Rewriting The Rules: Yong Bae Seok On Tod’s No_Code Shoeker
With a background in car and industrial design and having dabbled in fashion with his eponymous label, Yong Bae Seok is the brains behind the Shoeker, the marriage of the shoe and the sneaker, which became the first product in the No_Code line launched by Tod’s last year.
Yong worked directly with Tod’s chairman Diego Della Valle, the grandson of founder Filippo Della Valle, throughout the process. Della Valle’s brief was to innovate, embrace technology and break the rules—while retaining the label’s commitment to Italian craftsmanship and using refined, luxurious materials.
Although the No_Code project was launched less than a year ago, Yong has designed three versions of the Shoeker to date. To toast the launch of the third iteration, the Shoeker 03, Tod’s hosted a cocktail party at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Yong’s hometown, Seoul. We spoke to Yong before the event about the Shoeker’s dynamic design process and the evolution of men’s approach to dressing.
What’s your favourite feature of the Shoeker 03?
I love how the shape has evolved. If you cover the base of the Shoeker 03, the front tip resembles a loafer but the base is clearly that of a sneaker. I also like the range of fabrics we’ve used. We wanted materials that looked and felt technical.
We mixed leather with neoprene and updated the laces, so the shoe looks clean and modern. You’ll notice the small elastic band that has details inspired by the Tod’s Gommino and the embossing that was influenced by my background in industrial design. Together, these create a layered three-dimensional effect.
What was the most enjoyable part of the design process?
Having the opportunity to work with a globally recognisable label like Tod’s was different from any of my previous work. The most enjoyable aspect was working with the artisans who’ve been at Tod’s for years, and convincing them to use materials they wouldn’t ever think of putting on shoes. I enjoyed bringing a fresh point of view to the team.
What challenges did you face when designing the Shoeker?
First and foremost, Tod’s is known for footwear, not fashion necessarily, and I knew expectations were high. The biggest challenge personally was taking something that was handmade and retained Tod’s signature design but with different fabrics, and fundamentally creating a sneaker that can take you from the boardroom to the boardwalk.
What was it like working directly with Diego Della Valle?
Diego is a visionary guy and I have so much respect for all the fantastic work he’s done. When we first started brainstorming the No_Code project, we mutually agreed to create a hybrid product. The benefit of working directly with Diego is that he’s dynamic, focused and efficient; when he trusts you and he sees something he likes, it’s full steam ahead.
Were there any points where you both agreed to disagree?
Luckily we have a great working relationship to the point that I think we actually balance each other. We didn’t have opposing points of view; I think we both came into it with an open mind. I came into the project thinking, “What does Tod’s need?” I knew we had to retain the heritage and aesthetic of the label but create a shoe with a contemporary design.
How do you think men’s style and dressing has evolved?
It’s funny because I’m based in Italy and 10 to 15 years ago, you wouldn’t ever see an older gentleman in sneakers anywhere outside the gym. Now you have men in their 60s and 70s who see no problem with pairing their sneakers with a suit.
Perhaps it’s a domino effect of the emergence of the Silicon Valley billionaires, the guys who made it acceptable to wear T-shirts and sneakers to work. Perhaps people’s needs have changed and we’re more practical; we want one product to serve different purposes. Whatever it is, I find men’s style is constantly evolving.
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