A Czech shoe classic gets a makeover

Фото: www.botas.cz

In 2007, Prague graphic design students Jan Kloss and Jakub Korouš updated the 1966 model of the classic Czech Botas sneaker for a school assignment. Little did they know that their chic version of the retro sneaker would be a huge hit. I recently met with the two young designers at their Žižkov studio.

The Botas brand is a Czech classic and almost everyone in the Czech Republic knows the Botas sneakers- or botasky. The classic model of the shoe remained largely unchanged until 2007, when two students from the Prague School of Design decided to revamp the original. They kept the original shape and the brand’s signature stripe, but revived the plain look with vibrant colors. They also replaced the original faux-leather material with real leather, and experimented with new patterns and packaging. Botas executives loved their design so much they decided to collaborate with the students on a new line of their shoes called Classic 66. Jakub Korouš describes the duo’s initial surprise:

Botas sneakers,  photo: archive of Botas
“When we started this project, we didn’t even speak with the company, we just started working on a school project and during it, we called Botas to tell them that we were working with their logo and their shoe, and that if they were interested, we could present them the final result of our work, at our university. We presented it to them and they liked it, so we were speaking about it for one and a half years, and now it’s in the shops, which definitely surprised us.”

Where can one buy the classic Botas shoe now?

“The main distributor is Bata, but also, in December, we want to open the 66 gallery, which will be the Botas concept store. Half the store will be a gallery a new place for young designers, illustrators and street artists.”

How many models are there available?

“We are working on some other models, so in February there should be another eight of them, and one or two months from then, we plan to come up with other models, and maybe even other shoes then the classic model, something for running or maybe even with a higher heel.”

Do you have a favorite model?

“It’s quite hard to say, like: “Which child do you like better?” but somehow I like the model Insane the best, because it has a special history. We were speaking about this model a lot and wondered if we should even add it to the collection, but then people really liked it and so we decided to go for it. So for me, it’s the flagship model of the collection, but it’s kind of funny, because it’s the only model that I don’t wear.”

Do you think that the colorful design of the Botas shoes is something unusual in the Czech Republic to this day? Do you think color is something that people are afraid of?

“I think so, maybe partly because of the Communists back in the day, but even young people tend to wear dark grey or brown clothing, so it’s quite different from some Western countries or Japan, it’s much darker here, but I think it’s starting to change. And the most colorful Botas shoe is a good example that people also want colorful things here.”

Have you heard of other designers who have done similar things or projects like yours in other countries?

“I think it’s not like we discovered America, but it’s unusual in this region. It’s good that we can support a traditional product and keep it in Czech hands and not have everything made in China, everything is handmade in the Czech Republic and we are proud to be a part of this and maybe if we hadn’t taken this step, the company would have chosen a different way. I am quite happy that we are helping the Czech industry, and we are helping to keep jobs in some small town instead of helping to sell more products because of a poster we designed.”

Naďa Černá, one Prague resident I spoke to, owns a pair of the colorful Botas model Insane. She likes that she can support Czech brands and be fashionable at the same time.

“I really like the way they were designed, Botas is usually associated with something really old school, I really like the fact that they are colorful and cool, and one thing I like about it is that it is a Czech brand, so I can support something that is truly Czech, but not just because it’s Czech but because it looks great and it’s comfortable as well.”

And another Prague resident, Eva Brejlová, is sure she will soon buy a pair of the funky sneakers.

“Definitely, because it reminds me of my childhood, so I will definitely go and buy some of them because also, I am an artist, and I really like the way they re-designed the brand and so it’s really enticing.”

Aside from the commercial success that the students had with the shoe, designer Korouš says the Classic Botas 66 has also warmed the heart of an unlikely candidate.

“One old lady at my parents’ house, she’s been living there for over 20 years, and every time I see her, she would maybe greet me or even not say anything at all. And then one day she saw my Botas shoes, and she said: ‘Oh, you got those new Botas shoes!’ and she started me the story of two designers who had redesigned the shoes. And I just smiled and told her: ‘Yeah, that was me’. And she said ‘No way!’So it’s quite funny that it can help you talk to your neighbors after twenty years of not talking to them.”

The Botas concept store on Konviktská Street in Prague’s old town will host an opening party in the middle of December, the date though has yet to be announced. Jakub Korouš isn’t sure if his neighbor is going to be in attendance… but looks forward to a big turnout of those interested in the revamped Botas designs.