“I remember we were in the desert,” the designer Mike Eckhaus said over the phone from Brooklyn, recalling the last time he saw his co-designer, Zoe Latta, IRL. At the tail end of February, the pair behind Eckhaus Latta convened a “summit” of sorts near Joshua Tree, making plans for the year ahead. They parted ways—Eckhaus to Williamsburg, and Latta to Los Angeles—at the outset of March, ready to get to work.
“And then the coronavirus happened,” Eckhaus said with a bitter laugh. “And that all went to shit.”
Going forward with all their plans “would be insane,” Latta said. “The whole landscape has just changed.” But some of those plans turned out to be pandemic-proof—like their second collaboration with Ugg. Aside from a two-month delay, the spring 2020 capsule collection rolled out this week entirely wrinkle-free. In fact, the date was all they had to change on the press release.
Eckhaus and Latta already had experience poring over the Ugg archives, having first collaborated with the brand on a fall/winter collection in 2019. They’d already designed the eight unisex styles that make up the collaboration, including three platform wooden clogs and two square-toed “cowboy” mules. And they’d already shot the campaign, which stars the up-and-comer Frank Ayzenberg and the supermodel Guinevere van Seenus. (As usual, Eckhaus and Latta tapped Rachel Chandler for the casting and Avena Gallagher for the styling.)
The first time they collaborated with Ugg, Eckhaus and Latta focused on winter styles that nodded to the brand’s footwear history, aside from the familiar shearling boot. This time, they were eager to play with the slides and sandals that come with spring, taking inspiration from expansive American landscapes. They wanted to use a vastness of space to create a sort of non-space, which the photographer Zoë Ghertner accomplished by photographing Ayzenberg and van Seenus in a lake outside of Los Angeles, “floating on a dock in this abyss.” “Very timely,” Eckhaus added.
It’s the type of campaign, Latta said, that they could imagine pulling off while still social distancing. It’ll be a while before they get back to studio shoots, she added, “but I definitely don’t think it’s over. People can work together a lot more if they know each other and trust each other, and we’re lucky enough to have relationships with friends that we can have real conversations with about their comfort levels.”
One of those collaborator friends is Ghertner, who also shot their last Ugg campaign. This time, she helped finally make their dreams of working with van Seenus a reality. (Eckhaus remains hopeful that the super will walk one of their runways in the future—“maybe one day when fashion shows happen again.”)
Another way they’ve kept things going is by leaving it to artist friends like Stewart Uoo to make their own mini-campaigns. “We just reached out to a lot of our friends and were like, ‘We’ll send you some clothes if you shoot some images of yourself in them,’” Eckhaus said. The submissions, which the brand has been posting on Instagram, range from casual—like a low-res image of the model Alexandra Mazella cradling her newborn, Earth—to impressively professional, like a painterly Chloe Wise self-portrait.
“It’s been very free,” Eckhaus continued. “We’re just like, ‘Do you,’ allowing that kind of play to happen.” Again, Latta considers themselves lucky: “If we had asked our friends to do this a year ago, I think that would have been a bit of a chore. Who would have time?”
Now that they’ve dropped their latest Ugg collab, Eckhaus and Latta are editing down their latest pre-collection and working on spring. They’re also, of course, looking ahead. “We’re really planning on making something for September, October,” Eckhaus said. Rest assured: It won’t be a runway show or live presentation. Quarantine, he added, “has allowed us to really reconsider and prioritize and strategize what we’re making, and be a bit more responsible than maybe we have been in the past. It’s easy to get excited and just make, make, make, make, make.”
More broadly, “a lot of changes needed to happen” in the industry, Latta said. She wouldn’t be surprised if the post-pandemic future holds a newly revised calendar, for example, or increased consumer consciousness. “I think you would be kind of idiotic to think the industry is going to go back the way it was,” she continued. (Though she also thinks trying to make further predictions would be “rash.”)
Like so many other designers, the pair has applied to the CFDA’s designer support initiative, A Common Thread. But, Latta stressed, “we’re not having conversations like we’re filled with fear; we’re just trying to be nimble, not be sticks-in-the-mud about anything and just take each day as it comes.” Naturally, they’re also catching up on pop culture. “I’m trying to mix watching intelligent content with completely mind numbing garbage time,” Eckhaus said with a laugh, pointing to Real Housewives and Lars Von Trier.