Hong Kong’s skate retailer 8FIVE2 celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, founder Brian Siswojo and the crew put together a co-branded Chukka Low with Vans. We took the opportunity to gain some insight from Brian Siswojo regarding Hong Kong’s skate scene over the years and the background behind his Chukka Low design.
When you opened up shop a decade ago, what was the plan if any? Where was the original store located?
I wanted to make a place that represented Hong Kong’s skateboard community and street scene. Something that could help build the unsupported and lacking skateboard scene out here. I wanted to hand pick all the unknown brands (at the time) that we truly believed were special rather than what we thought could sell and took risks by pushing smaller brands that were new and un-established at the time to show Hong Kong there was more out there. The original store started from scratch straight out of my living room in 1999 out of boxes. People would call to come up at crazy hours to shop. (Special thanks to my family who supported and put up with this, never complaining). And business went really well so we moved to a proper shop in 2001.
What do you has been the most visible change in Hong Kong’s skate scene?
Because we (8FIVE2SHOP with the help of AHKSA and X-FED) always do skateboard demo’s and skateboard contests, the level of Hong Kong’s skateboarding has increased quite a bit. For example, Chun Chai (8FIVE2SHOP’s rider) has been repping 8FIVE2SHOP and Hong Kong, competing outside Hong Kong and he’s come back with some good success. And don’t get me wrong, Chun Chai is a true street skateboarder and definitely not some jock contest-only skateboarder. With the help of Vans Hong Kong as well, skateboarding in Hong Kong increased quite a lot. We did an event Go Skateboarding Day on the 21st of June with Vans HK, hkskateboarding.com, X-Fed and of course 8FIVE2SHOP, there were around 300 skateboarders that showed up and that’s a good number for such a small place like Hong Kong.
From your standpoint, what are some major issues preventing Hong Kong’s skate scene from getting huge?
I always want the skateboard scene to get HUGE but in a proper skateboarding way not in the jock contest way. In the fun and true skateboarding way, not in the competing mentality way. You know what I mean. So, I’m all for the scene getting huge but, it just takes time if there isn’t a lot of support from other skateboard shops or larger corporations. Hong Kong’s roads aren’t like Frisco where you can just cruise around everywhere. I think that’s one of the major problems…space. There’s a long span in the year where the weather is so humid and hot and it gets harder to skate. Less pros in an area means less kids trying to become pros. There are many smaller factors but, the main reason is less support for sure.
I know that almost every time I see you, you have Vans on your feet, what does the brand itself mean to you and what does this collaboration represent?
When I first started skating Jordan 1 and Chuck Taylor, they were the shoes I skated on until I found out that there were shoes for skating. Back then it was only Vans, Vision Street Wear and Airwalk. I’ve tried them all. What’s best for me was obviously Vans due to it’s original waffle sole and simple amazing design. I also skated Half Cabs and Chukka boots, immediately they became my favorite skateboard shoes and I have to say that my all-time favorite skateboard shoes was the Chukka Boot until I found Chukka Low. To me, Vans represents true shoes for skateboarding. The whole team behind it are authentic skateboarders. We share the same philosophy.
What were you keeping in mind when designing this shoe and why the Chukka Low?
My new all time favorite shoes from Vans is the Chukka Low and so it was only natural to do a Chukka Low. I just wanted to make something simple yet with some attention to detailing using super fine leather material with patent leather in the same color on the piping. Our special custom 8FIVE2 camo with the Hong Kong flower done by our homie at In4mation, Rhandy Thambiao is seen on the lining. That 8FIVE2 camo was one of the greatest gifts (thank you to Todd Shimabuku, Rhandy Thambiao and all of the In4mation crew, they are fo’ real). Back to the 8FIVE2 x Vans ‘X Anniversary’ Chukka Low, it’s something that you can skate on and go to chill right after without changing your shoes! Plus, it’s super super comfortable, dayeem, respect to the Vans crew (Jon, Jay, Rian and Tom) for making it happen. We truly appreciate it.
In the last 10 years, what has been your proudest achievement with 8FIVE2?
We are just very very proud that we truly have believed in the products that we’ve carried, on every product we’ve produced, every demo and contest we’ve held, every party we’ve thrown for the past 10 years. Dayeem, time flies for sure and making it to 10 years is an achievement in Hong Kong. I’m hoping they’ve all counted for something. It’s good seeing those little kids that used to come to the events for inspiration all grown up and skating really well and asking me “Brian do you still remember me?” I even remember each and every kid thats come in to our shop to buy a sticker or to ask something about skateboarding. I like to think our little shop has made some impact on the kids out here.
Do you have any other projects planned for 8FIVE2’s 10th anniversary?
YES! We will have more collaboration products with our homies, artists and brands. Keep an eye out, for sure.
Any last words you’d like to share?
Thank you so much for the support, thank you so much for believing in us since day one. If you never been to 8FIVE2SHOP, stop by. Check out 8five2.com for sure. 8FIVE2 represent. ONE LOVE.