Mita Sneakers creative director Shigeyuki Kunii would love to work with a sports personality or on the Olympics
Known among sneaker fans as a destination for the finest sneakers from top labels such as Nike, Adidas, New Balance and Onitsuka Tiger, Japanese multi-label sneaker store Mita Sneakers in Tokyo is also a haven for unique collaborations.
Since 2000, the label has created and designed shoes with brands such as Reebok, Le Coq Sportif, Puma and Asics. Last year alone, it had 24 collaborations with other brands.
The label's creative director Shigeyuki Kunii, 40, says he likes that each brand and collaboration bring something different to the table. He has been with Mita Sneakers for 20 years and is solely in charge of all its collaborations.
Depending on the collaboration, the shoes are sometimes limited editions which are available only in Japan at Mita stores or on Mita's website, mita-sneakers.co.jp. Other times, they are made in bigger batches and sold globally through the shoe brands.
Mr Kunii, who was here last month for the launch of the New Balance 580 20th Anniversary pop-up gallery at *Scape, says: "I like that a collaboration involves a discussion among multiple parties. It is not just about what I want, but also about the brand and the customer. It is a more creative process and I think that is fun."
Mita sneakers was founded about 60 years ago and has three stores in Japan. The company originally produced and sold traditional Japanese sandals, but moved into the sneaker business when the sports shoe became popular in Japan in the 1980s and 1990s.
The New Balance 580 model holds a special place in Mr Kunii's heart as it was Mita's first collaboration.
In the late 1990s, he was inspired by collaborations among sports labels and retailers in the United States to propose similar projects for brands in Japan.
By then, Mita Sneakers had established a good reputation among sneakerheads and brands would go to him for feedback on their shoes.
New Balance, which is American, was one such brand and when he approached it in 2000 for a collaboration, it readily said yes.
Mr Kunii chose to work on the 580 because the model's silhouette was designed as an off-road trail running shoe and he was interested in off-road running at the time.
The collaboration worked well for both companies.
For New Balance, it boosted the image of the 580, which had not been selling well. Till today, the model remains a popular staple of the brand.
For Mita Sneakers, the collaboration made other labels take notice and led to many other similar projects.
Mr Kunii, a bachelor, says his dream collaboration would be something related to sports.
"The collaborations I have done are mostly lifestyle-oriented and based on fashion. But a sneaker is originally a sport shoe. If I could have the chance to work with a sports personality or event such as the Olympics, I would be very happy."
Things in his bag
I bought this in Tokyo. I wanted to try out the brand because it is such a well-known heritage brand. I wanted to use the camera and understand why the brand has such a good reputation.
CHROME HEARTS WALLET WITH WALLET CHAIN BY JAPANESE FASHION LABEL JAM HOME MADE AND WHIZ
Chrome Hearts has been popular for a long time and I like that its products are evergreen. I also like that they age very well. This is my second wallet from the label. I lost the first one after owning it for a week, so that is why I now have a wallet chain attached.
NOVELTY ITEMS FROM MITA SNEAKERS
I always carry these stickers and keychains around and give them to friends or people whom I meet.
I have tried many brands, but I like this pair because it is the most durable and comfortable.
BEATS ELECTRONICS HEADPHONES
I have had these for about two years. I tend to lose my headphones when I travel, but I have not lost this pair so far, perhaps because they are so big.
NEW BALANCE TOTE BAG
I always carry a smaller tote bag around in case I buy more things. I also use it to organise my stuff within my bigger bag.
I got this from Tokyo. I carry it in case I need another bag for more things. It is waterproof, so it is useful for any occasion.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2016, with the headline 'Getting a kick out of tie-ups'. Print Edition | Subscribe
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