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c an you kick it? m e e t 1 0 g u y s Wh o h av e L e F t i n d eL i bL e F o o t p r i n t s o n s n e a k e r culture .   by ben Jamin Le szcz
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 THE TASTEmAKEr
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Hiros H i fujiwara
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 L o c at i o n : t o k y o
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Fav o r i t e pa i r : n i k e F o o t scape
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Hiroshi Fujiwara, who has
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 collaborated with Levi’s,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Burton, Converse, and Nike,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 has been called both the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 godfather of Harajuku culture
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 and the man who brought
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 hip-hop to Japan. He is the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 head of Fragment Design.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 How are you so good at
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    How long Have you
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    collected sneakers?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    i don’t really collect them; i
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    just wear them. many people
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    buy two pairs of sneakers—
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    one to wear, one to collect.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    i understand this. they like
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    to share in a community.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    How mucH do you tHink
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 predicting wHat people             about tHe commercial
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 will like? people don’t            aspect of sHoe design?
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 know what they like. if there’s    i don’t. i just design what i
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 a new sneaker, people don’t        want to wear. nike under-
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 want to say, “i like it.” they     stands me, so [they] let me
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 are waiting for someone else       design, and then they think
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 to say something. and i can        about the market. they make
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 say it first. i try to be really   a few hundred or thousand,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 honest, so people trust my         and if many people like them,
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 taste. now, if i say, “that’s a    they will make more.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 good sneaker,” many people

                                                                                                                                         THE arTisT
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 say, “oh, i thought so. i didn’t   so tHe wild popularity
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 say it before, but i thought       of tHe air force ones
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 so.”                               you designed is just
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    luck? the air Force one was
                                                                                                                            pieter “ parra” janssen                                                                              wHere’s tHe sneaker                already very popular before
                                                                                                                            L o c at i o n : am s t e r d a m c oL L e c t i o n s i z e : 5 0 pa i r s                          world at now? compa-               me. anyway, it’s not the shoe
                                                                                                                            Fav o r i t e pa i r : re m a d e v i n ta g e WaF F L e c o rt e z n i k e s                        nies were doing too many           that i really like. i don’t
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 reissues and colorways. the        hate it, but i much prefer to
                                                                                                                            Pieter “Parra” Janssen           in touch with nike.               some products that i don’t        movement became too big,           do something new.
                                                                                                                            started skateboarding at         i did some nikes, and then        understand. but if i start        and people left. i’m sure it’ll
                                                                                                                            age 10, competing seriously      some etnies. i was really         thinking like that, i will end    come back again in five            wHy do you enjoy
                                                                                                                            until his mid-20s, when he       happy when vans asked             up very bitter. i’m trying to     or 10 years. it’s natural; it’s    designing sneakers?
                                                                                                                            switched his focus to art.       because it’s one of my            keep it romantic.                 like everything. Like art or       everyone needs sneakers.
                                                                                                                            These days, he’s best known      favorite brands; i used to                                          watches or whatever people         ninety percent of the shoes
                                                                                                                            for his iconic club posters      be sponsored by them.             wHat was your inspira-            collect—there are changes.         i wear are sneakers, so i’m
                                                                                                                            and flyers, his apparel line,                                      tion in designing tHese                                              happy to make sneakers
                                                                                                                            rockwell Clothing, and his       wHat’s tHe connection             sHoes? pure skateboarding.                                           that i want to wear. i’m going
                                                                                                                            sneaker designs for the likes    between art and skat-             on one pair it even says,                                            to wear sneakers forever.
                                                                                                                            of Nike and Vans.                ing? i think it’s a freedom       don’t forget to actually skate
                                                                                                                                                             thing, not wanting to work        in these.
