Interview: Tripping on the Nike SB Dunk ‘Magic Mushroom’ with Stingwater
Founded by enigmatic skate guru Daniel Kim, the Stingwater label has grown to become one of the more psychedelic imprints in the industry. With the release of the Nike SB Dunk Low ‘Magic Mushroom’ dilating plenty of pupils this week, we thought we’d take a trip with Kim to celebrate the drop.
Yes, there’s something in the Stingwater.
Tell us a little about the Stingwater label.
I landed a job at Nike in 2014 and was getting paid the most I’ve ever received for a salary. Looking back, it wasn’t that much but at the time it was a lot for me.
This new money changed my taste in certain things. I wasn’t drinking tap water anymore. Fiji and San Pellegrino were the new norm. Eventually, it got to the point where there were ‘expensive’ waters floating around in my room everywhere. They would become flat and didn’t have the sting (carbonation) anymore. That’s where I got the name Stingwater: from the enjoyment I got from the pain caused from chugging these rich sparkling waters. It stings the face.
What was it like growing up skating in D.C.?
I had to learn how to out run / outsmart the cops. I skated Freedom Plaza a lot and it was ‘illegal’ to do that there. But that’s where we all hung out and skated. That was our home, our fort.
What sneakers were you guys wearing in those days?
I skated mostly in DC shoes but the shoes I wore to school were Nike Dunks. After a few months of wearing them at school, I would skate in them. Something felt special about skating shoes I wasn’t supposed to skate in. I felt better when I landed tricks in my Nikes. White tee. Fitted hat.
How has the skate and sneaker scene changed throughout the years in D.C. and America more broadly?
Onto the Stingwater x Nike SB Dunk Low. Can you tell us about how this project came together?
During that time (2014–16) I was at Nike, they were grooming me to become a SB sales rep in NY. I spent a lot of time in sales meetings and, naturally, I’d turn to sketching Dunk designs in my notepad. Every once in a while I would share my design ideas with the team I worked with. The Air Max Safaris were one of my favourite shoes and I wanted to bring that ‘Safari’ print to the Dunk, but red mushroom. They said ‘Safari’ is a heritage print – not to be fucked with. It pained me to hear that.
One day, I was sitting next to Mark Parker’s sister-in-law (I think), and she asked me what I did here. I said sales and she said I looked like a designer. First time I ever heard that from anybody. I said that’s funny because that’s what I eventually want to do here. She asked me if I knew how to design but I was insecure and gave her a weak answer, ‘I really like designing things in my head or sketching but never learned illustrator or those types of programs’. She asked me how old I was, I said 27. She responded, ‘Oh… yeah might be too late’.
This interaction/moment changed my life. I knew I had to act fast and I knew what I wanted to focus my time on. Fast forward five years later, I get hit up by my friend, Austin, who remained at Nike and got into a position where he approves brand collaborations. He had been following what I was creating at Stingwater and asked if I’d be interested in collaborating. It was ‘groe’ time.
What was the story you wanted to tell with the Dunk colab?
A story about ‘groeing’. Empty your mind. Just do it.
Did you actually sell a Friends and Family box without the shoes?
I put together a cardboard box and branded it with a gold Stingwater sticker. Presented it as a sculptural piece. Stamped it and titled it ‘friends and family box’. Wrote a description of the box and the materials used. Put it on my webstore. Stepped outside to get coffee. Came back home 30 mins later to a couple hundred new orders. I said, ‘Oh lord Jesus, it’s a fire’.
What’s next for Stingwater?
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