vegan footwear brand rombaut’s ss19 campaign is a hilarious tribute to tv infomercials
The video stars Paz de la Huerta and “salad man”.
Belgian designer Mats Rombaut, founder of the eponymous Parisian-based sustainable footwear label, has an uncanny ability to make vegan footwear cooler than its leather counterparts. Named “Bella Hadid’s favorite sneakers” and previously making waves with cowboy sneaker hybrids, vegetable shoe art, and lettuce sliders, it comes as no surprise that Rombaut’s spring/summer 2019 campaign is delivered through an over the top infomercial.
The video, directed by Boris Camaca and starring Paz de la Huerta, showcases a weird mix of Rombaut “customers.” This includes the stereotypical “healthy” vegan, a real estate executive, an animal activist, an investment banker, and a philanthropist wearing cowboy boots in a spa. “In the end, you might recognize some stereotypes,” says Rombaut. “But is an investment banker really going to wear Boccaccio sneaker boots under a suit?.”
The shoes themselves are also a unique bunch, featuring a brand new shoe-sandal design “protect sandal shoes”, and are available today.
i-D spoke with Rombaut about the new collection, the video, and how cheesy infomercials may help us to “pretend everything in the world is fine”.
Why did you want to launch Rombaut?
I started the brand to design plant-based shoes that I wanted to wear, without killing animals. I wanted them to have a small environmental impact and to spread a positive message.
Since i-D last spoke to you last year, have people become more open to the idea of vegan shoes?
I think having some press and celebrity support really boosted Rombaut. Now, it’s in a place where most people don’t really care what it’s made of, they just like the design. And then we also have a loyal fan base that loves the message, ethics, and sustainable approach. I think both groups are growing.
What inspired the spring/summer '19 infomercial idea?
I’ve always wanted to do one, but it was never the right moment. Then, when talking with my friend PZtoday [PZ Opassuksatit], discovered that she also wanted to do one. I like infomercials because they’re over the top, sometimes a bit dramatic and ridiculous; similar to the cultural and political climate we live in today. It’s a balance between giving real info and telling fake stories.
This is your first time using video. What made you want to try it for this collection?
Videos are new to Rombaut, and it was also one of the first times for photographer Boris Camaca also. I love his work and the distinct aesthetic in his photography, so thought it would apply very well to film as well. Videos tell you more about the product and it just gives an extra dimension to the shoes.
How did you and PZ pick the actors?
It all started with Paz de la Huerta being the lead actress. Not a lot of people would have accepted and you can have 100 people in a room with 99 not believing in you. You only need one, and Paz was the one. And her first part is actually all real and not scripted. The testimonials who follow are friends with no previous acting experience. Latif, the investment banker, used to be my PR intern.
How did the personalities develop?
There are so many things I can say about the current state of fashion, greenwashing of fashion brands, and environmental disaster pending, but I chose to focus on the positive with a big 80’s American smile. It’s kind of escaping the sad reality with very ‘healthy’, ‘positive people’ that are clashing with my own personality. I tend to do this with my collections. I choose themes to motivate myself, to boost my own morale
Can we actually call the number in the video?
I encourage you to try.
And are all the shoes actually available? Even the protect sandal shoes?
Yes. All of these new shoes launch today. It was quite hard for me to keep some things off of Instagram, like the sandal shoes and the pink velvet thigh-high cowboy add-on boots. I like to keep part of the collection a secret so that when the shoes hit the stores, there is still some surprise.
What were your goals for designing this collection and the new colorways?
It’s summer so we can be more sustainable and use less coated materials. There is a new style called Hybrid Protect, in cotton canvas, silver Piñatex and laser cut wood. Our signature Boccaccio sneaker is in a velvet mix and other fun fabrics. I’m really excited about the balance between sustainable materials and happy colors this season.
What can we be expecting for the future of Rombaut? Will we be seeing “salad man” again?
A lot. New styles are coming very soon, especially for women, with new product categories like small accessories. There will be new collaborations as well. But salad man is probably a one-off. We want to keep doing new things so our audience doesn’t get bored.
Video Direction Boris Camaca
Story and art direction PZtoday
Paz de la Huerta
Felix Chabluk Smith
Makeup Cecile Paravina
Hair Massanori Yahiro, Paul Duchemin
Nails Juan Alvear
Directed by Boris Camaca
Image - Martin Roux
Light Assistant - Constantin Kyriakopoulos
Script PZtoday with Matthew Dyer
Edited by Boris Camaca
Art & Visual
Directed by PZtoday
Assistant Matthew Dyer
Set Design PZtoday, Mathew Dyer
Intro Graphic Xin Peng
Graphic Design PZtoday
Styling PZtoday with Rombaut
Music & Sound effects curated by Laskaar
Creative Director Mats Rombaut
Set Assistants Zoe Maimon, Idris Fombonne, Stefan Kartchev