                                                                                                                            wHat was tHe first pair          for somebody. skating
                                                                                                                            of sHoes tHat you really         relates to art because it’s       How does living in
                                                                                                                            loved? the first skate shoes     an individual thing.              amsterdam inform your
                                                                                                                            i had were secondhand air-                                         work? it’s a bit of seedi-
                                                                                                                            walks. they were two sizes       is tHere a contradic-             ness, a bit of dark humor, a

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     p h ot o gr a p h e d by k e nta r o o s hi o
                                                                                                                            too big, and there was glue      tion between tHe                  bit of sexual stuff, because
                                                                                                                            on them. i wore them day         skateboarding culture             this city oozes that. a certain
                                                                                                                            and night until they literally   of rebellion and tHe              amount of absurdity. i don’t
                                                                                                                            fell apart.                      big-business reality of           know exactly, but i know for
                                                                                                                                                             it? definitely. i’m collaborat-   sure i’d make different stuff
                                                                                                                            How did you get into             ing with vans, my youthful        if i lived in Los angeles.
                                                                                                                            sneaker design?                  dream. though vans still
                                                                                                                            my friends own the sneaker       has that skateboarding core,
                                                                                                                            store patta, and they put me     they’re huge. and they make

                                                                                                                                                                                      photographed by naomi nuyten
                                                                                                                                                            T H E S T o r E
                                                                                                                                                            o W N E r S
                                                                                                                                                            oliver mak, jay gordon, dan n.
                                                                                                                                                            L o c at i o n : b o s t o n Fav o r i t e pa i r :
                                                                                                                                                            m a k: co n v e r s e J a c k p u r c eL L s W i t h
                                                                                                                                                            c h e c k pL a i d L i n i n g & t r i m
                                                                                                                                                            g o r d o n: o r i g i n aL ni k e a i r m a x 9 5
                                                                                                                                                            d a n: Jo r d a n i v
                                                                                                                                                            Since opening Bodega in            ones. i was 12. i was sitting
                                                                                                                                                            may 2006, native Bostonians        on a basketball court, and
                                                                                                                                                            oliver mak, Jay Gordon,            this dude came up to
                                                                                                                                                            and Dan N. have become             me wearing them. everyone
                                                                                                                                                            some of the most revered           just stopped and looked.
                                                                                                                                                            shop owners—and most               it was amazing.
                                                                                                                                                            in-demand collaborators
                                                                                                                                                            —in the sneaker universe.          is it tougH cHoosing
                                                                                                                                                            They’ve worked with                between tHe dopest
                                                                                                                                                            reebok, Saucony, Puma,             sneakers and tHe ones

                                                               THE GU r U
                                                                                                                                                            Converse, adidas, and              you tHink will sell?
                                                                                                                                                            rockport, among others.            om: it’s too bad that the
                                                                                                                                                                                               best stuff isn’t always what
                                                                                                                                                            wHat inspired tHe                  moves. but this isn’t a
                                                          j e f f n g , a . k . a . j e f f s ta p l e                                                      concept for bodega —               volume business. it’s about
                                                          L o c at i o n : n eW y o r k c i t y c oL Le c t i o n si z e : 4 5 0 pa i r s                   a sHoe store Hidden                contributing to the dialogue.
                                                          ( “ a L L Wi t h a p oLa r o i d ta p e d t o t h e F r o n t oF th e b o x . ” )                 beHind a functioning
                                                          Fav o r i t e pa i r : n i k e p i g e o n du n k                                                 grocery store? om:                 consensus is tHat tHe
                                                                                                                                                            bodegas are ubiquitous in          limited-edition sneaker
                                                          Jeff Ng’s career began          it was literally a childhood   there’s a lot of wackness. it’s    new york city, so there’s a        bubble Has burst. is tHat
                                                          in 1997, when he snuck          dream come true. i would       so oversaturated. there are        reference to the birthplace of     bad news for you?
                                                          into the silkscreen lab at      fantasize about what it was    so many stores, magazines,         sneaker culture. and meta-         dn: From a business stand-
                                                          Parsons design school with      like behind those doors. but   blogs. everyone is a sneaker       phorically, a sneaker store is     point, hype is good because
                                                          a pillowcase full of blank      it’s also like seeing how      designer now, literally, with      like a market with perishable      it keeps the revenue coming.
