“Design needs humility”: Humberto Leon takes on Timberland

For Opening Ceremony co-founder Humberto Leon, good design is humble design. It’s an ethos he and Carol Lim aimed to channel at the helm of Kenzo between 2011 and 2019, and one which makes his latest collaboration with Timberland, to mark the 50th anniversary of the brand’s signature workwear boot, all the more fitting.

“You absolutely need humility,” he affirms. “You have to let the excitement come from the consumer.” His reinterpretation of the 6-inch boot traces Timberland back to its work-yard origins, through to the ‘90s hip hop artists who solidified its stronghold in streetwear. For Leon, diving into the project was about deconstruction and exploration. “I started with taking apart all elements,” he explains, “and analysing every element.” The outcome—the Future73—sees certain updates like an exaggerated rubber outsole, with sustainable nods like recycled rubber soles. However, it’s the overarching philosophy of Leon’s work that remains intriguing. His designs aren’t just about form, but function—the accompanying apparel emphasises convertible and zip-off styles, mirroring his appreciation for versatile design.

Leon’s Future73 collaboration comprises part of Timberland’s 50th-anniversary celebrations, which invites a total of six “future creators”—including Edison Chen, of CLOT and Samuel Ros of A-COLD-WALL*—to propel the original Timberland® Premium 6-Inch Boot forward—bringing imaginative artwork to fruition, using the boot as a canvas.

Leon’s approach to design often intertwines respect for what exists with a curiosity for what might be. “I like taking risk when creating product,” he explains, “and pushing for something that can be for anyone.” Asked about Timberland’s staying power, Leon’s take is straightforward: “Timberland is part of culture, and that lasts longer than a product.” In his eyes, iconoclasm isn’t about radical breaks from the past but rather finding fresh perspectives on what’s familiar. Things only become iconic, he offers, when they take on unconventional significance. “[It’s] doing something that feels new and scary—something uncomfortable.”

Leon’s work with Timberland offers a snapshot into his larger ethos as a designer. It’s about dialogue between old and new, between convention and invention. With the Future73 collaboration, it seems Leon is extending an invitation to both celebrate and scrutinise—an approach that feels quintessentially him.

The Timberland® x Humberto Leon Future73 6-Inch Boot launches October online and in store.
Paid partnership with Timberland.

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