The brand history of Native Footwear
Damian Van Zyll De Jong founded Native in 2009 with the help of long-time friend Matthew Penner.
Born and raised in Vancouver, BC Damian is the visionary behind the Native brand. When he first came up with the idea all he knew is that he didn’t want a conventional canvas or vulcanized shoe. His natural ability to challenge conformity and foresee trends is what incubated the idea that would eventually become Native. Matthew, a graduate of the Emily Carr Institute had spent the previous ten years working as a professional graphic designer and most notably a senior interface designer at Electronic Arts where he was no stranger to bringing big ideas to life.
Their vision was to design lightweight, comfortable, good looking shoes out of EVA, ones that were airy, washable, and portable like sandals, with the silhouettes of the classic, casual shoes they loved, but more comfortable than either.
This infectious idea came to life with the help of friends and fellow visionaries who shared their ambition for success and style. Through pencil sketches, computer renderings, raucous and wide-ranging discussions, serious late nights, new tricks, both good and bad advice and a few disagreements they arrived at a single, rather naïve looking starch and wax model.
Model in hand they set out for China. Knowing no Mandarin and without any contacts they hopped hotels and hunted down factories. After many meetings and nights of hospitality they shook hands on a partnership with a manufacturer in Houjie who believed in the concept. By the fall of 2008, with the first prototype in hand, they returned home. Those who hadn’t understood what they were doing now saw the potential for using this adaptable material for good design.
Over the following year, Native continued to learn about the manufacturing and development processes that eventually shaped the final characteristics of the first shoes. In the end, three styles of revisited classic silhouettes would make up the sample line of the Spring 2010 collection: the Je!erson, the Corrado, the Miller. By the end of summer 2009, the three silhouettes were ready to be put under their toughest scrutiny yet by inquisitive eyes on the US tradeshow circuit. Buyers, media and industry insiders alike embraced the collection. Native now had momentum for its Global Spring 2010 launch.
Today, Native is an international footwear brand that has only scratched the surface of the design possibilities captured in EVA. As the collection grows the vision always remains: lightweight and iconic footwear for now -- and for the future.