Luke Tadashi Crown Royal Regal Apple Partnership allen iverson kobe bryant design basketball sports art community dance Bristol studio brand raw unconventional Japanese Los Angeles
Luke Tadashi Crown Royal Regal Apple Partnership allen iverson kobe bryant design basketball sports art community dance Bristol studio brand raw unconventional Japanese Los Angeles
Luke Tadashi Fuels Bristol Studio with a Love of Basketball & an Eye for Design
We teamed up with Crown Royal Regal Apple to speak with the creative about merging these two worlds.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Luke Tadashi saw basketball differently than the teammates and coaches that surrounded him. For the Bristol Studio founder and creative director, it was more than just a game. It was a vessel for expression, design, art and style, witnessing these elements in his favorite players, the competition and even the lines on the court. With a keen eye for seeing the culture and creativity that exists below the surface of the sport — something he shares with Crown Royal Regal Apple, a brand committed to spotlighting and uplifting culture creators behind the game — Tadashi parlayed his singular vision and lifelong passion for basketball into his design practice.

Bristol Studio was founded by Tadashi in 2015 alongside Maasai Ephraim and Jake Fenster with a goal of identifying and amplifying the potent crossover of sports with design. The basketball-inspired lifestyle brand achieved this by combining the designer’s love of the game with other influences, like his Japanese culture and nostalgia for fashion eras past. The distinct combination of unlikely inspirations was evident in the brand’s debut collection and caught the eye of sportswear giant adidas, leading to Bristol Studio’s first collaboration. It was a big break for Tadashi, who would go on to rack up an impressive list of clients and partnerships: New Era, Stance Socks and Lebron James among them. It was more than just a dream come true. It was proof that he had uncovered something unconventional within the sport that he loved so much, helping to fuel the cultural mashup that the NBA has become known for.

Luke Tadashi Crown Royal Regal Apple Partnership allen iverson kobe bryant design basketball sports art community dance Bristol studio brand raw unconventional Japanese Los Angeles

Bristol Studio takes on a similar ethos as Crown Royal Regal Apple, whose history of noise-cutting collaborations with the likes of Joe Freshgoods and Ray Neutron show off its percipience for creative spheres. In its own way, Bristol Studio has forged a path to become recognized by global brands, premier press outlets and cultural icons for its delicate combination of minimalism, utility, thoughtful deconstruction and upscale design. This is a result of doing something different, with Tadashi offering a new point of view and inventive take on sport and style, not unlike how Crown Royal brought an unexpected twist to the whisky game when it launched its Regal Apple flavor six years ago.

As he celebrates the beginning of the 2021-2022 NBA season, HYPEBEAST caught up with Luke Tadashi to discuss how basketball shaped his world view, looking up to the late, great Kobe Bryant as an L.A. native, the creative and therapeutic expression of design and how he is hoping to bring his community together through it all.

HYPEBEAST: What sparked your desire to transition from playing basketball to focusing on design and sportswear?

Luke Tadashi: Basketball was everything in the sense that it was how I learned about culture. For me, what I defined as cool was always related to basketball. I was always a kid that had a very keen eye for how people dressed and used style as an expression of who they are. The obvious ones, like Allen Iverson of course, and then growing up in L.A., Kobe was everything to me. Just watching how these guys expressed themselves through their dress had a really big influence on me.

I took that into what I’m doing with Bristol Studio. All of our designs are in some way inspired by my experience playing basketball and feelings I had through the game, or inspired by the era that I grew up in, coming of age and learning about style through the way my favorite players dressed. “I realized if I was going to do this and be able to do it long term, I had to lean into my story. I made it as personal as possible by connecting it to my relationship with basketball.”

Luke Tadashi Crown Royal Regal Apple Partnership allen iverson kobe bryant design basketball sports art community dance Bristol studio brand raw unconventional Japanese Los Angeles

Was this always the intended career path for you?

I don’t know if there was an intention early on, but I think as a kid, I still had the dreams that we all have of actually playing in the league. Obviously that did not materialize, but when I quit playing basketball, I was looking for a way to stay connected to the game. Like I said, for me I always connected style with basketball, so it seemed like a natural avenue to explore. At a certain point, I realized that there’s not really a brand that’s interpreting the game as I have always seen it, because I always saw the game as much as an art form as it was a sport.

