Frank Liew- Qubic King Of Auckland!
Qubic is fast becoming one of the premier sneaker and street fashion boutiques of the Asia-Pacific. With its slick digs, an enviable list of brands and an enthusiastic core of local heads, the store is generating a palpable buzz from one of the region's most compact markets. Qubic’s exclusive top-tier outlet Quarters has also attracted labels that rarely see distribution outside of Japan and Hong Kong - Soph, Silly Thing, Head Porter and Uniform Experiment to name a few. Not only was Qubic amongst the few stores globally to be granted adidas’ ObyO kzk collection, they actually managed to pinch Kazuki Kuraishi himself and fly him in for the launch! We caught up with Qubic head honcho Frank Liew to find out what all the fuss is about...
Hey Frank, how's your year been so far? Looks like you've been pushing hard... tell us all about it.
It's been a pretty busy year for us here on the whole. We had Mike & Rainier from MASH over in April in an event we ran with Red Bull called ALLTRACK, then a couple of projects with Nike revolving around the Yeezy and then the LIVESTRONG collection, our anniversary event and the launch of our Q123 Anniversary Collection, and of course, this big one that's just been with adidas Originals Pacific. A short while ago we were also officially appointed as a Nike TZ account too, so that was a pretty cool achievement for the community here on the whole. A pretty eventful year so far! The difference I think with this year is that we're starting to see more people approach us to put something together for them, and for us to consult on their projects, which is quite humbling for our organization. It's opened up a lot of opportunities for us to really do a lot of creative things with our spaces, which is always a lot of fun.
Getting Kazuki Kuraishi down to Auckland was a real coup for you guys - hats off! How did that all come together?
I first met Kazuki via mutual friends in Tokyo, and it started from there. When adidas Originals approached us to consult on this project they had in mind, we suggested the idea of getting him over here, they were pretty enthusiastic about it so I went back to Kazuki to ask him about it personally. After a bit of back and forth he accepted and decided to come down here for the event, which was pretty amazing considering his incredibly busy schedule and workload. It was great having him here, and for the community to meet someone so influential amongst the street culture and fashion circles. The "Originals By Qubic" feature really surprised me on how well it was received by the community too. In some ways I think some of the people there on the night were just as excited to see the five shoes as they were to meet Kazuki. We intentionally chose five pretty normal guys to do the designs, as opposed to five 'celebrities' or 'artists'... as these guys would be normal adidas/footwear collectors, the same people who read sites like SF, the same people who have dedicated so much of their lives, time, and hard earned money to this culture - I mean, who better else to design a shoe than the people who buy them and collect them? I don't think there was a single person out of the five who has less than 150 pairs of shoes stowed away somewhere. In the end, I think the results were pretty impressive - you could see the passion they all had for shoes come through, especially when they went through explaining their design. It was interesting seeing what people did when they were finally given a chance to do it themselves.
Have you been suprised by how enthusiastically NZ has embraced street culture and fashion? Have your peeps given it their own Kiwi twist?
To be honest, no, I'm not surprised how enthusiastically the NZ public has embraced the fashion. I think traditionally I've found New Zealanders very open to new concepts, new ideas, especially amongst the age group that street fashion appeals to. Perhaps with us being so geographically out of the way it makes people want to embrace new things and learn about new concepts that they obtain from a variety of sources, like the internet or overseas magazines.
When do you think NZ sneaker culture was born? What are it's roots?
That's a tough question. I personally think there were lots of elements that brought the 'sneaker' culture to light here - there was the music scene (hiphop primarily), the graffiti/street art culture, the basketball element, the skateboarding scene... the street scene in general. I remember a wave of this starting in the mid 90s, but all-in-all I think they all contributed to the burst of what we ended up calling the "sneaker scene" here. I think about five years ago the 'sneaker culture' started to become a thing of itself and really started to take off in a mainstream kind of way and it's been growing since. There is a new generation that I'm seeing that's starting to slowly replace the original crowd though. Full circle...
Qubic is huge... but tell us about the concept behind Quarters. What's been the reception for it?
It's actually been really good and well received, especially by perhaps the older guard amongst our community, looking for something else to move onto. We're over a year old now, and Quarters itself has seemed to have established its own following, not necessarily the same as the people who shop in Qubic. Quarters boutique is more of a select type shop, and instead of a wide selection across the brand we tend to pick select items. The brands are mostly Japanese and a more 'older' aesthetic, a little more expensive, but it's clear that the price justifies the quality of the garment, which Japanese brands are notorious for - all the small details are taken care of. I suppose it's for people who may appreciate a little more quality over just quantity and are a little more selective over what they wear. Much like Qubic it's also an outlet where people can finally get access to the rare things that they've only been able to see online or in overseas magazines. There's going to be a few more additions to the brand list shortly too, so keep an eye out for that.
You guys are all about mixing up global cultures. Do you think that as the world shrinks fashion is starting to become a little homogenous?
In a way, yes, but not forever. I was just talking about this to someone the other day. I think I've been lucky enough to see various 'phases' of the industry over the past few years, and it's been rather interesting seeing one entity 'pioneer' a look, and then slowly have it trickle down and see others follow. Fashion itself by definition will always change, after all, fashion is just trends - and they come and go. That said, sure as one entity pioneered a certain look and others follow, it's going to happen all over again. I'm starting to see a resurgence of colour, but in solid blocks instead of throwing five different colours on one thing. It's a big cyclic process, so I do wonder sometimes what's next.
The your ObyO party was all about standing up for the three stripes. What does adi represent to you?
adidas Originals to me represents a combination of old and new. Heritage, I mean, if you look at their silhouettes you'll see that nothing major has changed in them over the past however many decades that particular model has existed. They've mixed in a lot of new materials and retouched them here and there but essentially they strike me as an organization that's quite proud of their 60 year heritage. There's a lot to be said about that, especially in today's fast paced market.
Do you think adidas is having a bit of a resurgence?
I wouldn't say 'resurgence', more re-establishing themselves. Well thought out, solid projects like their Originals By Originals collections have really brought the brand to the forefront of the more fashion conscious/progressive people's eyes, but at the same time, like I said in my previous answer, on the whole they remain quite true to their heritage so they'll just keep trucking along as they have over the past six decades. I don't see them chasing too many trends, and something inside me tells me they'll always remain true to their beliefs, and the same to all the purists out there who respect that history, from generation to generation.
What should visitors to Auckland check out (other than Qubic of course!) when they drop into town?
The White Lady all-night burger trailer. Yeah, awesome. (oh, and any of our west coast Auckland beaches).