                                                          T-shirts. He is now the head    a magic trick is done—it’s     nike id. Five years ago, you       goods. What’s more perish-         but in another sense, it’s good
                                                          of Staple Design.               kind of a spoiler.             used to be able to walk into       able than fashion? it has a        that it’s peaked, because it
                                                                                                                         a room and murder people           nice illicit quality as well; it   weeded out the people who
                                                          wHen did you get into           wHy was tHe nike               with your shoes. now it’s like,    feels like it should be illegal.   were in it for superficial
                                                          sneakers? it’s been an          pigeon dunk, wHicH you         “oh. you’re that dude.”                                               reasons. now you have the
                                                          addiction since sixth grade.    designed in 2005, sucH                                            did you always Have a              people that have always
                                                          my first job was processing     a landmark? at the release,    wHere’s tHe sneaker                strong connection witH             been there—the people who
      p h o t o g r a p h e d b y peggy ann macdonne LL   film in a one-hour photo        the lineup turned into a       world going? now that              sneakers? Jg: i remember           are in it for the love.
                                                          studio, and with every check,   mini-riot. the nypd came.      sneaker culture has hit this       the first time i saw air Force
                                                          i’d go to Foot Locker. i was    there were weapons found       mainstream pinnacle, you
                                                          buying sneakers once a          and arrests made. it was on    have independent people
                                                          week. my parents thought i      the front page of the paper,   who are saying, “Fuck what’s
                                                          was nuts.                       and people all of sudden saw   going on? i want to make
                                                                                          what was going on in the       my own shit.” it’s how street
                                                          were your friends into          sneaker world. now, we have    culture always happens.
                                                          it? in high school, the         guys who work for citibank
                                                          [other kids] were like, “how    and merrill Lynch spending     wHat’s next from you?
                                                          come you never wear             their bonuses on footwear.     We recently signed a deal
                                                          the same sneakers twice?”       before that, it was just       with airwalk and payless
                                                                                          straight-up sneakerheads.      shoes. it’s for all the kids who
                                                          How was your first visit                                       look at hypebeast everyday,

120                                                       to nike Headquarters,
                                                          in beaverton, oregon?
                                                                                          wHat’s your read on
                                                                                          sneaker culture today?
                                                                                                                         but can’t afford to drop 250
                                                                                                                         bucks on a pair of shoes.

                                                                                                                                                                      photographed by derek vincent
                                                                 THE DJ
                                                 pedro “busy p” winter
                                                 Location: paris coLLection size: 200+ pairs Favorite
                                                 pair: nike d.u.n.k.L.e. (u.n.k.L.e. x Futura x nike sb)
                                                 Pedro Winter, who DJs          municate, but really, they’re     be different. nike id is great.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                     photo g r aph ed b y c h r i s sh o n ti n g
      p h o t o g r a p h e d b y Fred rambaud
                                                 under the alias Busy P, was    getting closer and closer.        it proposes to kids: try to
                                                 Daft Punk’s manager for                                          create. don’t wear the same
                                                 12 years. Ed Banger, the       wHat connection do you            shoes as your friends.
                                                 label he started in 2002, is   Have to skateboarding,
                                                 home to some of the world’s    tHe otHer element of              wHat do you tHink about
                                                 biggest electronica acts,      sneaker culture? i spent          tHe kids selling your
                                                 including Justice.             10 years of my life on a          af1s for $500 on ebay?
