Elegant Innovation - Interview with Scott Patt from Cole Haan |
Elegant Innovation - Interview with Scott Patt from Cole Haan

Elegant Innovation - Interview with Scott Patt from Cole Haan

Today we present you an interview with Scott Patt, Head of Innovation and Design at New York-based footwear brand Cole Haan. With a history dating back to 1928, Cole Haan is known for elegant footwear. But since 1988, Cole Haan has been part of Nike Inc, making it a pioneer in equipping formal footwear with comfortable performance technology. Here's Scott Patt on the brand's elegant innovation.
Cole Haan was the first brand to blur the lines between men's shoes, merging suit shoes with sneakers. Was this for functional reasons or for style?
Not only are the lines blurring more than ever, but we are creating better definition than ever before. At Cole Haan, we look at our audience and their extraordinary journey to define what we make both stylistically and functionally.

How would you describe this approach?
We design for people, how they want to live, look and feel. Within this design, exploration, collision of craft, style and technology comes what we call elegant innovation. It's design with purpose, whether it's a reinvented dress shoe or sneaker, or an invented hybrid somewhere in between.

When designing, does it matter to you whether a shoe will be worn in the office or on the street?
We consider the wear occasion in everything we design. We call this process 360˚-design, where we combine consumer insights with functionality and stylistic consideration of each product from every angle, inside and out.

Can you think of a specific shoe as an example?
A great example is our Washington Grand Revolutiøn Men's Dress Oxford. It's a classically crafted, full-length men's dress oxford that's been reinvented on the inside to be worn like a sneaker. We've taken everything you don't need out of a men's Dress Oxford and replaced it with what you do need. For several generations, men and women have grown up with comfortable, flexible sneakers. So why should we accept antiquated experiences and expectations of dress shoes in 2017?

Where do you look for inspiration?
What's special about Cole Haan is the incredible diversity of talent from different industries. We have designers from the fashion industry as well as talent from sports and performance brands, but also designers who have worked in automotive design and 3D designers from animation. It's the fusion of these different skills that makes our products and our community so special.

Can you give us some insights into your working process?
Our designers have different approaches to design, be it digital, analogue or a combination of both. Some designers are more related to classically trained cordwashers, while others are more digitally oriented. Regardless of the approach, we can quickly develop concepts and prototypes for products ranging from apparel to sports at our Global Innovation Headquarters in Greenland, New Hampshire, using modern tools such as 3D modelling and traditional shoe making.

Is it more difficult to combine comfort and functionality in an elegant shoe? What are the challenges?
When it comes to dress and casual shoes, a man or woman is usually not looking for a spaceship. They have a specific need, e.g. for work, a wedding or a party, but they don't want to stand out. They want to look stylish and chic and feel comfortable. This is a REAL consumer insight. "Don't give me a reason not to buy it." Those are the places where we try to reinvent products from the inside out.

What is your current favourite Cole Haan shoe and why?
I love the ZerøGrand Stitchlight Wingtip Oxford because it looks so great on my foot. It's also insanely lightweight, breathable, super flexible and has a special knit design for the wingtip that functionally adapts to the natural movement of the foot.

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