What part of Japan did you grow up in and what role did your upbringing play in your design concept process?
I was born in Saitama Perfecture in 1981. We really did not have any shops that sold clothes and sneakers in my teens but Harajuku, Shibuya, and Shinjuku were only an hour away by train. Being in close enough proximity of those fashion-forward cities brought and drew plenty of inspiration for me in my childhood.
What influences do you take into consideration when developing a design concept? Music, art, design, culture, etc.
In my 20s, I would go and seek out different cultures and soak them in. To this day I still go and seek out new things such as: stores, restaurants, bars, places, etc. I'm very blessed to also enjoy the luxury of traveling for work, so for every country I visit, I try and understand and let the culture marinate. I try and keep an open mind about everything and further analyze those things that intrigue me.
How do you feel about the shift in the street/sneaker culture due to the vast accessibility of information through the internet?
Twenty years ago we didn’t have many choices in sneakers. This was a time before the internet so if a magazine would feature a special "limited edition" shoe, everybody would flock to get their hands on their pair(s). Now with the internet, information travels so quickly. There's such a big marketplace now with so many sneaker brands and releases. I think the market is very saturated and its hard to stand out and create a "Mega Hit" in this day and age.
Where do you think the future lies in street inspired design within footwear and within the industry in general?
Trends usually come in cycles of 15 years and right now the 90’s fashion and sneakers are trending. Its a very interesting and fun time as the kids who haven't really experienced that era are influencing this style and making it their own.
What brands do you feel are making the most noise in this day’s market?
This is just my opinion but last year I think it was Adidas. I think this March the market is dominated by Air Max. In Japan, Nike and Adidas have always dominated the market and I would like to see a new company come up as well.
Do you think there will be a resurgence of authenticity in product design conceptualizing?
Right now the standard is hype driven by social media and unfortunately I don’t think that will change. On the other hand, you are able to be different and be seen and heard now. The younger generation can create their own hype and be successful without any money. The possibilities are endless.
What artists do you think play a strong role in the style of today's youth in Japan? Do you feel this translates closely within the American market as well?
Right now in Japan, there are lots of emerging street icons and artists. I think music and sneakers still go hand in hand on a global scale. In the younger generation KOHH, CANDY TOWN are a few names I hear a lot in the art scene.
Who is your favorite designer?
It would be Errolson Hugh of ACRONYM®. His designs are very refined and purposeful.
What’s your favorite sneaker?
It would be the Air Jordan 1 Chicago 1994. The Manga Slam Dunk influenced me on getting my first pair during its prime. To this day I would have to say, the Air Jordan 1 is still my favorite sneaker. I don’t think that will ever change.
What’s your favorite Air Max model?
I wanted to say the Air Max 1 but actually my favorite would be the Air Max 90 Infrared. It is the base shoe for the Air Max 90 Duck Camo and Air Max 90 Bleeched Denim that I designed. I love the fluorescent look of the "Infrared" color from Nike. Its a beautiful balance of Pink and Red.
What words of wisdom do you have for striving young designers?
When I was buying sneakers in my college years, I would always imagine cool sneakers that I thought I wanted Nike to design. Then I started working at a sneaker store and I still think that way. I think you should always have goals and dreams. Time goes by so fast and we should always cherish it. I always tell myself you only live once.
What do you think the difference between the sneaker culture is between Japan and America?
I usually travel to NYC about 3-4 times a year and always feel a huge difference between the two cultures. The size of the culture in the states is very obvious, but I think the backbone of the U.S. market is very sports embedded, something not so adherent in the Japanese market. But Japan like the unprecedented Air Max 95 craze in the late 90’s I am confident in individualism and I am determined to use our voice and style to diversify our taste in the sneaker culture.
I think Japan's influence is huge on the world's sneaker culture and you were at the forefront of all that. What do you think the future holds with this new wave?
Until now it was Japan, China, and Hong Kong. Eastern-Asia’s sneaker culture is strong but I think its going to move West with India being the new leaders. For example, 1,500 people lined up at a store in Bangkok, Thailand for the atmos Air max 1 elephant. I was so astonished by a release of that magnitude.
Right now the sneaker market is divided between the designs with newest technology for athletes and also for designs for fashion. Because of this the companies are running things very differently. What are your thoughts about this?
I think if you adapt with the times and tastefully blend the good of both new and old ideas, something beautiful can be made. For example, retro uppers with the newest technology soles, such as the Air Max LD-Zero, boasts the perfect balance between retro and modern design. The Air Max LD-Zero has been such a huge success in the Japanese market. I think everything is about the perfect marriage between these elements.