                                                                                skateboard. i skated in the       i’ve seen $1,000! spending
                                                 wHat appealed to you           late ’80s and early ’90s,         that much money on shoes
                                                 about participating in         when airwalk was a major          is extreme. but this thing of
                                                 nike’s 1world collec-          thing. i was crazy about          queuing at the stores to buy
                                                 tion? designing shoes          those shoes.                      the shoes, and then reselling     T H E              D E S I G N Er
                                                 is something that’s very                                         them? i can’t condemn it. We      sung cH oi
                                                 different from my business     wHicH culture would               knew it would get crazy. but      L o c at i o n : L o s a n g eL e s c oLL ection
                                                 and my passion, so i did it    you say your af1s repre-          we just do our thing, and we      s i z e : 3 0 0 + pa i r s Fav o r i t e pair:
                                                 for fun. and i’m interested    sent? rather than reflecting      let the kids do their thing.      v i n ta g e o r i g i n aL ro d L av ers
                                                 in the way that music, art,    a culture or being influenced
                                                 fashion, and sneakers can      by skateboarding or hip-hop,      wHat’s next for you?              Sung Choi, who moved from       shoe hybrid is the main
                                                 all mix together.              the shoes reflect a moment        We have new projects with         Seoul to Queens in 1979,        thing brewing. a lot of
                                                                                in time.                          nike and etnies. We’re            completed a degree in           independents are creating
                                                 was it odd for someone                                           going to try something a bit      economics before helping a      a product that’s not coming
                                                 wHo comes from tHe             do you wisH tHat nike             more adult than our aF1,          friend create Triple 5 Soul     from the shoe monsters.
                                                 world of electronica to        Had made more tHan 400            which was for crazy freaks        in 1989. After stints with      it’s refreshing. the big boys
                                                 design a sHoe associated       pairs? We could have done         like us. now, we are trying       the clothing line PNB, which    are playing catch-up.
                                                 witH Hip-Hop? maybe for        more, but it’s nice that people   to be classier. We’re becom-      he founded, and DC Shoes,
                                                 some people, hip-hop and       who have the shoes feel spe-      ing adults.                       where he was a designer, he     wHat’s tHe relationsHip
                                                 electronica are different      cial. i like the crazy limited                                      launched Clae in 2001.          between sneaker design
                                                 worlds that can’t com-         editions, because people can                                                                        and tHe real world?
                                                                                                                                                    wHen did you start              some footwear designers
                                                                                                                                                    tHinking about design?          in the ’90s had no perception
                                                                                                                                                    i learned fashion before i      of the culture. the perfect
                                                                                                                                                    learned english. i used to      example is the kobe adidas
                                                                                                                                                    work at my parents’ friends’    ii, modeled after the audi tt.
                                                                                                                                                    menswear store in harlem        the shoe looks like a toaster!
                                                                                                                                                    every weekend.
                                                                                                                                                                                    do you tHink tHe
                                                                                                                                                    How did your vision             limited-edition tHing
                                                                                                                                                    for clae evolve out of          got out of Hand?
                                                                                                                                                    your experience at dc?          there have definitely been
                                                                                                                                                    For four years at dc i was      too many unwarranted
                                                                                                                                                    trying to slim down the skate   collaborations. it’s cheating
                                                                                                                                                    shoe—it looked like a loaf      the footwear. but we go
                                                                                                                                                    of bread. i created clae        full circle, and there’s a
                                                                                                                                                    to address the void between     trend now for classically
                                                                                                                                                    sneakers and shoes.             styled footwear. it’s about
                                                                                                                                                                                    understated design. to get
                                                                                                                                                    do you tHink tHat void          the message across, you
                                                                                                                                                    still exists? right now,        can scream—or you can
                                                                                                                                                    i feel like the sneaker–dress   whisper.
                                                                   cH ris aylen
                                                                                  T H E c o l l E cT o r
                                                                   L o c at i o n : L o n d o n c oL L e c t i o n s i z e : 3 2 0 pa i r s
                                                                   Fav o r i t e pa i r : h y p e r bL u e n i k e ai r m a x
                                                                   Chris Aylen worked three
                                                                   jobs during college to support
                                                                   his sneaker habit. The
                                                                                                    tongues out. if you were
                                                                                                    painting graffiti, you’d write
                                                                                                    your name on the back of
                                                                                                                                                                           wHat’s tHe HigHligHt of
                                                                                                                                                                           your collection? i have
                                                                                                                                                                           about 50 pairs of the air max
                                                                   founder of CrookedTongues.       your shoes, and you’d want                                             plus in different colorways.
