Future73 project: Timberland presents an immersive AI experience in Milan
As the iconic Timberland silhouette turns 50, six future makers reimagine The Original Timberland Boot, exhibiting the collaboration in FUTURE73 VISIONS at Triennale Milano.
This edition of Milan Design Week that took the design world by storm from April 18 to 23, 2023, was an enticing cumulation of everything the community has to offer—from epitomes of tradition and craftsmanship to displays of cutting-edge innovation. However, what came forth as the protagonist in an array of exhibits, was the prominent presence of technology, such as that of artificial intelligence. Milan Design Week was, in a lot of ways, the pursuit of a middle ground between antipodes—the rich past and the burgeoning present, minimalism and maximalism, tradition and technology, so on and so forth. One such tryst of heritage and innovation was witnessed at the Triennale Milano where The Original Timberland Boot continued the celebration of its 50th anniversary.
Timberland celebrated the 50-year anniversary of The Original Timberland® Boot at Milan Design Week 2023Image: Courtesy of Timberland
While the streets of Milan, Italy, were brimming with admirers and practitioners of design during Salone del Mobile 2023, the brand showcased the Timberland x Suzanne Oude Hengel Future73 project through an immersive AI installation powered by OUCHHH. Oude Hengel, a knit researcher, technician, and designer, was amongst the six future makers invited by Timberland to reimagine the brand’s iconic boot through their unique lens of daring innovation. A selection of collaborations—such as this one—were amplified by FUTURE73 VISIONS creative sessions, designed to educate and inspire the next generation of future thinkers. “Having the opportunity to give Timberland’s heritage a new context and pushing it outside of what people expect has been a highlight of my career. And now to see the ideas I explored for the Future73 capsule take shape in the form of AI; to see the DNA of my brand and Timberland meld through an immersive experience that is going to bring our universes to new audiences, is really exciting,” says Hengel.
The immersive showcase comprised three chaptersImage: Courtesy of Gianluca Di Ioia
I’m looking for solutions to create products through an intellectual approach, starting from love for the Earth.– Edison Chen
Future73 came into existence as a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of The Original Timberland Boot—the iconic yellow work boot, introduced in 1973 to take on the harsh elements of New England. Timberland, the global outdoor and work-inspired brand, brought together an equally seminal team of innovators to envision this classic through a contemporary, innovative and singular lens. In celebration of Timberland’s history that began five decades ago, and to catalyse it into the future, these visionaries provide a glimpse into the past, while bridging it with the world ahead. “TImberland came into my consciousness through hip-hop, more specifically Notorious B.I.G. and Wu-Tang Clan,” says actor, singer, fashion designer and founder of CLOT, Edison Chen. “When I got asked to be a part of Future73, I thought: Wow, finally I can do something with my own ethos and a design that has inspired me since I was a teenager."
The Future73 team relentlessly propelled TImberland’s legacy and vision towards the future, including—Edison Chen, Samuel Ross, Suzanne Oude Hengel, Nina Chanel Abney, Humberto Leon, and Christopher Raeburn. “It was important for the collection to be mono fibre and made from natural materials wherever possible,” shares British fashion designer Christopher Raeburn. “Importantly, the capsule is designed for disassembly to allow for recycling at the end of the product’s life cycle."
Hengel’s reinterpretation of The Original Timberland BootImage: Courtesy of Suzanne Oude Hengel
To see the ideas I explored for the Future73 capsule take shape in the form of AI; to see the DNA of my brand and Timberland meld through an immersive experience that is going to bring our universes to new audiences, is really exciting.– Suzanne Oude Hengel
The immersive experience that debuted at the design festival drew inspiration from Timberland x Suzanne Oude Hengel Future73 Knit 6-Inch Boot, a collaboration that harnessed the creator’s specialised skill set in the first-ever knit version of the iconic Timberland silhouette. In consonance with Oude Hengel’s knack for pushing textile machinery to its limits to create seemingly unachievable shoe designs, the AI installation employed the potential of technology to communicate her ideas in conjunction with the Timberland story. “We are excited to engage with the creative community, reach new audiences through AI, and together begin a new journey on the frontier of boot culture. At the same time, it’s been amazing to see Suzanne’s innovative spirit and design ethos come to life through this truly unique experience,” shares Drieke Leenknegt, Vice President of Global Marketing for Timberland.
The installation harnesses technology to communicate Hengel’s and Timberland’s collective visionImage: Courtesy of Timberland
From the archetypal 6-inch boot we started to build a protagonist—someone who is able to move through cityscapes and urban environments, but also understands that these garments can be in proximity to nature and the elements.– Dr. Samuel Ross
Powered by OUCHHH, an international creative studio headquartered in Istanbul, the immersive installation comprised three chapters. The installation opened with a mosaic of data-gathered archival imagery of Timberland and advertising related to the Timberland Premium 6-Inch Boot. The repository was presented in a time-lapse of Timberland's heritage and its iconic imagery. The second chapter honoured Hengel’s innovative approach to the long-standing craft of knitting with an AI-generated pattern taking cues from her geometric knitting techniques. The third and final chapter employed AI to amalgamate the brand’s heritage data and the designer's pioneering research to yield a hybrid AI work fuelled by both—an embodiment of the Future73 project. “We have had the fortune of working with many great partners over the years, but this opportunity to work with Timberland on such a unique project is a major milestone for us,” says Ferdi Alici, Director of OUCHHH. “We’re thrilled to bring the story of the brand and Suzanne’s knit innovation to Salone del Mobile in the form of an immersive AI experience, and to see people engaging with it first-hand,” he adds.
Future73 project invites visionaries to reimagine The Original Timberland® BootImage: Courtesy of STIR
“From the archetypal 6-inch boot we started to build a protagonist—someone who is able to move through cityscapes and urban environments, but also understands that these garments can be in proximity to nature and the elements,” says multi-award winning designer and founder of A-Cold-Wall* Dr Samuel Ross. Juxtaposing the primary showcase surrounding the Future73 project, interactive areas allowed viewers to become part of the AI art; multidisciplinary creative sessions were hosted by a curated list of cultural innovators including Hengel to educate and inspire the next generation of thinkers. At the end of the installation’s life, Timberland will donate the materials coming from its dismantling, thus cultivating new resources that can be reinvested to enhance the museums. This is carried out in alliance with ‘Non si butta via niente,’ an innovative start-up that taps into the concepts of reuse, recycling, and the circular economy to tackle the typical problems of museums such as the costs and waste associated with exhibit production.
When all the puzzle pieces came together, the resulting set was an impressive AI painting that used digital technology to combine iconic imagery of The Original Timberland Boot with Hengel’s innovative interpretation to create something entirely new. OUCHHH’s AI data painting bridged the past and future to cultivate a new language—a truly unique AI Knit Piece that epitomised TImberland’s pioneering vision.