Mats Rombaut is a socially conscious visionary bringing his wonderfully wacky ideas to life through his vegan shoe brand, Rombaut. Since 2012, he has been pushing the boundaries of fashion, showing that environmental responsibility and creativity can go hand in hand. We met him for a chat.
MONNIER Frères: How did you get started in fashion?Mats Rombaut: My parents didn't want me to study fashion. So first I graduated from business school, before moving to Paris to take my first steps in fashion. I was 21 years old. I started with an internship in PR to help me learn French, then moved onto another at Lanvin in product development for men's accessories. That's when I started to become especially interested in accessories and shoes. I then worked in a few other jobs before launching my own brand two or three years later. I felt unhappy about the whole production process and the amount of waste that I kept seeing, I wanted to try to change things.
M.F.: How long ago was this?
M.R.: Seven years, but at first I mainly focused on experimenting with materials and manufacturing processes. And because I wasn't really a designer at the time, I had to learn my trade. I'm not ashamed of my first collections, but let's just say they were much simpler than the ones I make today. Everything was handmade in Italy. I was very involved in all stages of manufacturing. Since then we've done a lot of testing with natural and biodegradable materials like tree bark. Nevertheless, for me the birth of the brand really took place three years ago when we started collaborating with photographers, doing public relations... We had decided we would try and break away from conventional fashion codes, and it was really at this point that the brand began to make itself known.
M.F.: Your pieces are produced as limited editions. Is this because you want them to be rare, eco-responsible, or both?
M.R.: We want our pieces to be special, and at the beginning of the brand, we wanted to make vegan shoes desirable. At that time, only Stella McCartney made stylish vegan shoes, but for women. Nothing existed for men. So, we began to focus on creating fashionable shoes that were environmentally responsible, vegan and trendy. That's why making limited edition footwear made sense: not making "mass market" products for the general public, but creating an exclusive brand. Even today, we limit our production in order to make sustainable fashion.