A Roundtable Discussion with the Collaborators for the Packer x atmos x BOUNTY HUNTER x Reebok Instapump Fury

A collection of pioneers talk co-production, the sneaker industry and sharing cultures.

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Even among the fury of sneaker collaborations hitting retail shelves around the world week-after-week, it’s rare to see an eclectic collection of cultural pioneers come together on a project like the ones featured above. Combined, Packer, atmos and BOUNTY HUNTER have over 150 years of experience in streetwear, each driven by authenticity and passion. So what’s their reason for coming together on a pair of Reebok Instapump Furys: a lack of authenticity and passion in the industry.

We sat down with the founders of each brand — Mike Packer, Hommyo Hidefumi and Hikaru Iwanaga — to learn how this collaboration came about, what they were hoping to achieve, their views of the industry and more. Be sure to pick up a pair of the highly collaborative shoes when it drops April 29 at Packer and atmos locations.

How did this collaboration come about?

Mike Packer

I have known Hommyo for years — his name was at first a myth some years back but once we met we have become not only business associates but friends. He and his crew are top notch. We were together last year in Japan during another project and we were talking about iconic OG Japanese brands that would be cool to work with. I mentioned BxH and next thing I know, we are having Tea with Hikaru. The rest is history.

Hommyo Hidefumi

We’ve known Hikaru and Mike for years. Hikaru is a famous Harajuku fashion leader and has made some very interesting toys for more than 15 years. Mike is one of the most famous sneaker coordinators in U.S. and because the sneaker world is small, we know each other. When we talked with Mike, we asked if we are able to put together this unique toy; it is very fantastic. We proposed Hikaru help make the Pump Fury, because the Pump Fury looks like toy.

Hikaru Iwanaga

About two years ago, Mike visited Japan for an atmos party. It was his first time visiting Japan, and one of the atmos staff brought him to my shop in Harajuku. He bought a BOUNTY HUNTER Jacket and talked about collaborating someday. That was our first step.

How did each of you contribute to this drop?

Hommyo Hidefumi

I [handled] the Japan side, while Mike handled the production side (such as talking with Reebok).

Mike Packer

I basically pulled the idea out of thin air as a wing and a prayer and Hommyo made it all happen as far as introductions and getting us all in the door to talk to Hikaru. Once we all had some common ground and the creative juices got flowing, it became pretty easy as the formula for something like this needs to stay simple yet sophisticated.

Hikaru Iwanaga

I worked on the concept and design, in addition to producing the small vinyl toy called “Skull-kun,” which will release with the sneakers.

What were each of you hoping to achieve with this release?

Mike Packer

Working on a model like the Pump Fury (a popular silhouette in Japan) just made sense to not only work with an OG Japanese retailer like Hommyo but both of us saw the great opportunity to work with an icon like Hikaru and a brand like BOUNTY HUNTER. BH is about as OG as it gets and having its iconic logo on a shoe like the Pump Fury just makes sense and is probably long overdue.

Hikaru Iwanaga

For me, the Pump Fury is for the younger generation, so I would love it if this project drove interest for BH and my toys among the youth.

Hommyo Hidefumi

This is first time we’ve released a toy or collaborated with Packer shoes. We just want to impact the sneaker world.

Mike, what comes to mind when thinking of atmos and BxH? How have they contributed to sneaker/streetwear culture?

Mike Packer

The question is what haven’t they contributed? Although they are both Japanese-based, they are similar yet different. But the one thing that anyone who has been around for a minute in this business knows is that we wouldn’t be where we are today if not for these two pioneers in the business.

Hommyo and Hikaru, how have Packer contributed to sneaker/streetwear culture?

Hommyo Hidefumi

Mike is an OG like the Pump Fury, he has influenced street/sneaker culture all over world. His eye for materials is unmatched.