What are the similarities you see between the two? Are there any lessons or traits that you learned in sports that you find translate well to design?

There’s a lot, but for me, they are more abstract and based on feelings and images I have in my head. For example, the lines of the basketball court— they were always something that I remember seeing in various paintings or geometric art growing up. I’d think, oh that’s just the basketball court deconstructed. At a certain point, around the time I quit basketball, I was thinking, man, I don’t have a creative outlet anymore. And it dawned on me that basketball was a creative outlet for me.

Even if it wasn’t a game, I would go out on the court and be by myself and put on headphones or just listen to the ball bouncing. I was getting out all of this creativity that I had bottled up inside me. I started to view the game as a form of dance. My mom was a dancer and she used to say, “Kobe looks like he’s a modern dancer when he’s out there.” And that just connected for me. “Sports and art are just labels. But if you really retrain your mind and reframe it, they’re kind of one-in-the-same. They’re just different forms of expression, depending on what your goals are.”

When you created Bristol Studio with Maasai and Jake, what was the idea behind it and how long did it take to come together?

Honestly, it’s been a minute. I’ve been doing it for about eight years and it’s taken on various forms. It wasn’t immediately just centered around basketball. I was actually trying to explore denim very early. Then I realized if I was going to do this and be able to do it long term, I had to lean into my story. I made it as personal as possible by connecting it to my relationship with basketball.

I’m also half Japanese, so I would grow up going to Japan a lot. My mom did a really good job of exposing me to good design over there, so I was always drawn to more Japanese elements of design and connected to deconstruction and imperfection — more avant grade things that have a human touch to them. So I tried to apply that to Bristol all the while maintaining a sense of minimalism.

Crown Royal Regal Apple is all about embracing the intersecting cultures of community. What is it about design and sports and the relationship between the two that really speaks to you?

I think taking two seemingly different fields and connecting them is really cool. I think that’s obviously a lot of what I do as creative director of Bristol Studio. It’s cool to blur these lines and break barriers for people, and it was a big realization that sports and art are just labels. But if you really retrain your mind and reframe it, they’re kind of one-in-the-same. They’re just different forms of expression, depending on what your goals are.

Luke Tadashi Crown Royal Regal Apple Partnership allen iverson kobe bryant design basketball sports art community dance Bristol studio brand raw unconventional Japanese Los Angeles

Giving back to the community is something you and Crown Royal Regal Apple are both big on. What made you want to do that?

Basketball is such a community. The game really gave me a community and some of my best friends to this day. Some of the people that I still run the brand with, we all met through the game of basketball. It’s always been a realization for us to use the game as a bridge to connect people, to give back and create the same experiences that the game gave to us. It feels natural. I would say the biggest thing that we do is our Run, which is just about providing a place for people to come and hoop and connect and introduce people from different walks of life.

Down the line, we’re really eyeing youth basketball, whether that’s providing jerseys to schools or creating our own program where we can replicate the experience of AAU basketball, but give it back to the next generation. That’s the dream for us. “I think [Crown Royal Regal Apple] is going to continue to push forward in this direction — one that we’ve been a part of creating — of exploring sports through a cultural lens, which I think is really exciting.”Overall, what about working with Crown Royal Regal Apple reflects your vision for pushing past the sport and into the culture behind it?

I think [Crown Royal Regal Apple] is going to continue to push forward in this direction — one that we’ve been a part of creating — of exploring sports through a cultural lens, which I think is really exciting. I hope you’ll start to see it with other sports and fields, because I’m sure the relationship that I have with basketball, a lot of people might have with another sport or craft or whatever they grew up doing. It’d be really dope to continue to blur the lines between art, design and sports and continue to push it forward and reimagine what the potential of style in sports could be.

Head to Crown Royal’s website now to get your own Crown Royal Regal Apple.

DISCLAIMER: We discourage irresponsible and/or underage drinking. Drink responsibly and legally.


Credits
Photographer
Ja Tecson
Writer
Nate Louis
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