Interview: Jochen Zeitz

CEO and Chairman, Puma

by Alexander Fury .

Pushing the creativity further means also getting involved in art, because that's the ultimate medium of creativity.

Alexander Fury: Jochen, could you tell me what is interesting for Puma in working with Hussein Chalayan both as Creative Director and on this particular exhibition?

Jochen Zeitz: Creativity plays a very important role within Puma. We are a design-driven brand and therefore creativity is everything. Creativity in terms of innovation, in terms of performance and in terms of fashion - as a Sport Lifestyle brand we always like to mix Sport Lifestyle and fashion in a unique way and Hussein Chalayan is one of the most creative people I have ever met. He is somebody who loves to play with his designs, combine them with new materials, as well as play with technology and because of this he very much fits with what we like to do and how we like to push the boundaries of our business forward. Therefore it's a perfect fit.

Alexander Fury: Both yourself and Hussein have talked about his work to date as being a prototype for the future. What direction do you see Hussein leading Puma in?

Jochen Zeitz: His approach has been very conceptual. Many call him a designer's designer: indeed he has been an inspiration for many - I don't want to say 'a generation of designers,' but over the last fifteen years his work has inspired many different designers. He's now at a point where he can say 'Well, now I want my designs to be more. More readily available, more accessible to more people, and I am taking my innovative approach and translating it down to products that are available for people can buy, not just available to see in a museum or to buy in very few stores in the world.' Given that he has changed his viewpoint in that regard, it's a great opportunity for us to say 'Okay, let's use that creativity, channel it and make it more readily available.'

Alexander Fury: You talked then about channeling creativity - and at the same time, Puma has divided itself into separate strands of which 'Creative Puma' is just one. Could you talk about that division, and how that will be reflected in Puma's products and work?

Jochen Zeitz: It's really a philosophy we've created. We've been very involved in what people today call Corporate Social Responsibility, by implementing decent work in our factories, decent social standards, caring for the environment. We feel that a corporation has an opportunity, rather than a responsibility, to contribute to making the world a better place. That's whey we've created what we call the Puma Vision: it's a vision to make the world safer, more peaceful and more creative. These three categories that we think we can influence by direct involvement in peace-making activities like Peace One Day; by continuing to evolve by improving standards in our factories from an environmental and social point of view; as well as to evolve creativity by getting involved in art. Hussein Chalayan, as an artist and creator and designer, is a perfect example and that's why we're supporting this exhibition. It's not just his designs, it's his art that he's created over the years and his creations combine in an exhibition that is truly unique. Pushing the creativity further means also getting involved in art because that's the ultimate medium of creativity.

Alexander Fury: This exhibition is an expression of the partnership between Hussein and Puma. Could you maybe give us an indication of the direction that partnership will go in for the future?

Jochen Zeitz: This is the second time we have worked with Hussein under one umbrella: the launch of his Spring/Summer 2009 collection was the first. When it comes to actually creating products for Puma, we will see those products coming to market in the fourth quarter. Thereon 2010 will obviously being a very important year with the World Cup in Africa. You'll see all kinds of interesting concepts that will evolve in 2010 with Hussein's creative direction.

Interviewed at the Design Museum, London, 21 January 2009