Eckhaus Latta Explains Their Low-Key, High-Fashion Ugg Collaboration

Photo: Nathan Perkel/Courtesy of UGG

To cite the ever-quotable Cardi B: It’s officially Ugg season.

Like Crocs and low-rise jeans, the bulbous shearling boots refuse to fade away, reemerging each winter in new, slightly mutated forms. This season, Uggs made it all the way to New York Fashion Week.

On Saturday afternoon in Bushwick, Eckhaus Latta debuted their Ugg collaboration to their usual crowd of stylish art-world types. This is not the first time a luxury brand has offered its take on the classic boot: Sacai, Y/Project, and Heron Preston have all done so recently. This is also not Eckhaus’s first shoe collaboration. (They partnered with Camper a few seasons ago.) What’s new is the audience. Plus, the brand collaborated with Ugg on ready-to-wear, with shearling coats and jackets worked into the Fall 2019 collection as well.

Photo: Nathan Perkel for Ugg.

Eckhaus Latta’s last big project was a pop-up inside the Whitney Museum, which explored the space between art and commerce. Where does a cool young brand go from there? A partnership with Ugg, of course. Somehow, they made it seem natural, despite their distance from the mainstream. At first glace, you could hardly even tell that models wore Uggs — especially when paired with a sharp suit.

Both Eckhaus Latta and Ugg are American brands who value comfort and ease over pomp and circumstance. (Ugg’s roots are with surf culture, after all.) They may seem like an “odd couple” on the surface, but designers Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta explain why they’re not.

How did this collaboration come about?
Latta: We were approached by Uggs to do the project this summer, but I think it came out of them seeing our Whitney exhibition.
Eckhaus: I think it’s also because we’re bicoastal and work often out of Los Angeles — they’re based in Santa Barbara — and they were really excited to work with a brand that had roots on the West Coast as well. It spoke to their language of “California heritage.”

Did Ugg come to you with a specific idea?
Eckhaus: It was really carte blanche, which was amazing. They were like, Do you.

Do you have an earliest Uggs memory?
Latta: I’m from Northern California, so they’re a part of the uniform. They were always the coolest thing to have. They might not be the most flattering, but they were what the hot girls would wear in middle school.
Eckhaus: Uggs were at peak saturation when I was in middle school in Westchester. It was part of a certain uniform for a certain group of people. It’s funny to come full circle with the brand, and explore it other ways. It makes it more subversive, in a way, because of how many people think about Ugg in a very specific way.

Did you ever get your hands on a pair?
Latta: I had a pair of slippers. It’s insane how comfortable they are. Switching back to a normal shoe is really painful.
Eckhaus: I just got my first pair and I love them. They’re insanely comfortable and really, really fun to wear.
Latta: On Christmas, my boyfriend’s 95-year-old grandma got a pair of Uggs and she was elated. Same with my 10-year-old cousin. There’s something very cool about how they speak to something broader than just fashion, or a trend.

Why do you think the fashion world has finally embraced Uggs?
Eckhaus: If you see an Ugg, everyone knows what that looks like. It’s so lasting in culture. But it’s no longer 2002 anymore. It makes sense to re-approach it in the same way that you would re-approach, I don’t know, maybe a Mackintosh trench coat, or something like that. You can twist it and make it something new and different.

I was surprised to see a high-heel shoe in the collection.
Latta: It’s funny, because it was actually inspired by a past Ugg heel that we resurrected from 2007. We reworked the whole upper, though. We don’t just want to make a shoe that just looks great; they’re really quite comfortable.

Photo: Nathan Perkel for Ugg.

You also played with their shape.
Eckhaus: Going in, we wanted to twist something that was so built into the iconography of the Ugg. It’s so bubbly and round. So, we removed that and making the toe shapes blocky and square.
Latta: We wanted to find structure in them.

And then the ready-to-wear is exciting, too. Was that part of the initial pitch from Ugg?
Latta: It was, but we didn’t know how it was going to work. Something that was really exciting to us is that their furs are all byproducts of the meat industry; they’re not killing animals for the fur. They fully utilize the animal and source from all over the world.

Photo: Nathan Perkel for Ugg.

Was it a challenge to fit it Ugg in with the rest of the collection?
Eckhaus: We’ve dabbled with shearling in the past, but in a much more DIY manner.
Latta: We’ve made a lot of stuff that was hand-stitched by us.
Mike: So it’s a material that we really enjoy. It has such a beautiful, visceral quality to it. And it’s nice to work on something that feels special. The shoes will be broadly distributed, whereas the ready-to-wear will be tight due to the dye techniques and the construction.

Speaking generally, what would you say to people who are surprised by this collaboration? Why does Uggs x Eckhaus Latta actually make sense?
Eckhaus: It’s fun in that kind of “odd couple” sense. But in reality, working with their team — everyone from development to design to the president — felt really like-minded, even though outwardly, we might seem different. We really share a similar sensibility when it comes to ready-to-wear and accessories.
Latta: The more we worked together, the more we realized how much we had in common. The way they source their leathers was really exciting to us. I’m a Californian, and they’re a true California heritage brand. There’s not so many of those. From an optics perspective, for those who know our name and the name of Ugg, you might not think of us together, but for us it was really exciting.

Photo: Nathan Perkel for Ugg.
Uggs Have Officially Infiltrated New York Fashion Week