Hikaru Iwanaga

Packer Shoes has a very long history carrying many streetwear and sneaker brands, so they know a great deal about the culture. Mike is the type of person who can bring out the charm of both cultures, which is what I respect about him a lot.

What similarities do atmos and Packer have in common? What did you learn from each other?

Hommyo Hidefumi

Everything. [Mike] is the master of shoes.

Mike Packer

We have both been around for a while and I think we are able to tune out the noise and just make good shit. When Hommyo and his team are in town and we sit, I would say there are always plenty of ideas that come about. Carrying all of them out is the issue as we have so many we talk about. We have gotten better over time as I have learned a lot about how and who Hommyo entrusts to bring our ideas to fruition. They are a well-oiled machine and I think we have learned a lot in working together over the years.

All OGs, the sneaker industry has changed quite a bit since your early days. What do 
you like and dislike about the current state of the industry/culture?

Mike Packer

There are more opportunities now than ever before, and with social media and the ‘net it is easy to bridge so many gaps to other markets. But that all has to be done [while] staying true to what you believe in and carry out day-to-day. There is an abundance of white noise in the market and tuning that out and staying focused is the hardest thing sometimes.

Hommyo Hidefumi

Many sneaker shops make many exclusives but in-line shoes are also good sense. Because many collaborations tend to deliver bad designs, we need to think deeper about what sneakerheads want to buy.

Hikaru Iwanaga

I don’t really know about the change and I don’t really care about it (laughs). However, I think change is not always bad. Actually, change made this project happen, so it’s good sometimes.

Hikaru, do you feel designing toys is similar to designing sneakers?

Hikaru Iwanaga

Toys have to be produced from nothing, but designing sneakers is about changing the colorways and materials for an existing model, so it’s really easy for me in a good way! (laughs).

Do you think the increase in sneaker collaborations is hurting the 
industry? If so, how can we fix it?

Hommyo Hidefumi

Yes. We need to think about using different vessels for collaboration, such as toys, manga, music, etc.

Mike Packer

I never thought I would say this, but we have probably turned down more projects recently than we have taken on. When collabs start becoming the new GRs (general releases) in our market something is wrong — terribly wrong. We are raising a customer base that can’t even see past good — and sometimes great — product and see it for what it is. Retailers like ourselves, Hommyo and others who have been around for a while and who actually have the ability and sometimes nerve to tell the truth to brands will help things right themselves, and we see that happening recently for the brands that want to listen. Creativity and collaborative projects are always good – for the brands and the retailers involved, but there is most definitely a sweet spot.

Hikaru Iwanaga

I don’t think that sneaker collabs are hurting the industry at all. On a personal level, I enjoy the many different styles of collabs produced by the people who are from various realms of culture.

Can you share what are your favorite releases amongst each other?

Mike Packer

On the atmos side – the OG Safari AM1 — it was that “…holy shit what is that” shoe that came about when you could walk into a store a few weeks after they released on the low and still be able to pick them up. For BxH, the logo is simplistic but also so out-of-the-box. And the OG vinyl toys that started a whole different side of the business.

Hommyo Hidefumi

I like the Packer x ASICS GEL-Lyte III “Dirty Buck.” This pair has a very beautiful colorway. The BOUNTY HUNTER collaboration with A Bathing Ape; Hikaru said he made a “Mad Shark,” it means “the eye is angry.” Only he can change the design for the Shark.

Hommyo and Hikaru, what are your favorite aspects of American culture? Mike, Japanese culture?

Hikaru Iwanaga

Everything. When I was a little kid, my mom worked on the U.S. base in Japan, so American culture had a measurable influence on my early experience.

Hommyo Hidefumi

American people’s cheerfulness. More smiles, more peace!

Mike Packer

Having worked with these guys and others from Japan over the years there is one thing we have always had in common — respect for heritage and history. We thankfully have a long and storied history and that is not lost on many people whom we have met over the years — and vice versa. Respect for brand heritage and quality is held in such high regard it is impossible not to be successful.

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