Proper Interview: David Allemann Co-Founder of On

As long time advocates of re-appropriating sportswear for less conventional (if equally energetic) pursuits we’re pleased to see that Swiss brand On have made their first ‘trainer’. The freshly dropped Cloudnova is a futuristic, envelope pusher of a shoe with all the technological attributes that we’ve come to expect from the ergonomic boffins at On. Though to find out more we caught up with co-founder David Allemann to get the low-down on this brand new shoe.

Proper: How are you David? The last time I saw you we were in the ‘Kill Bill’ restaurant in Tokyo after the Cloud Hi launch at Atmos-Con, that was a fun trip wasn’t it?

David: Yes, indeed it was. And it was great to have you with us, Neill. It was On’s first time being present at Atmos Con in Japan. As you know, Atmos Con is the ultimate streetwear and sneaker exhibition at Shibuya Hikarie in Tokyo. This was last October and more than six months before launching On’s first sneaker shoe the Cloudnova.

On has been around for 10 years now, how would you describe the journey so far?

It was the most exciting, scary and fulfilling journey of my life. I still remember how the three of us (David and his friends and co-founders Caspar Coppetti and Olivier Bernhard) went on a hike in the Engadine valley in the Swiss mountains and put the business idea together. We were convinced by the unique running feel and our patented CloudTec sole, but we couldn’t predict how the journey would unfold. We’re extremely grateful that from its humble origins On has acquired the fastest growing running community with more than 7 millions fans worldwide. Athletes in On shoes are winning World Championships and Olympic medals. And by exploring the very edge of technical innovation and design, On has been adopted by those who hit refresh and take their ideas and life into a new direction.

How did growing up with architect parents inform the way you look at the world and footwear design?

In our family architecture and design were omnipresent. We did a lot of architecture discovery travel and creative projects together and this has very much affected me. The way you experience and look at a space. How design in modernism and in contemporary product design has to contribute to the solution. I can remember a specific design detail or shade of color for a long time and pull it from memory. This way of observing and looking at the world is rooted in my childhood.

Running appears to have seen an upsurge due to the current situation, have you noticed an increase in sales since the lockdown?

Fortunately, demand on on-running.com is high, as many people go for runs or do workouts at home to stay in shape. But most of our retail doors have been closed and we are helping our retail partner friends to pivot to online wherever we can. During a crisis like this our main concern went to the physical and mental health of our team and our community. We created video workout classes for the team and On fans. In one of our team sessions, even Roger (Federer) joined the group training workouts. Pretty unique session. Being active helps to keep sane and healthy in a lockdown.

Your shoes are worn by world champions around the globe, do you have a particular favourite moment of seeing an athlete achieving something significant whilst wearing your shoes?

It’s hard to pick one moment, but I think one of the more significant moments was when Swiss triathlete Nicola Spirig won the silver medal at the Olympics 2016 in Rio de Janeiro while wearing the On Cloud. Or when Belgian triathlete Frederik Van Lierde in 2013 – On was still a very young brand – won the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii by wearing prototypes of a new race shoe from On. We receive a lot of personal feedback from runners and I am always touched when someone reaches out to us to thank us. Some people claim they weren’t able to run for years, but with the Ons they can do what they love again.

Speaking of world champions, how did Roger Federer become a member of the On team? Have you played a game with him yet?

We noticed Roger wearing On shoes and reached out to him. That’s when we found out he is a longtime fan of On and, of course, we are longtime fans of his. Switzerland is a small place and we started having dinner together. Everyone knows Roger’s a leader in his sport, but as a friendship developed it became clear that there was a unique opportunity to forge a joint entrepreneurial path that is very different from an athletic sponsorship that a big company would do. I haven’t played a game with him yet but have seen him play live. And of course, we go for runs together.

Though On’s history is rooted in sports and performance, you have just released your first ‘sneaker’ the Cloudnova. Can you tell us more about the design inspiration behind the shoe and why On have decided to branch out in this exciting new direction?

Fashion, sportswear and outdoor gear have been merging for a while. It’s almost like performance used to borrow from fashion, now fashion borrows from performance. It’s because our generation is blurring the boundaries between work, home, sports and play. In the past weeks with almost 5 billion people at home, this new lifestyle is emerging for all at light speed. As we felt for a while that a new reality asks for a new sneaker, we have been working on the Cloudnova for the last 2 years. It’s the first sneaker from On and is built with our award-winning performance technology. CloudTec outsole, force transition plate and advanced materials. Fully cushioned and agile, the feel is almost weightless. If you think of it, performance is what made the original sneaker in the first place. Your most comfortable shoe that takes you everywhere and challenges conventions. In the last years, we saw that many brands just adopted the silhouette of the sneaker. We made it part of On’s mission to go back to the roots, challenge conventions and bring latest technology to a new sneaker. And a bold, graphical silhouette that advances the design language and is not just going back to the archives. In the past weeks, from our homes, we decided to accelerate the launch and have now a first limited drop available.

Where can we get hold of the Cloudnova in the UK? 

The first drop of the On Cloudnova will be available worldwide at Dover Street Market and select pioneering retail partners that challenge conventions and champion new ideas such as Matches Fashion.

Find out more about the On Cloudnova and enter the draw to get a pair here (open until 06.05.20).


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