Auxiliary - Continuous Play

Based around the subject of endless interplay between our digital and real lives, “Continuous Play” is the new AR brand concept by vintage audio inspired footwear brand Auxiliary.

Created in partnership with Stink studios, the experience brings a new innovative approach to using spark AR in a way never previously seen in immersive retail. Shoppers are sent on a virtual journey through product, message, detail and design in the hope that spending a short time thinking inside the box could help to turn down the volume on everyday noise a little. We caught up with the brands Founder and Creative Director Matthew Taylor to learn more about life in and outside the box.

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TNO: Starting from the Top, tell us about Auxiliary and how the project got started?

MT: The top seems like a long time ago! Its a culmination of things I have become obsessed with over the years, but the real start point was talking to my friend Graeme Gaughan about doing some shoes for his brand TDT. We shared a lot of interests and after we started making the shoes it naturally became its own thing.

You have designed footwear for quite a few well known brands, what made you want to start your own brand and what did you want to achieve with having creative freedom?

There's not really one concise answer to that, I think partly I wanted to put myself in a situation where I was constantly being pushed outside of my comfort zone initially, to learn more and be more challenged. Another thing I've always been fascinated by is this generation of people (and products/designs) who were brought into an analogue world and now feel slightly out of place in todays modern digital landscape, so that interplay between analogue and digital, real and synthetic has always been something I wanted to explore. My manufacturer is a good example of that, its an old traditional and very analogue factory (the owner doesn't know how to use a iphone), but they make amazing shoes so they are on this journey with me from analogue/traditional to modern/digital. Also from a selfish point of view I wanted to make shoes that I wanted to wear!

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Where do you see the industry heading right now as we feel a lot of people in the industry are re igniting their love of formal footwear?

There's always going to be a backlash when things go really far in one direction and I think the tech / sports craze of the last few years has been really interesting, but its inevitable it will hit saturation point and a certain people will start gravitating towards something different. I think the technical materials, handwriting and exaggerated silhouette aren't going to disappear totally, but I can see more of a space right now for interesting formal shoes and hybrid sneakers.

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Is this more of a reaction to Sneaker /drop culture overload or do you think this type of drop format will continue?

I think the drops mentality has changed everything because today brands have to be active more frequently. In a world where everything is so instant I don't think it makes sense to to hold all your design back for six months then show it all at once only for everyone to move on in a few days.

A reaction to sneaker overload, perhaps. Ultimately something becomes exclusive when the demand exceeds the supply, but when the demand remains high for a number of years you can still make sneakers that seem exclusive but actually a lot of them get made. That results in everyone having loads and loads of sneakers, and its human nature for a number of opinion leaders to decide they don't want what everyone else has. And when that happens we'll start to see things go in a new direction.

Where does Auxiliary sit in this sneaker / drop eco system?

I don't think of it as being a part of that system really, I've always thought of it as sitting on the periphery of sneaker culture. I've often found parts of that arena quite stressful to be honest, there's allot of noise and you're always being told you need to have a the new version of something. I also don't like the idea of people queuing in the rain to buy something, the way brands are trying to reach customers is always becoming more aggressive and invasive so I think you need to try and meet that with a little empathy... It’s not easy being a consumer these days.

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“The way brands are trying to reach customers is always becoming more aggressive and invasive so I think you need to try and meet that with a little empathy... It’s not easy being a consumer these days.”

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Tell us about the “Continuous Play” concept?

I had started to notice some Instagram accounts posting renders / redesigns of shoes and they were getting a lot of attention, sometimes as much if not more than real shoes. I thought that was so fascinating and it got me thinking; what is "real" today, something that exists digitally or physically or both? I take a lot of inspiration from analogue technology and one day I came across a tape player with a "continuous play" function (it allows a tape to be played continuously without stoping it) and that phrase summed it up for me; we're in continuous play between the digital world and the real world and its become hard for people to understand physical things that don't exist without some degree of digital presence, and also visa versa. And when I became aware of what you can do with AR I was fascinated, its kind of like being in a game where real and digital meet and it tied back to the themes of the collection. I love the idea of technology bringing a positive experience to a customer, not invasive or a hard sell like we often find, more about giving people an opportunity to try something fun and thought provoking that may put a smile on their face in an environment you'd least expect it. I think it brings out the child in people, every person who I've seen use it so far just starts smiling!

What lead you to working with a renowned agency such as Stink on this project?

I've always been aware of them as a company as I know a couple of lovely people there who I also respected professionally. So when I started thinking of AR they were naturally the first people I went to talk to. They have great provenance in retail, plus they come from the intersections of creativity and tech, so I knew when we were talking about ideas they didn't just have great creative input they also knew exactly how to execute them to a super high standard required for a store like Selfridges. On top of the experience looking amazing, the really groundbreaking thing is that they have managed to build it completely in SparkAR. Meaning there are no hefty app downloads, all you need is the facebook app, point your phone at the table and it’s working within seconds.

Whats next for Auxiliary?

Firstly I'm bringing the continuous play AR into the packaging so everyone can get a chance to experience it on a different scale (literally think inside the box). During the process of recreating the shoes digitally, the shoe is constructed in 3D, then a skin is wrapped around it. There was one instance where a skin from one shoe got wrapped around a different model by accident and the result was really interesting, so in the aftermath of this project I'm going to bring those shoes to life in reality as an extension of the continuous play idea. There are also some new formal silhouettes launching towards the end of the year. Plus I'm working with a few manufacturers on a deadstock program making super limited production runs from material that will otherwise end up in the bin.

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Images via Stink Studios

Words - James Oliver

Auxiliary