a metaphor for CASBIA’s work: as a dichroic material splits up light and spread it into distinct beams of different wavelengths without losing any of it, CASBIA takes the footwear concept and diffuse it into distinct beams, resulting in singular products that differ one from another but that represent the variety and complexity of tastes and styles.
What else inspired these pieces?
The city and urban environment in general, cyber-world, techno music, nightlife. But on top of all that, we were looking for a playful take of our most formal shoe, the UNIFORM F.D.
We wanted to take the UNIFORM F.D. classic look in a more aggressive and confident direction. We like to use contrasts as inspiration for our projects; this time we played with the juxtaposition of the military discipline and clubbing culture.
The Dichroic effect is difficult to fully capture in images. How did you direct this campaign to represent the spirit of the new products beyond just the look?
As an AD of the brand, I always like to share my vision with minds I esteem. This time I had the chance to get in touch with Peter Höger and felt that the UNIFORM F.D. DICHROIC campaign was the perfect match for the occasion. The final result perfectly matches the feeling and inspiration for the style; the whole techno, aggressive, edgy nature of the project is well portrayed both in the campaign video and in the images, thanks to the location, models attitude and styling. The combination of all these details ideally represents the shades and tones variety of the shoe material, helping the viewer perceive the full spectrum of the style.
You’ve also launched the DICHROISM project for artists and creatives. Can you tell us more about that?
DICHROISM was born in March 2020 together with our friends and creative directors at SAGA Studio, Francesco and Jumbo. It was our way to stay in touch with the community by embracing the multifaceted world of aesthetics. It has seen artists we esteem joining the initiative by letting our team share their work on CASBIA social profiles.
At the end of the day, art has the power to bring you somewhere else, and we believe it was the best choice for the moment. We are currently planning to bring the concept to a new level soon; in the meantime, you can explore the project by visiting both CASBIA website and Instagram account.
These shoes and boots are made in Italy. Why is that important for the brand?
I believe craftsmanship, know-how and shoemaking heritage play a big role in defining our identity. Together with design, it is part of our DNA. ‘Made In Italy’ is then a natural, organic choice to embrace our being an ethical fashion brand and to develop a luxury, high-end product.
That said, we don’t turn our nose up at producing abroad when it represents the best choice for the final result. If you need to develop a technical running shoe, China or Vietnam are the go-to countries, for example. It is not being cheap that moves us: it is our willingness to always select the best know-how for the shoe and respect product and consumers accordingly.
What does the future have in store for CASBIA?
That’s a good question. I ask this myself everyday, especially during these weird times. All considered, sounds like the real question is what the future has in store for us all!
That said, after 10 years of men-only production, we will be launching our first women’s collection during the first part of 2021. I have designed women’s shoes for most of my career, and CASBIA started as a way to give myself a breath of fresh air and a space to play with something different. Now I kind of feel some nostalgia, and I am also willing to transpose the CASBIA concept and bring it to the feminine world.