How Mihara Yasuhiro Helped Change the Sneaker World
Despite the fact that Mihara Yasuhiro began his career designing footwear, he remains relatively unknown to the mass market that is today's sneaker world. However, to those of you who dig avant-garde flavour, experimentation and beautiful design, you'll probably know the Japanese designer quite well. One of his most notable contributions was his collaboration with PUMA that ran for many years, creating a collection of kicks that inspired many. Not only that, he was also involved on projects with DC Shoes. Through these, he experienced the mass sneaker market, yet his collaborations and namesake creations cater to an audience far from the mainstream crowd.
Now with over two decades under his belt, we had a chat to Mihara about his favourite sneakers, exactly what 'sublime meets ridiculous' means, and his Original Sole sneakers.
Where did your passion for footwear come from?
I started out designing shoes in 1996, and I have now progressed into designing clothes. While I was studying art, I felt as though I had a mission to harmonise people and art. When people use something, that is the essence of what ‘harmony’ means to me. And I think sneakers really symbolise that. This is also the reason why I continue to create artistic and experimental shoes. The sneaker world is very important to me, and I want to continue to expand the possibilities in this small world.
What were your favourite sneakers when you were growing up? Why?
Converse All Stars always existed as a symbol of sneakers for me. They were my favourite sneaker when I was growing up, because they not only had a good price but I could buy them anywhere.
Who was the customer you had in mind when creating footwear in the 90s, and has that customer changed over time? Initially I designed for innovative people. Over the years, through the natural passage of time, there have been many changes.
How did your ‘Original Sole’ sneakers come to life?
The evolution of sneakers and footwear continues to change alongside the evolution of technology. I wanted to have a new perspective on shoes, without distancing myself from digital data and new technology. My work in the big world of sneakers, such as my work with PUMA, has also had an influence. I wanted to stay away from the big ‘sneaker war’ created by the bigger brands, so I used 3D digital design and I manually made an unstable prototype using clay, which means I can create ‘sensible’ complex expressions.
Many of your creations look sculptural. In your eyes, are all your shoes made to be worn?
Yes, of course, they are all also very practical.
Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration is always found through doing experimental work.
You describe your brand as ‘sublime meets ridiculous’. What do you mean by that?
It’s a moment when conflicting things happen at the same time. To say it in a simpler way, it is my purpose to pursue the duality that different expressions can have, such as ‘everyday’ and ‘non-daily’ and ‘tragedy’ and ‘comedy’. It’s diverse, and has sought expression from various perspectives. That duality will continue to change into the future.
What did you take away from your collaborations with brands like DC Shoes and PUMA?
When you participate in collaboration you want it to result in a chemical reaction. I think that it makes sense for companies and designers with such different ideas to make innovative proposals. Yet, the recent boom of collaborations has fallen into a space that focuses heavily on marketing, resulting in two names just being forced together.
I started my collaboration with PUMA in 1999. Back then, many sportswear brands declared that they only designed for athletes, and wouldn’t collaborate with unknown designers such as myself. However, we succeeded, creating a market for ‘fashion and sports’. Other companies also helped to create this market, which expanded rapidly. Now collaborations are an everyday occurrence, to the point where they have become a strategy in which sports brands survive on.
When I first collaborated with DC Shoes, they hadn’t really done a lot of collaborative work before. Unlike PUMA, we weren’t out to change the world of sneakers, but it seemed like we changed DC’s outlook on the world objectively. So I enjoyed it very much.
You created a number of different shoes for PUMA. Do you have a favourite?
It was the model called the MY-6. It was created very early on, and looked like an egg in a bowl. It was very innovative, and it helped to inspire other sneaker designers and designs.
What is your go-to sneaker?
My Original Sole sneakers. However, I don’t want them to boom in popularity, so I keep the production limited, and sell them slowly and quietly.