Eccentricity is the name of the game and genderless platform shoe brand AFT-R Barcelona is here to show you exactly how to play it. With help from the girls of theatre company Trititrans Trans Trans, the label is showcasing its bold and colour-rich styles for the world. Drawing on classic styles like cowboy boots, trainers, and more, the brand creates innovative and inclusive designs sure to inspire and empower, as made clear by the accompanying photoshoot by Genís Mitjans and video by Nacho Montenegro.
While AFT-R Barcelona may be less than a year old, the team behind it has already made a considerable splash in the fashion industry and had a great time doing it. To hear more about the label’s history, its connection to the social movements of today, and what it hopes for the future, Schön! spoke to label co-founders Alejandra Conesa and Eric Turró.
Talk us through the history of AFT-R. How did you get started?
Ale: AFT-R Barcelona, in a way, is a synthesis of how Eric and I, the AFT-R Team, went through a personal process of deconstruction and evolution to become what we consider to be our truest self: BEING in capital letters. We first met over 10 years ago, but it wasn’t until a long time without seeing each other, around mid-2018, that we met again, with our [different] personal situations and ways of seeing the world… Both of us went through this process of metamorphosis where we had to let go of a lot of fear and prejudice.
Eric: During this period, I wanted to create my own personal footwear project where I could have complete freedom to design whatever I wanted, so I started sketching my dream platform shoes. I chose platforms because they had always given me a lot of self-confidence; I always loved this type of shoe, but I would struggle to find cool designs in big shoe sizes. Mixing this process of constant evolution that we were in and this product that provided us a lot of confidence, we found ourselves with a clear message: DARE TO BE YOU. After a year of work, in October 2019, AFT-R Barcelona was born, a premium brand of genderless platform shoes.
How would you describe the company ethos of AFT-R?
A+E: First of all, our statement is that we celebrate the individuality of each person regardless of their gender, ethnicity, sex, age, or physical condition. On the other hand, AFT-R is committed to a more diverse and inclusive fashion system. For us, fashion has always reflected the social reality of the historical moment, and today’s society is not binary. For this reason, all our designs are available in sizes from EU 36 to EU 45. We want anyone who is attracted to our designs to dare to wear them. We can assure you that the views on top of the 9cm AFT-R platforms are much more beautiful.
Speaking of those platforms, let’s get a little introduction. How are they composed, designed, etc.?
Eric: The design process started with a bunch of collages where I combined different parts of all kinds of shoes on top of platforms also made up of different pieces. Based on these first collages, we began to define the AFT-R silhouettes, starting with our signature platform which is the center of our universe and took a lot of time to develop given its complexity.
The platform is composed of three parts. The upper part is where the craftsmanship resides; it can be covered with all kinds of materials, which offers full versatility to the final product. Right below that first piece, there’s a central piece that is hand-painted — a wavy line that unites the handcrafted world and the sport aspects of the platform. The dynamism of the platform is found in the outsole. The curves and lines of this last piece offer a natural movement to the platform facilitating a firm step that drives the foot forward.
Moving to the uppers, we wanted to create silhouettes that were familiar with and put them on top of this crazy platform. That’s why for our first capsule we added our touch to three different styles that are pretty recognisable: a western boot, a sneaker and a slip-on.
In your press statement, you reference the Stonewall Riots and figures like Marsha P. Johnson. How do those histories influence your work?
A+E: As we mentioned before, AFT-R Barcelona is for everyone who dares to wear our shoes and feels empowered by them. Both of us are part of the LGBTIQ+ community and that’s why figures like Marsha are very important for us. Our rights, our privileges, the freedom we have today to wear whatever we want are in big part thanks to people like her, a black trans woman who wasn’t afraid to raise her voice for a change.
In a society where a part of our community, in this case, trans women, are still being discriminated against, we think that our statements need to be stronger than ever toward a more inclusive society. As a brand that finds inspiration in the uniqueness of each individual and wants to celebrate the diversity of our voices, it’s vital for us that everyone is listened to.
Your 2020 Pride campaign is called “#ITSYOURPROBLEM”. Where does that name come from, and what does it mean in relation to your work?
Ale: At AFT-R Barcelona, we celebrate Pride every single day. That is why, at one point, we asked ourselves if we really should go out with a campaign about this date. However, it was our first Pride as a brand, and after the most recent events that sparked the movements [like] Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Live Matter, we found ourselves with a personal and professional obligation to raise our voices.
The #ItsYourProblem campaign is a double tribute to the origins of Pride and to the role of the allies in making this cause tangible. By allies, we mean fathers, mothers, relatives, friends, and social workers that support and fight alongside the LGBTQI+ community. At the 2017 Pride, we saw a father wearing a t-shirt that read, “my daughter is smart, kind, beautiful, loving, responsible, noble, it is your problem if you can only see that she is a lesbian”. That t-shirt really spoke to us, and we wanted to combine this father’s message with the demand for the rights of the trans community. We take advantage of this interview to remind whoever reads it that it is not necessary to be the cause to defend it.
How did you first get connected with Tirititrans Trans Trans, and how did you end up collaborating on this shoot?
Eric: I was fortunate to share a co-working space with one of the girls involved in the organisation of this theatre company, Eli. She once talked to me about the project and how passionate they all were about it but how difficult it was to spread their message. After hearing more about their personal stories, we pictured this project. They embody an amount of strength and authenticity that is quite special. All of them are women who have been fighting for themselves for a long time and keep fighting every single day to be true to their feelings. To me, that’s such a powerful message that needs to be shared. Our brand has been built on values that we could find in every single one of them, so we prepared this shoot to support them and help them spread their message as much as we can.
In your view, what does it mean — and why is it important — to be eccentric?
A+E: If you look for the definition for eccentric, you’ll find something like “deviation from an established pattern or norm”, which is very much how we see AFT-R Barcelona as a brand. Our first capsule is called AFT-R “normal” and it is a tribute to all the amazing things that happen once you break the usual rules and become your truest self. We’ve always been inspired by things that defy the limits and become unique and special. The height of the platform as well as the selection of materials like metallic leathers in bright colours are the translation of this concept of eccentricity into our shoes.
What do you hope for AFT-R in the future?
A+E: We are based in Barcelona and our main markets are London and Berlin. We want to keep expanding more internationally to be able to reach the whole world. We would like to create new combinations, new products that will empower and give strength to people to be who they want to be. Our goal? That there is no #AFTRsoul in the entire globe that doesn’t dare to join the AFT-R universe for fear of what others might say. Expand our message of inclusion and social diversity to the maximum until one day it is not necessary. We hope so!