Tokyo’s KIKS TYO was launched by creative director Shinichi Izaki a.k.a. hobby:tech and his muse, Aki Hoshino, one of Japan’s legendary bikini models.

Shinichi has created two websites for Kiks Tyo, one catering to the English market, and the other, a Japanese version looking a bit bootleg-esque, that is, until you navigate the pages and discover Shinichi’s impressive credentials as a world renowned sneaker collector. He has designed for big wigs including New Balance Japan, Nike, Vans, Adidas, Levis, Eames, United Arrows, Fred Perry, Beams, Honda, Warner Brothers and DC Comics.

A producer for Universal Music Japan, a professional DJ, host for Street Jack TV and columnist for the widely-popular Street Jack Magazine, Shinichi is, needless to say, a man of many talents.

“For the time being, we still have a lot to reveal to the world about Japan and the way we as Japanese see the world.”

Format: How old were you when you independently bought your first pair of sneakers. What made you fall in love with them?
Shinichi Izaki: I remember it was 1985, when I was 10 years old. The first pair of sneakers I bought was a pair of Air Jordan 1’s. I was so shocked and excited when I first saw MJ playing basketball, and ever since he’s been my hero. I did everything I could to earn money so I could get those AJ1’s.

Format: At this point in your career, what is more important, the music or owning the clothing company?
Shinichi Izaki: Wow, this one is tough. It’s like I have to choose either air or water to live. Music is one of the elements of my lifestyle. Just like sneakers. No music, No life. On the other hand, owning the company is very important because we have employees working with us and as an owner, I have a responsibility to look after them. I don’t know about the other companies, but for KIKS TYO, all the members are just like family including myself.


Format: What makes a good designer?
Shinichi Izaki: Passion, inspiration, and sense of humor.

Format: If you could collaborate with an haute couture designer who would it be and why?
Shinichi Izaki: Since each of the designers have their own taste, style and policy, I think it would be so much fun if we could collaborate with every designer out there, just to see how KIKS TYO would turn out through their senses. If there’s any chance or opportunity to make it happen, we’re willing to do it for sure. I just respect all the designers that are making it happen creatively.

Format: As a sneaker collector what do you look for in a collect worthy item?
Shinichi Izaki: AJ series, NB1500, 576 series, Puma Clydes, Adidas Super Stars. No doubt!


Format: What’s the difference between a sneaker lover and a sneaker collector?
Shinichi Izaki: Sneaker lovers are people who literally have love for their sneakers. Sneakers themselves mean everything to them. Value or rarity is not the priority. They just love the sneakers and they love to wear them.

On the other hand, sneaker collectors are all about value, rarity, and how fast can I get those shoes mentality. Those collectors usually don’t wear sneakers they consider rare or valuable. They are just satisfied to get them and maybe to brag to someone else.

I think they are both important for the sneaker culture to make it hot and to keep things interesting and evolving.

Format: How did you get involved with the G-Shock, New Balance & Aki Hoshino collaboration?
Shinichi Izaki: I’ve been working closely with Casio G-Shock for almost five years on their promotions. Actually I’m a director of the project. This year I started working with New Balance on their promotional projects as well. Aki Hoshino is a really good friend of mine, and I just thought it would be dream come true collaboration and really valuable promotion for all of them to make it happen. I don’t think anybody ever really imagined a sneaker-watch collaboration before though they are both big icons for the street fashion scene. Since the Aki Hoshino Tee was one of our signature items that really connected with fans of KIKS TYO, I thought “why not bring them all to one table?”


Format: From your earlier days with the company, tell us of a sneaker or piece of apparel you created that you are most proud of.
Shinichi Izaki: We’re proud of the New Balance project that you mentioned. All sneaker nuts walk around thinking about what we’d do if the opportunity ever came our way. So it was an honor, but like everyone we were somewhat prepared with ideas. We always wanted to apply universal design concepts that for one reason or another, NB never really tried. So we mixed elements like suede and patent, splatter, reverse colors (black/yellow, yellow/black), specially made lace locks, etc. The element of collaboration helped take things to a different level. The execution was perfect at the sample stage. NB Japan doesn’t really play around in terms of production. They went all out for us. We were so amped when we got the samples that we leaked a few images of what was coming. Since then the reception has been overwhelming. We just wanted to help create a trio of memorable sneakers. Hopefully we succeeded in that regard.

Format: What are the odds of KIKS TYO offering modeling campaigns to top urban models like Melyssa Ford? Do you see the company going that route for a wider North American appeal?
Shinichi Izaki: For the time being, we still have a lot to reveal to the world about Japan and the way we as Japanese see the world. So we hope that any appeal would be based on an attraction to what we know and what we show. It’s the same way that we look to brands, artists and shops from places like NYC, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Canada, Berlin and South East Asia to reveal their worlds from their vantage point. But we all connect somehow. That being said, could you hook it up?


Format: Do you think the sneaker design market is becoming saturated?
Shinichi Izaki: To view the market on a business level, yes. However I feel that there is limitless creative potential out there. There’s still a lot of room to move with regard to design, materials, applications, and a more seamless merging of performance and lifestyle.


Format: When it comes to making an apparel company successful, do you believe in strategic planning or creative instinct?
Shinichi Izaki: Both are essentially important. And to find success, whether that means sales, or reputation, or helping to cultivate or invigorate a scene, I believe that one should strive to think and act as a pioneer. Eventually those thoughts and those actions find there way into your strategy and into your plans. You find yourself striving to become “the first” as instinct. And that shows in the ways you go about creating. With this mindset, success should come, as failure isn’t part of the equation.

Originally, a lot of people around myself and KIKS TYO asked “why we would do something stupid” like have Aki pose with a pair of sneakers. To them, it just didn’t make sense. It was just a girl and a pair of sneakers. But we’re joining two different worlds that have never been fused with creative intent. Every single person in Japan knows Aki Hoshino. She is a sex symbol and a media icon. But how many people know about the sneaker world? How many everyday people could accept or understand such an otaku hobby, or any other related subculture for that matter? For some people in Japan, seeing Aki pose with the sneakers that they treasure is like salvation. It represents a kind of validation of their existence and their lives, an acceptance. Is it a fantasy? Yes. But it is also very much a reality. And below the surface, maybe the tees work to reveal something bigger than simply “sneakers and girls.”

Format: Now that you have all this under your belt, DJ, designer, recording artist, personality, what’s next?
Shinichi Izaki: Nobody knows what tomorrow might bring, but I’d like to continue building and introducing the world to KIKS TYO. We’re lucky to have friends who support us, and I always look forward to spending time in their local element. There are many other hats I’d like to try on down the road in the worlds of film, technology, publishing, sports, racing. I’d also like to help build and expose to the world the younger generation of creators that exists around us in Tokyo and through out Japan.

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