By Josiah Chua
As one of Japan’s most iconic and oldest shoe companies, Onitsuka Tiger does something you won’t quite expect: they’re not afraid to veer away from traditional. The brand’s always in the forefront of introducing the element of fun — they’re masters at reinventing the classics, keeping each fresh piece stylish and current. From witnessing the latest kicks at the SS19 show, to admiring the dedication to function at the footwear factory, here’s an account of why the brand should be celebrated.
The esteemed brand’s Spring/Summer 2019 collection was unveiled in Tokyo, Japan’s Waseda University, at the Okuma Auditorium, which showcased a rather huge stage designed with plenty of mirrors built into the surrounding walls of the stage and floor. All these created a futuristic atmosphere within the space.
Among the stylish mix of fashion’s A-list media representatives and celebrities, we also had our Singapore faces who were flown in specially for this event. These included actress, Fiona Xie, who rocked a coordinated tartan look paired with sequins, and actor, Xubin, who layered a casual-looking blazer over his effortlessly attire. Our favourite bubbly Japanese actress and comedian, Naomi Watanabe, was also spotted at the show, in a bright yellow tracksuit no less.
So it’s a nice touch — quite a coincidence maybe — that on the runway, it was similarly a bright yellow tracksuit ensemble from Onitsuka Tiger’s SS19 collection that managed to catch all of our attention. The look was designed in full yellow matte sequins, and pays homage to Kill Bill, and of course, Bruce Lee’s iconic yellow one-piece.
With designer and brand creative director, Andrea Pompilio on board, it seems the brand is destined to move in a bolder direction; the man has been designing for the Japanese label in the last five years, though this year, he takes on the role of creative director as well. His bigger influence can be seen not only in the collection’s footwear, but also its apparel and accessories.
Following the yellow sequinned look, another eye-catching sequinned tracksuit, this time in full sparkly cobalt blue, also became the night’s highlight. Titled “Summer Love”, the collection was a mixture of 50s streetwear-inspired styling and layers that came with a splash of summer party vibes.
While the brand retained some of their classic striped Onitsuka Tiger sneakers, they’ve also introduced canvas high-cut sneakers — bound to be a popular hit — in monochrome hues, as well as in a tropical print canvas.
The brand presented a stunning show that, at the same time, introduced very accessible yet stylish pieces that can be incorporated into our daily wardrobe.
Pompilio is a firm believer in the freedom to express oneself through fashion, and says that he finds that expression — and inspiration — in the fashionable individuals on the streets of Tokyo. It’s known to the rest of the fashion industry that Tokyo breeds and encourages play, as well as an explorative spirit, through style, which is why it comes as no surprise to hear that the designer calls Tokyo his second home.
The Factory Tour
Over at the shoe factory, we witnessed the craftsmanship that goes into every Onituska Tiger sneaker. Here, they’re produced and dyed, and we got an introduction to the processes that go into the making of a pair of sneakers. Most shoes need to go through a process of cutting, stitching, dyeing and drying, which often require hand-finishing techniques to achieve a certain level of detail and precise finishing. The craftsmen here work by hand, ensuring that leather panels are hand-cut and painstakingly attached to complete the sneakers, for parts such as the logo-embossed leather strips.
The ASICS Museum
A tour at the museum in Kobe also gave us more insight into the brand, especially since it features a great deal of Onitsuka Tiger shoes. It’s here that you appreciate how the brand came about, through the history of their signature styles and designs made for athletes from all over the world.
Out of the many designs, the museum also archived the first-ever pair of ASICS basketball sneakers. The displays in the museum educate the viewers on the various cuts and designs that served the many journeys and successes of celebrated sportsmen. In light of the fashion-forward runway show, it’s a good reminder that the brand’s rich history isn’t about to go to waste — not any time soon.