Human Recreational Services, Erik Ellington’s LA-based footwear brand, draws inspiration from the people, places and experiences of his professional skateboarding career. him to
- Who is it? Human Recreational Services is the fashion label of professional skateboarder Erik Ellington
- Why do I want it? Handcrafted luxury shoes that combine utilitarian comfort with bold elegance
- Where can I find it? To humanrecreationalservices.com and resellers including Ssense, Level Shoes, The Webster and more
Who is it? A professional skateboarding career took Erik Ellington travel in the world. With magpie curiosity, he collected memories and stories from the different cultures he encountered along the way. Now with its label Human recreational servicesEllington seeks to translate these lived experiences into something tangible and universal through the design of luxury footwear.
Skateboarding provided common ground for Ellington’s nomadic childhood, but as he moved from state to state across the United States, he integrated the influences of different communities into his own personal style. “I pulled music that I was interested in, from metal in Alaska to 90s hip hop that I started getting into in Arizona, as well as skateboarders who were icons of the time, like Mark Gonzales,” says Ellington, who has learned to quickly adapt to each new environment. The passing experience fueled “his desire to really fight and to want to do something with what your resources are.”
Even when his skateboarding career took off, Ellington always strived to maintain a close connection with the surrounding communities. “When I’m touring around the United States or another country, I like meeting the local kids, riding skateboards,” says the designer, “I like the process of learning about people and what’s going on. ‘they do where I go.”
In 2017, after 35 years of skateboarding, Ellington founded his Human Recreational Services label, beginning with a line of luxury footwear designed for “acts of recreation” that tell the stories of the people, places and experiences his career made him discover. It is however not a skate brand. “The brand itself has almost nothing to do with skateboarding, except it has everything to do with the community and the foundation of the brand.”
In 2019, Ellington partnered with Parisian designer Vaz Rajan, who helped him refine his experiments and ideas into functional designs. Although the two share the creative direction and design aspects of the label, Ellington is the “hunter and gatherer, bringing people in and bringing the vision”, while Rajan “deciphers and orchestrates how it all comes together”.
Why do I want it? Ellington has no formal education in shoe design, but he has an unparalleled talent for observing and learning from those around him. His almost unorthodox entry into the world of luxury shoe design allowed him to eschew convention and design styles that combine utilitarian comfort with bold elegance. From checkered slip-on loafers in black and white pony hair to buttery leather high-top sneakers, designs often combine classic shapes with plush materials. Unlike the skate shoes Ellington previously used to design, which were disposable in nature, with Human Recreational Services, he cares about creating shoes that outlast trends and seasons in style and quality.
The current collection, titled Future Primitive, is the last “chapter” of the label. While the previous collection midnight diamond explored the invigorated sense of glamor and adventure that came with emerging from the pandemic, Primeval Future is an ode to the 90s era that Ellington grew up idolizing. With this collection, the designer “started to be a bit more liberal with influences from skateboarding. There are many distressing treatments and different paint applications. However, the shoes are all made from fine Italian leathers and handcrafted in a small factory in Tuscany – a far cry from the Southern California skate parks where the designer spent his youth.
Ellington’s sensible observance of human connection is the foundation of human recreational services. As the brand grows, the designer hopes to continue leveraging his personal experiences to create products, beyond shoes, that connect and expand his community. “It’s largely me learning the process along the way, putting it into a distinguished product that can be an example of what I’ve learned,” says the designer. “In a way, to share some of the experiences I’ve had in life through this.”
Where can I find it? To humanrecreationalservices.com and retailers such as Ssense, Level Shoes, The Webster and more.