Takashi Imai is a designer and the director of MADFOOT!. On this fine day at his studio in Harajuku he tells how he got into sneakers and how MADFOOT! was started.
His first encounter with sneakers was over 25 years ago in 1980 at the age of 10. The sneakers are still fresh in his memory; the first pair he loved was a pair of PUMA SM Riders. His father’s interest in marathons around the same time complemented his interest in cool running shoes which he would pick up one pair after another. He remembers himself in childhood as an eager kid. He obsessively checked out shoe stores daily to see if they had anything cool in stock. He was never into toys or other things kids would ask their parents to buy them. He would only ask them to get him something when he found a good pair of sneakers worth picking up. He was even interested in where they were made. His curiosity was aroused if they displayed the labels “Made in France” or “Made in Germany”.
He began to work at several shoe stores, first as a sales person, then eventually as a shoe buyer in the early ‘90s. Back then he had the opportunity to find some shoes that one rarely sees nowadays, such as Nike Air Pythons, PUMA Beasts and the French Edition adidas Forums, to name only a few. He started getting sick of being a shoe buyer as he always had to follow the trend at a certain period, rather than the shoes he found interesting.
A turning point came all of a sudden when he got the opportunity to be an important part of creating the New Balance 580 x Mita Sneakers x Real Mad Hectic. Back then, collabs and special colourways were not as common as they are today. It was fresh and exciting to get involved in this new activity.
After this collaboration, he joined in on more special projects, such as the Atmos x Nike Air Force One and the Dunk amongst others. Again, as before, his interest waned as his work on collaborations began to feel run of the mill. These conflicts resulted in Imai starting his own shoe brand. In 2001, he established MADFOOT! with Maga-chin (President of Hectic/Director of Masterpiece).
There are always desperate battles. To design or to form sneakers is more difficult than Imai had imagined as all the processes are in three dimensions. He says that he has seen so many shoes and so it is not that hard to come up with an idea. Even though he has the ideal shape in his mind, the stage at which to actually make this idea into reality is no easy matter.
MADFOOT! now has over twenty different styles and countless amounts of colourways. Imai perceives his job as that of a designer of shoes, making dope-looking pairs and also ones that he himself would want to wear. His role is not to try to develop new technology or to search for even greater comfort (a certain comfort is guaranteed by his shoe factory and he has realised that people prefer cool-looking sneakers rather than technologically advanced sneakers).
Over the last four years, MADFOOT! has concentrated on laying the groundwork. Lately, MADFOOT! has received a good reaction from people overseas. They do not think there is a limitation for shoes no matter where you are as long as you have a love of sneakers. Imai says they he does not know what makes people get into what he creates or produces. The answer is easy though. He gets people excited with what he does.
Opened in a back alley of Harajuku in 2005. Designed and created by MADFOOT! with the help of NGAP. All the items in the store have been carefully selected and hand-picked with Imai’s experiences from visiting shoe stores in all parts of the world and from his own point of view. Shoes that were previously only sold at sports shops are now displayed in select shops. MADFOOT! is challenging to be perfect in the way a shoe store should be. Have a go at winning the superfecta!
MADFOOT! has been offering its shoes in the same way a clothing company provides material. Like a designer buys blank t-shirts so he can print onto them, MADFOOT! became a canvas, or an output, for designers to express their ideas. The collaboration is between friends and MADFOOT! never fails to instill its ideas in collaborations with others.
This article appeared in Issue 7 of Sneaker Freaker. Buy it here