To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of The Original Timberland ® Boot, Timberland brought together a team of innovators to reimagine the icon through their own lens of bold innovation and educate and inspire the next generation of future thinkers. The Future73 team assembled to relentlessly build forward includes Edison Chen, Samuel Ross, Nina Chanel Abney, Humberto Leon, Christopher Raeburn and Suzanne Oude Hengel. 

For this anniversary, Timberland invited us to Milan during the Design Week where they presented at the legendary Triennale Milano, the Timberland® x Suzanne Oude Hengel Future73 project through an immersive Artificial Intelligence (AI) installation powered by new media creative studio OUCHHH.

The provocative AI experience at Triennale Milano draws special inspiration from the Timberland® x Suzanne Oude Hengel Future73 Knit 6-Inch Boot, which exercises the knit innovator’s uniquely specialized skillset to create a stunning, first-ever knit version of the icon. In line with Oude Hengel’s passion for pushing textile machinery to its limits to create seemingly impossible shoe designs, the AI installation similarly harnesses the potential of technology to communicate her ideas alongside the Timberland story. 

During the exposition we had the pleasure of speaking with Suzanne Oude Hengel about her design process and collaboration with Timberland.

Based in the Netherlands, Oude Hengel has a degree in Product Design from the Artez University of Arts in Arnhem, where she created a final collection of knitted shoes, and went on to develop her technical understanding of knitting at various opportunities including the Santoni Pioneer Project and working as a technician at the Textile Museum in Tilburg. She is the founder of Knit in Motion, an initiative for rethinking and disrupting the way knitting is defined. 

How did the collaboration with Timberland come about?
Five years ago I collaborated once before with Timberland. This was for the project CONSTRUCT, a collaboration with other designers. For this project, each designer redesigned the iconic Timberland Premium 6-Inch Boot. My own design, inspired by the Yellow Boot, was not yellow but blue. Besides the blue color, the rest of my boot was also very different from the original boot, making it stand out. After this great project, Timberland remembered me as a designer and included me again for FUTURE73.

What can we expect from the collaboration?
The collaboration is all about celebrating the 50th anniversary of the iconic Timberland premium 6-Inch Boot. It was my honor to redesign this boot again. You can see from my design that I interpreted Boot in a different way. I did this by using the different possibilities of knitting. A shoe often consists of multiple pattern parts that are eventually assembled whereas my design is made from one pattern and thus only has one part. To achieve this pattern, I applied the Space technique that I developed myself. In this collaboration, I used a wide variety of knitting techniques which made me push my own limits. This can also be seen in the top and skirt I designed for Timberland, where I created a gradient and a lot of stretch in both items by applying different knitting techniques. I hope with this, I have inspired Timberland to use color and knitting techniques more often.

What did the design process look like for you?
I stayed very close to myself as a designer. During the design process I focused mostly on knitting and programming. I am not a person who makes design drawings. Instead, I like to work next to the machine and experiment endlessly with materials and techniques. During the project, I was assisted by Timberland’s fantastic design team. The cooperation with the designers of Timberland was a key factor for me in this project. We were able to learn a lot from each other. 

How do you see the future of knitting?
I think knitting has a lot of potential. It is a developed technique that can be applied to any shape and even in a pattern of a product. This comes ready-made from the machine, which prevents a lot of material waste. With this, knitting has a lot to offer for shoes and other products. If you experiment enough, the possibilities with knitting are endless. Experimenting alongside the machine feels limitless to me because I can do it all myself.

Why do you think this iconic boot has been so successful for years?
The boot has been picked up in really cool ways, several times by different groups. This has really made the boot come alive. Of course, it’s also just a really good quality product that lasts super long. No wonder this Boot has been so popular for 50 years!

The Timberland® x Suzanne Oude Hengel FUTURE73 Collection will be available from May 2023 at, Timberland® stores and select retailers worldwide.