Sole Mates: Sky Chen and the ASICS GEL-LYTE III

The COSTS director on his store’s future direction, why he loves collaborating with ASICS and more.

Footwear 
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There are various cities across China that one would heavily identify with fashion and footwear such as Shanghai and Hong Kong. However, not many realize that one area that is currently on the come-up in the space is Shenzhen, which is located in the southeastern part of the country. Representation of streetwear culture is gradually starting to permeate via various sneaker stores and trendy fashion shops in the city, one being COSTS. And Sky Chen – the store’s director — has started to put the world on notice for proffering a well-curated selection of street apparel imprints and hot-ticket sneaker releases, the latter of which has included the store’s collaborations with New Balance and ASICS.

Having drawn influence from the bustling footwear scenes in Hong Kong and Tokyo, Chen wanted to build a location that served his own local community with all of the products he’d come to know and love. And through this store, he’s able to integrate and introduce his own understanding of Lingnan culture to his audience. The China-based owner has been a fan of sneakers since he was a kid that grew up loving basketball, but when he looks at sneakers today and ponders about which models provide him the most style and comfortability, his mind immediately drifts to one in particular — the ASICS GEL-LYTE III.

In this latest Sole Mates installment, HYPEBEAST took a visit to Chen’s studio to discuss his love for the ASICS GEL-LYTE III, the future direction of COSTS and more, the rise of Shenzhen’s sneaker culture and more.

HYPEBEAST: What got you into sneakers in the first place and how would you describe sneaker culture growing up in Shenzhen?

SC: I would say basketball had a huge impact on me getting into sneakers. I remember playing as a child and watching so many NBA games with like-minded friends who enjoyed the sport and loved to study what shoes the players were wearing.

As for Shenzhen, many would say that the city’s sneaker culture was deeply influenced by that of Hong Kong and Tokyo. The overall atmosphere in the 1990s around sneakers was extremely popular back then as it is now.

Can you recall the first pair of sneakers you owned and how you obtained them?

Definitely. I remember it was a pair of all-white Palm Air Cushion shoes in 1996 and it was two sizes bigger than my own at the time because it was the last size left. I saved money for an entire year to buy those and at the time felt like it was really hard-earned.

“I had been influenced by the trendy cultures of Tokyo and Hong Kong from a young age and felt that my local community needed a store that honed in on fashion and footwear, and that’s exactly what COSTS is.”

You chose the ASICS GEL-LYTE III for your Sole Mates selection. How’d you discover this shoe and what is it about this model that resonates with you?

I had always heard about ASICS and Onitsuka Tiger as brands since I was a child but didn’t pay much attention to them at first. Through work relationships later on in life, I gradually began to understand ASICS products and gravitated towards the GEL-LYTE III. I loved the design and also found it very versatile to work with different types of outfits. I started to really become a fan of the sneaker in 2015 and loved all of its collaborations from its 25th anniversary.

Over its 31-year-old lifespan, the ASICS GEL-LYTE III has been produced in countless classic colorways. Do you have any favorites in your collection?

I’d say that the most precious pair in my collection is the “Dotty” colorway that’s co-branded by the legendary Parisian store colette and released for the model’s 25th anniversary joint project. The design and materials of the “Dotty” colorway are just so different from any regular GEL-LYTE III GR pairs and I love how they utilize colette’s signature blue and white scheme. colette was such an industry benchmark while it was around and every time I look at this pair it just brings back good memories of the store and Paris.

Can you reflect on opening your COSTS store and how much it has grown today?

I wanted to find a way to share my passion for sneakers and share that with others. I had been influenced by the trendy cultures of Tokyo and Hong Kong from a young age and felt that my local community needed a store that honed in on fashion and footwear, and that’s exactly what COSTS is.

How would you describe the similarities and differences between Shenzhen, Tokyo and Hong Kong’s sneaker culture? Has there been any intuitive changes in the sneaker preferences of local young people in recent years?

Personally, I think the primary common thread between Shenzhen, Tokyo and Hong Kong’s sneaker culture is inclusiveness. The main difference may be that Shenzhen’s sneaker culture isn’t as diverse as the other two cities. As for the preferences of local people’s sneakers, the most intuitive change is that they all pursue different elements of sneakers such as design, wearability and comfort.

“COSTS will always adhere to its original intention to create more interesting concepts so that more fashion lovers around the world can know and understand us.”

COSTS has indulged in various collaborative sneaker projects, all of which have arrived in the form of tripartite co-branding with Japanese brands. How did these get brought to life?

The reason why we adopt this form of tripartite collaboration is to interpret the concept of life. For the cooperation with New Balance, we made a joint project with FDMTL and brought the traditional Japanese “Ragged Art and Denim” exhibition to Shenzhen. For the design of these shoes, FDMTL used 5 pieces of denim cloth of different materials for splicing, which was an exceptional interpretation and experimentation of the spirit of craftsmanship.

ASICS is known to be one of the four major retro running shoe brands in the world, and it is also one of the earliest brands that our store cooperated with. It’s very compatible with COSTS’ style and operational philosophy, and it also pursues minimal and comfortable style which aligns with our taste and language.

Why do you choose to highlight Lingnan culture in your collaborations?

The reason for this is that we want to spread from a “point” to a “face”, and we hope to use the seaside city Shenzhen as the origin and influence the larger Lingnan area. COSTS will always adhere to its original intention to create more interesting concepts so that more fashion lovers around the world can know and understand us.

Can you speak on any new developments that COSTS will have in terms of sneakers in the future?

We have several sneaker collaborations to launch throughout the year including cross-border projects with artists. We’re hoping to bring more interesting and fun things to you, so please look forward to it!

Aside from your ASICS GEL-LYTE IIIs, what are some of your other favorite sneakers that you currently have in your collection?

COSTS x F/CE x ASICS GEL-Trabuco 9 G-TX is the pair of shoes I use the most every day. Shenzhen is a coastal city with hot and rainy weather. This pair of GEL-Trabuco 9 uses GORE-TEX waterproof fabric, which is very suitable for the rainy weather out here. The KAWS x BAPESTA FS-029 LOW “CHOMPERS WHITE” is another because I picked them up in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok Qionghua Building — — a six story gathering place for limited-edition sneakers and where I’ve met so many sneakerheads from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan. I have a pair of Air Jordan 12s from 1996 that are special to me because they were gifted by a friend. I also really love the Saucony S6000 “Food Fight” because it highlights various foods from other countries.

This issue of Sole Mates was originally posted on HYPEBEAST CN and has been adapted accordingly.

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