                                                                   com and a former consultant      something that wouldn’t soak                                           and i’ve got a lot of technical
                                                                   to Nike, Puma, New Balance,      up too much paint. i was into                                          running shoes from the
                                                                   and adidas, Aylen is among       skateboarding, and i had                                               ’90s, when brands were
                                                                   the world’s foremost sneaker     different shoes for that, too.                                         trying experimental things.
                                                                                                    was tHere an overlap                                                   wHat’s your collecting
T H E                E D I T o r                                   wHen did you get into            between tHe Hip-Hop and                                                pHilosopHy? i don’t follow
s i m o n “w o o d y ” w o o d                                     sneakers? i remember             skateboarding worlds?                                                  the crowd. i’m interested in
L o c at i o n : m eL b o u r n e                                  seeing the rock steady           though they mesh now, they                                             a collection that tells you
Fav o r i t e pa i r : pu m a b La z e oF                          crew on tv when they first       didn’t back then. a lot of                                             something about a person’s
g L o ry ( “i d e s i g n e d i t Fo r                             played London in 1983. i         my skating friends had no                                              character.
p u m a . it ’ s t h e m o s t b e a u t iFu L                     was seven or eight. i got into   interest in hip-hop. i’d take
shoe i’ve ever seen.”)                                             hip-hop, and started b-          a spare pair of shoes in                                               How Have you stayed
                                                                   boying. i started asking         my bag to change into once                                             passionate for so long?
Simon “Woody” Wood worked         of streetwear, there have        for sneakers instead of toys     i put my skateboard down.                                              every now and then i’ll see
in advertising, fashion, and      always been peaks and            as birthday gifts.                                                                                      a pair, and it’s a weird
film before launching the         troughs. it just takes a whole                                    wHere do you keep                                                      feeling, like, “ah, i like
globally influential website      bunch of new kids to come        wHat was tHe connection          all your sHoes? my                                                     those.” and you may not get
and magazine sneaker              along and kick it up again.      between sneakers and             apartment is absolutely                                                them then and there, but
Freaker on a whim, in 2002.                                        Hip-Hop? it was all about        full of them. they’re on top                                           two weeks later you’re still
                                  wHo’s got tHe edge rigHt         looking the freshest. if you     of bookshelves, under the                                              thinking about them.
wHat inspired you to              now? nike’s number one           were b-boying, you wanted to     bed, in the wardrobe, in the
start snEakEr FrEakEr?            for a reason, but adidas         have fat laces and your          attic.... they’re everywhere.
my idea was to get as many        has really picked up their
free shoes as possible. really,   game. at the moment, it’s all
it comes from my love of          quite conservative—it’s all
footwear. i moved to London       geography-teacher shoes.
in the early ’90s, around the     how do you make something
time the air rift came out. it    stand out when you’re
was this split-toe shoe that      making things out of beige
really polarized people, but      canvas?
it epitomized an excitement
about shoe design.                wHat do you do witH
                                  all tHe extra sHoes
How Has public                    you Have in tHe office?
perception of sneaker             in our old office, we threw
culture cHanged? it’s             maybe 200 shoes on a power
funny; in the space of two        line. it looked amazing;
years, sneaker collecting         people were stopping in
went from a nerdy thing to        the street. one day, some
the coolest thing. online         kids taped four broomsticks
culture really accelerated        together, and put a flame

                                                                                                                                p h ot o gr a p h e d by p h iL ay L e n
that process.                     on the end and burned the
                                  laces to get the shoes down.
wHat’s your opinion of            unfortunately, they set fire
today’s sneaker market?           to the power lines. the
i think it’s at a point where     entire neighborhood nearly
it needs some fresh energy.       burned down. We won’t do
if you look at the history of     that again.
skateboarding or the history
            photographed by virginia cumm i n s

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