Simple White Sneakers

Q&A With CQP Founder Adam Lewenhaupt

Over time the desire for me to settle into a uniform becomes stronger and stronger. There are certain things like white sneakers that I never stray from. Some would say that’s boring, but to me the simplicity is appealing. 

A while back I found a pair of deadstock Wallace & Barnes selvedge chinos in navy and asked David Coggins if he wanted them — since I know he was a fan. He said something a bit surprising. "Thanks, but no thanks." He told me. Apparently Coggins doesn't wear navy chinos. The comment (and strategy) was surprising to me. I have never considered navy chinos to be a hard thing to wear, but the more I thought about it the more I tended to agree. That comment also made me realize that figuring out what you don't want to wear is more important than you might think.

It's taken me a while to figure out what I do want to wear and which brands I want in my closet. As I become more committed to having "a uniform," the more I feel like myself. My uniform is definitely not living in the post sneaker world. Living in California sneakers have taken a bigger role than ever. You might not be surprised to hear that i’m not into hype brands, but my focus is instead on simple unbranded sneakers. To this end, I'm interested in the smaller brands like the Swedish company CQP which makes really clean and beautiful footwear.

I reached out to CQP founder Adam Lewenhaupt to chat about his brand and where he things footwear is going. Hope you enjoy our chat.

ACL: The footwear space is crowded, what is the big differentiator for CQP?

Adam Lewenhaupt: You’re right. I think when we started out, 8 years ago, the landscape was different. There were fewer brands in general. At the same time, over our short history, many have come and gone. Nowadays it's quite saturated, which makes it all the more important for us to stay true to what we believe in. Also, I believe the fact that smaller brands can have a global reach today enables niche players like us to do our own thing and reach a dedicated following. I think the differentiator for us has for the most part been about our process and lack of compromise. It’s maybe not always the most efficient way to do things, but we’re inherently slow at making products because we’re focused on doing it in a way that feels right for us. Whether it’s shape, material or colour. The differences are subtle, but there are aspects of our designs, quality and feel that are inherently CQP and that our customers have come to appreciate.

Where do you find inspiration? What are you reading, listening to or watching?

This is a great question and one that I am really bad at answering. I find it difficult to pinpoint specific sources of inspiration for new ideas, rather in my case it’s the sum of things I see and do. Traveling has obviously been a bit limited in the last year or so but makes up a great source for inspiration, just wandering around in other places, seeing new things, discovering tastes and meeting new people. I also consume a lot of media, from binge watching tv shows to reading magazines and books. I’m really into design in general and also architecture, and obsessed with quality.

I'm into the Clava — it's exactly what I want in an easy going sneaker. Is that a response to casual pandemic style or just something less structured than the rest of the collection?

That’s fun to hear. To be honest, it’s perhaps a bit of both. Maybe not specifically tied to the pandemic, but for years, we’ve wanted to develop an alternative to our existing range. We obviously feel very strongly about properly made suede/leather sneakers, but kept increasingly longing for a certain type of shoe for those days off. Not only something that wears more casual, but also offered a slightly different aesthetic. We’re all big sports and vintage fans within the team and offering a modern iteration of nostalgic products has been in the pipeline for a while.

What do you think is the most misunderstood aspect of the footwear industry? 

That’s a hard one. I’d say that the inside matters and looks can be deceiving. For some reason, a lot of people seem to accept the idea that unless you’re wearing a sports oriented runner, you’re destined for an uncomfortable experience. But that’s where the small details really do make a difference. If you were to literally pick apart two pairs of similar looking sneakers from the inside, the difference would surprise you. For example, we use a metal shank in most of our shoes, and very limited padding - combined this leads to supreme all day comfort and uppers that are the softest in the industry. But since this is something that needs to be experienced, it is obviously a very difficult message to get across especially towards people who aren’t very interested in the product. 

What's the future of sustainability in the footwear space? How have you adapted from a design and sourcing standpoint?

From day one, the brand has been doing good things in this regard, perhaps a bit unconsciously, as we have always strived to work with the best suppliers - and a consequence of that has been that our partners have been quite advanced when it comes to their sustainability work. We make everything with high quality materials and spend a lot of time in the product development phase to ensure that our clients are investing in something with longevity. Trends and radical designs is something we also steer clear from hopefully resulting in that a pair of CQP’s feel equally relevant years from now. But our reality is that footwear and other fashion products aren’t sustainable to begin with, so we have to do what we can to be more proactive. We are increasingly looking over how we do business, who we work with, and where we source materials from. This is another reason to why we’re so excited about CQP Sport, as we see it as an opportunity for us to be more innovative and conscious about how we do things. Our first shoe - CLAVA, is entirely vegan and made from recycled and organic materials.

The topic for us also stretches much further than the product. We’ve developed strong relationships with our wonderful suppliers that also extends to our clients and team members as well as retailers. We can only be a sustainable brand if we have a sustainable business.