He started custom designing athletic shoes at Adidas, went on to work as Senior Design Director for Prada S.p.A., and now, Michael Petry brings his eclectic background to heritage boot label, The Frye Company. I met with Michael yesterday at the Frye pop-up shop in Toronto’s Manulife Center to chat about the Fall collection, the company’s heritage, and soccer.
First off, tell me about what was on your mind for Fall.
We try to keep it in the same vocabulary, the same theme. We’re not a brand that changes who we are every season. I think the general concept here is we’re worn in and not worn out, and that’s our theme.
What was your perception of Frye coming to the brand?
It was probably about the same as most people’s initial perception is – that it’s much more of a western brand than it is, and that’s actually not the case at all. I’ve been here four years now and I think that our western business is probably around ten percent of what our overall business is. Probably one of the main reasons I came is the history of the brand. Every brand has its own set of parameters but these are good ones.
How do you balance your own creative and artistic aspirations with an established brand like Frye?
That’s probably one of the harder things to do. You kind of have to take your brain out of it. You have to picture yourself as the Frye consumer – if you are or if you’re not. We talk about our design team being a really eclectic group. Everyone brings a different element to the table and I think that helps our overall feel.
You have a background in performance footwear with Adidas. How do you think that has shaped your approach to design?
I’d say my first love and still my true love is sports and making sports shoes. I learned a ton at Adidas because I worked in soccer. One of the things we did there was a lot of hand-crafted stuff. All the professional players had their own, some wanted different leathers on their shoes and some did a lot of customization. For example, we did David Beckham’s shoes and we’d embroider his kids’ names onto his shoes.
From there you went onto Ralph Lauren and Prada before joining Frye. In terms of your design sensibilities, with which would you say you were most in synch?
It would have to be Frye at this point. It’s really easy, it’s really natural for me. My closet’s jammed with it, not just because I work here. At Polo I probably learned the most about footwear. They gave me a full tutorial in footwear and shipped me all over the world. At Prada I learned how to make a phenomenal product. Patrizio Bertelli is a lot more about macro thinking. He’ll look at the prototype and say, “Not only is this going to be big, but this is how the box is going to look, this is how we’re going to show it in the store, this is what the price should be.”
If you were to design the perfect shoe, what would it look like?
I’m a big believer in that worn-in not worn-out theory. I’m a big believer in casuals that look good. The one thing we strive for is when you’re not having your best day, you wake up on a Saturday and you don’t feel great but you want to look good, I always want to make that shoe that is the go-to shoe.
If you weren’t designing shoes what would you be doing?
Originally I wanted to be a professional soccer player, and that’s exactly what I thought I was going to be and that’s how I wound up at Adidas. At some point in my life reality set in and I had to get a job.
Browse the collection online at thefryecompany.com or in person at the pop-up shop until October 24, at Ron White Manulife Store, 55 Bloor St W, Toronto, (416) 964-6400.