Sneaker Freaker touched down in a hot and steamy Hong Kong last week for the launch of the Hypebeast x PUMA ‘Dim Sum Project’. In between laying tracks through Mong Kok’s maze of sneaker stores and getting our Asian karaoke virginity broken, SF also sat down with PUMA footwear designer Jon Tang and Hypebeast managing editor Eugene Kan to learn how the new colab came together.
SF: I know you’re Canadian born and bred, Eugene, so why’d you move to Hong Kong? Is the dim sum really that good here?
Eugene: I came here to play soccer, a shitty level of professional soccer! I had so much free time because you only train two to three hours a day, and you’re not really balling like you’re playing in the EPL. I started writing for Kix-Files in 2006, I was just doing something I really enjoyed and it paid off. I still think about it now with the people that come through Hypebeast, the people that genuinely do it because they love it. The unpaid intern that you beat around, you understand that the pure passion takes you a long way. That’s how it started for me too.
SF: Coming from a soccer background, how did your love for sneakers evolve?
Eugene: Performance in footwear. I thought that relationship was so cool, how performance could be enhanced by equipment. I always gravitated towards things like visible air.
SF: How did it differ for you Jon, coming from a design-based background?
Jon: I started out in graphic design. School taught me how to think like a designer. I started working for PUMA in the marketing department as a graphic designer, so I was always surrounded by influences. I love doing packaging design and slowly seeing the 2D world wrap into a 3D world – seeing the translation that was created. I love shoes, I love 3D, and so I applied for a footwear design position with PUMA.
SF: PUMA has such a strong stable of classics from Clydes to Suedes, how did you make the decision to work with the Blaze OG for this collaboration?
Eugene: For me, Clydes and Suedes are limited in what you can manipulate on them. From a design perspective, the Blaze offered so much more to work with.
Jon: PUMA wanted us to work with the Blaze. They loved the heritage the shoe already had and we also wanted to work with the LTWT version. It all just came together perfectly, taking classic and pushing it with the idea of performance. The OG is classic and simple, while the Lightweight has this touch of tech and innovation.
Eugene: People are slowly starting to understand that paradigm shift from bulky tooling. It’s the unspoken contrast, the high and low concept Hypebeast has often aspired to represent. Streetwear meets high fashion! When you look for contrast in unassuming ways, you will always find something interesting.
SF: Comfy. Visually representing a dim sum on a shoe couldn’t have been easy. While the Siu Mai is rather straight forward, the Har Gao’s (shrimp) design is quite complex. Talk us through the process.
Jon: We did a number of trials, applying images of shrimp on the shoe. It didn’t really work out at first.
Eugene: The early samples looked pretty wack!
Jon: Yeah. We began to look at macro images of shrimp, basically looking into what makes the shrimp a shrimp. We found a lot of correlation to tiger stripes in the shrimp. So we said let’s take this idea and re-purpose it with shrimp colours – it’s a refreshed shrimp camo.
SF: With over 150 types of dim sum, what was it about these two that stood out for you to be the representation for the colab.
Eugene: When it comes to the institution of dim sum, there are no other dishes that are ordered in unison so frequently. It’s because they are so similar. If you look at it broken down, the base ingredient is different, but it’s your peas and carrots.
Jon: If you don’t eat it, it’s like you don’t eat dim sum! It just made perfect sense, it had to come together like this.
SF: Word, bird. Eugene, Hypebeast has exploded onto the youth culture scene. What does the future hold for you guys?
Eugene: There are so many great publications in the print world, ones that truly embody print and online respectively, like the New York Times. Those publications are what I think Hypebeast should aspire to be. We started out as a bunch of dudes that really had no idea how to progress in this industry. Now we’re a bit older, we push ourselves to maintain our ethics of how we try educate our consumer. I’m 150 percent behind education. I fucked the dog in university! I didn’t realise how important it was til I got out. Now youth culture is a barometer for so many things, I don’t want people to look back at Hypebeast in 10 years time and think, ‘It was just a place to buy shit’. Our aim is to find the creative median, balancing viral content that is easy to share with content that can teach or possibly inspire people.
SF: I hear you loud and clear. If you’re not schooling the youth with wisdom, that’s not keeping it real, that’s keeping it wrong. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty though and talk sneaks, the people have questions that demand answers. What were the first shoes that set it off for you?
Eugene: Nike Dunk NL Undefeated. Favourite shoes ever! Haha, watch Jon try to be politically correct here.
Jon: For 20 dollars of my own money, and back in fifth grade 20 dollars was a lot of money, I bought a pair of second hand Nike Air Uptempo 2’s in the white/green/blue colourway. I rode BMX in those, played soccer and literally kicked around in those ’til the Air bubbles blew out!
SF: The perfect girl, is she wearing sneakers or heels?
Eugene: Sneakers, I know the health dangers in heels! They look nice but when they take their shoes off their feet are all mangled and shit!
Jon: A good mix of both
SF: Campouts are a big part of the sneaker game. What shoe have you braved the elements for?
Eugene: I remember a few years ago, I wanted to camp out for the Michael Lau x Nike Dunk SB Low Wood. Dude it was stupid, there were people camping out for six or seven nights straight before the release! That shit was crazy back then.
Jon: I hate crowds, I don’t even camp out for Black Friday.
Eugene: I was never big into sneaker culture for consumption, I just liked what it represented, I didn’t necessarily feel the need to buy shoes to be a participant!
Jon: It’s all about understanding, about what they’re representing, about what they’re trying to show.
SF: If you had to choose a favourite from your colab, would it be the Lightweight or the OG Blaze?
Eugene: (Wearing the Har Gao) I didn’t put enough consideration into my wardrobe, if I had darker pants I would have worn the OG!
Jon: I like the execution of the LTWT with the tech and innovation in it. Style-wise though I like the OG, it’s one of my favourite shoes.
SF: If you could wear one PUMA shoe for the rest of your life, which would it be?
Jon: Suedes by far!!
Eugene: What are you doing at this event then! Just kidding.
SF: What about you Eugene; one shoe, till the day you die?
Eugene: Hey man… I’m probably gonna go with… Smaat! S-M-A-A-T look it up. Weird!