Shop Report: Inside Thailand’s Sneaker Carnival
Carnival have been bringing the sneaker party to Thailand since 2010. The boutique started as a modest outpost for Converse in Bangkok, before growing their following during the prescient days of social media. The lone store later expanded into a multi-brand retailer across six locations.
Carnival’s integral presence in the Thai sneaker scene as the go-to boutique for hot drops and organisers of local swap meets hasn’t gone unnoticed. ASICS recently tapped Carnival for a colab on the GEL-Kayano 5 360 ‘Betta Splendens’ that was inspired by fighting fish.
We caught up with Carnival to discuss the Thai sneaker scene, fighting fish, and how they get their kicks.
The Thai sneaker scene has really picked up in the past few years. What makes it so special?
Thailand has one of the fastest-growing middle classes in the world, so with more people having a greater disposable income, the market is growing at a tremendous rate.
Going back five or 10 years ago, it was quite hard to find people who would spend more than 3000 Baht (approx. $100) on a pair of sneakers, but now things are different.
As sneakers have become more mainstream, it has created a massive growth of sneakerheads and collectors. Our stores get most of the big releases – most of them are sold out within the same morning.
We also hold a couple of sneaker events every year, and it seems like the trend is growing rapidly.
Why did you choose the GEL-Kayano 5 360 for this collaboration?
I love the way they put GEL material in the midsole. It shows the technology of their cushioning, and we wanted to play around with the concept of GEL as the water for the fish.
Where did you find your inspiration?
Mostly from Thailand’s culture, and the subcultures that stem from it. A lot it comes from stuff we grew up watching and listening to. Music, movies, anime – those are the things that always inspired us.,
The colab takes inspiration from Siamese fighting fish. How did this idea come about?
We wanted to find a colourway that really represents Thai style. So, we thought of using a Thai animal that is well-known globally: the betta splendens, aka Siamese fighting fish. It’s one of the most famous fish species in the world. It has a very vibrant and outstanding colour, so we developed the concept from there.
How many samples did it take before the shoe looked exactly how you wanted it?
We took quite a lot of time for this project. After initially trying out a couple of sample colourways, they turned out not as we expected. So, we changed the material and colourways two or three more times until we decided on the final version.
What are the dream projects you’d love to work on?
There are still so many footwear brands that we want to work on a collaboration with, such as Nike, adidas, New Balance, Converse, and Vans. Those are our dream projects because these brands haven’t collaborated with a Thai retailer before. It would be making history for Thailand’s sneaker scene. We can’t wait for that to happen.