Interview with designer Matthew Waldman
Put all the digital watches in the world in a lineup and you’d be hardpressed to find one that really differentiates itself. Enter the Nooka – A watch that tells time like you would read it naturally, not the way the local madrasa taught you.
Instead of the traditional display, the minutes are in the large box, the seconds follow and a bar on top shows the hour and how much of the day is left.
So all it takes is a quick glance. But that isn’t all the brand has set to rethink. They’ve redone the concept of wallets, belts, sunglasses. So, enamored by what we saw, we sent our men to “borrow” Matthew Waldman, the designer.
And this is what he had to say after the truth serum kicked in:
Nooka has evolved for the past six or seven years from a watch to an entire line up of reconfigured accessories. What is Nooka to you today?
NOOKA is the only brand that articulates a larger philosophy of global communication and culture via the form language of design. I am confident that we produced products that are provocative in the true sense of the word – stimulating ones mind and thus creating a deeper emotional connection with the brand.
How did you get started? What was the genesis of it?
I never sat down to design watches or even accessories. NOOKA is the child of my interactive design practice in the 1990s. There were no information architects to hire for my practice, so i set up brain exercises for myself to get away from the aesthetics of design and start creating things that express intuitive processes. one of these exercises was a re-think of time telling, which many adults feel is already intuitive, though really is not. this was the genesis of the NOOKA® mindstyle™ brand.
How do you see your brand going forward from here?
I am confident that our philosophy can be applied to any product or problem. I would like to bring techno-progressivism to fashion and launch a full apparel line. i have already designed a line of sneakers and bags for FILA for the mainland chinese market which comes out this fall.
Nooka has been a media favorite. it gets a lot of publicity and has made its way on the wrists of many celebrities like T.I, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, among others. Have there been any notable celebrities that
You met or became friends as a result of your Nooka project?
Although it may look strategic, most of the celebrities you mentioned found Nooka on their own, which to me makes it even more meaningful.
But because of that, I don’t have a chance to develop any relationships with them. I was invited to a Kanye West concert as a ViP, but no one explained that the pass was best used to go back stage when the opening acts were playing! We tried to go back stage after the show which wasn’t allowed so that was a missed opportunity, but I now know for next time.
I have also become friends with Miho Hatori, who was with the NYC based band Cibo Matto in the 90s and has released 2 amazing solo albums since then. she has a very philosophical approach to her music and she understands the story behind my designs with no explanation, which is pretty amazing.
I hear you’re heavy into sneakers. Tell us about your love affair with your kicks.
This really speaks to one of the main motivators to do NOOKA – the lack of fun fashion for men – making sneakers and watches two of the only outlets for guys! i really got into sneakers in the 1990s when nike was doing so many interesting things with form and materials and continued into the 2000s when puma launched their collabs with mihara. it's actually a great way for me to experience new material science as they really push the envelope sometimes. i think i buy on average 2 new pairs of sneakers a month.
I really love your vinyl toy. What was the inspiration for it?
I've always been a fan of corporate mascots [they were big in the 70s when i was a kid!] and wanted one for my own brand. the nookanooka represents the emotional side of NOOKA, and also is a platform for possibility expressed by using the character as a 3D canvas for artist collaborations. as for "inspiration" – i didn't need any as the nookanooka is a real hyper-dimensional creature...i just asked him to sit long enough for me to sketch what he looks like!
You’ve done Vinyl toys, Sun glasses, belts, wallets. Is there anything else on the horizon? Will we see Nooka Kicks soon?
Fashion and shoes as licensed products of collabs with other brands. we're still a self funded independent brand and don't have the ability to extend the lines on our own at the moment. any investors reading this?
You’re an artist as well. Can you tell us about your own work?
Psychologically, my fine art is a vehicle to express frustrations with society in a subversive and indirect manner.
On another level, I love working with new materials, colors and themes in an unconstrained context. this frees up the mind and creates new spaces for me to design better products.
Your art has revolved on fantasy and futurism, one of your recent columns for a japanese magazine revolved on the vanishing remnant of futurism in new york and your current positioning with Nooka is sci-fi inspired. How do you feel about how the future seems to have moved to the East, what with the developments in the Middle East, India and the Far East?
Nooka has always been a product of futurism and sci-fi optimism. I don’t agree that futurism has “moved to the east.” true, there are incredible architecture projects in the Middle East, but they are not 100% local affairs. The architects are for the most part from NYC, London, Nederlands, and Switzerland. Even the construction workers are imported! These types of things always move where the money is. I certainly am impressed with the vision of government of Dubai for creating these structurally amazing cities. but honestly, can they really turn into vibrant urban centers and generators of innovation like NYC, Tokyo and London without the critical mass of a large population and a liberal social structure?
Futurism isn’t anything until “local” = “global”.
And finally, is there a message you will to send to your fans in the Middle East?
Keep pushing for democracy, woman's rights, and diversity!