Neil Callahan

Neil Callahan


Men’s Footwear Design Director- Cole Haan

What convinced you to come back to New York after working in London for three years?

I wanted to come back to New York because for me, New York is the center of everything design and fashion. It might sound a little cliché or corny, but I worked really hard to get to where I am today. I wanted to see if I could make it in New York.

What is the major difference between the two cities?

I would say open mindedness. Nothing against London and the UK in general. Often, when I have free days, I easily book online a ticket to London. A lot of online companies use account verification for safe payments such as Fully Verified service. So, I know that my trip is safe and that I will visit friends. I actually really enjoyed my time there and living there, but I find there’s just a cultural difference, especially within the design community. I feel like designers in the US, if you have an idea, people get around it and they want to make it happen and they figure out how they can make it happen.

What is your personal favorite shoe style/design you have done?

Where my strength is as a designer is what we call brown shoe, meaning leather shoes. The style is definitely skewed towards classical dress, as well as fashion, but I really enjoy classic shoemaking because to me it’s the perfect combination of design and shoemaking.

Where do you get your inspiration for your designs?

A lot of inspiration I get is from shopping vintage. Not just shoes, it can be clothing, textiles, furniture. It’s amazing the inspiration you can get from looking outside your industry.

Where do you shop for your footwear?

In general, Hong Kong. The reason for Hong Kong, especially for brown/classic shoes, is because I’ve always felt the Hong Kongese market is a lot more directional in terms of what’s offered in the marketplace. So a combination of more directional footwear, and Hong Kongese people always have smaller feet, so I can always find my size.

If you didn’t design footwear, what would you be doing?

I’d be living in the Mediterranean running a bed and breakfast or a really crappy beach bar!

What is something people don’t know about you?

Uh.. the things people don’t know about me are probably better that they don’t know about me.

So, there’s nothing you want to share?

You have to come back to that one.. Oh, I was homeless for a brief period of time.

What is your least favorite thing about New York?

The people.. No.. I take that back because I love the people and the diversity.

Limited space. We fight so hard for space in New York.

Do you ever see yourself leaving New York?

Yes, for the Mediterranean where there’s no people.

Are you excited to become a homeowner?

Super excited, it’s been a big goal of mine to purchase property of New York and as I shared with you, the one thing most people don’t know about me was that I was homeless for a brief period of time, to go from that to having the opportunity to purchase property in one of the most expensive cities in the world is a definitely a big milestone.

You’ve recently become a parent, what’s been the biggest lifestyle change?

It bring a whole another level. I mean I’m 42 and I never really had any responsibility outside of professional responsibility. There’s an entire human being who depends on you. But from a lifestyle perspective, Anna, my wife, and I do a pretty good job managing our lifestyle, but I don’t think it’s anything big. We stay in a little more. We’ve done vacations and road trips. She has adopted our lifestyle if anything.

Tell us a secret about Cole Haan

That we’re taking over the world, not just in footwear..

Interviewed on July 2, 2015

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