Sole Mates: Mimi Choi and the adidas NMD for Hypebeast's Sole Mates

BBC ICECREAM’s chief of staff shares her love for the NMD’s superior functionality and her experiences working with Pharrell.

Footwear 
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Mimi Choi’s been on BBC ICECREAM’s payroll for nearly 13 years and accrued experience in customer service, brand partnerships and more, all of which has led to her current position as the imprint’s chief of staff. Throughout her career, she’s developed a keen understanding of how sneakers impact her daily life and how they serve as vehicles for creative expression, which is why we’ve tapped her to appear on Sole Mates.

Choi’s closet is packed chock-full of different sneakers from different brands, but there’s one silhouette that ticks all of her boxes: the adidas NMD. Whether it’s a limited-edition friends and family Hu colorway or an understated inline style, the Three Stripes model continues to make its way into her weekly rotation because of its functionality. She’s cognizant that the NMD doesn’t hold the level of iconic status that it once did, but its supreme comfort and the memories that she has witnessing Pharrell work his magic on its collaborative offerings always keep it close to her heart.

Hypebeast sat down with Choi to discuss how BBC has elevated the NMD over the years, what her experience has been like working with Pharrell and what her favorite NMD colorways are.

Who or what got you into sneakers?

To be transparent, sneakers weren’t a thing for me growing up. I didn’t really start paying attention to sneakers and their cultural impact until I started working at BBC ICECREAM and learned more about Pharrell.

How did growing up in New Jersey influence your relationship with sneakers?

I was only rocking what was accessible and buying shoes out of necessity. My parents would take me to stores like Modell’s to pick up a pair of Vans or Pro-Keds — typical suburban shoes. Other brands that I noticed were really big back then in Jersey were Phat Farm and Birkenstocks. It wasn’t until I was constantly commuting to Parsons that I gradually started to notice how people expressed themselves through fashion and footwear.

When I started working at BBC, I had the privilege of seeing Pharrell work with adidas and Timberland and got the nuances of those projects from start to finish. Exposure to Pharrell’s world made me start to appreciate his designs even more.

Were you a fan of BBC before you worked there?

I knew nothing of the brand before I worked there. However, in college, I was super inspired by a sculpture that Takashi Murakami and Pharrell made together titled The Simple Things — I even included it in my senior thesis. That sculpture sparked my interest to delve further into Pharrell’s story and his impact in the streetwear world.

Let’s transition to your Sole Mates selection. When did the adidas NMD first come into the picture for you?

Around 2016. My first memory with them was when Pharrell dropped the first five adidas NMD HU colorways and I wore one of them for a convention that BBC was activating at. I remember rocking them for five days straight and appreciating their comfortability.

If you had to pick one NMD model what would it be and why?

The OG silhouette. I’m someone who enjoys lightweight sneakers that I can walk around all day in and these are super breathable, versatile and stylish. It’s about function first.

What are your favorite NMD colorways?

The burgundy BBC friend and family colorway is my favorite. They’re tried and true and I have a lot of amazing memories with those from various BBC events. I also have another black friends and family colorway that I wore to one of the Something in the Water festivals. They’re a little beat down now, but I don’t mind because I’m a strong advocate for wearing my shoes.

What does an iconic streetwear imprint like BBC deliver to the NMD’s lexicon?

BBC lends a unique identity to the silhouette. Given that the brand has so many iconic logos and characters, it brings a whimsical nature to the shoes. There’s also so much heritage tied to BBC, and when you factor in Pharrell’s creativity, taste and cultural status, the kicks naturally inherit an iconic allure.

“Through sneakers, I’ve been able to witness so many different forms of creativity and that’s inspired me.”

The NMD was one of the most disruptive silhouettes that sneaker culture has ever seen, though its hype has cooled off considerably since then . What’re your thoughts on its long-term lifespan? Can it regain the momentum it once had?

The NMD had an insane run when it was first introduced, and I think there’s still room for it to regain the status it once had with more innovative collaborations and styles. However, I think a huge reason why it has had lasting power is because of people’s relationship with the shoes. They’ll always buy them in support of Pharrell or because of their functionality. Like YEEZYs, UltraBOOSTs and even Timberland boots, the NMD has a cult following. People will always turn back to them for their functionality.

Not many people get the experience to work with Pharrell first-hand. What is it about him that has allowed him to continue to transcend culture?

He’s authentic to himself and touches all aspects of culture. When creating, Pharrell comes in with so many ideas. When I first met him, we worked on an all-red Timberland boot. And while a monochromatic colorway may sound simple, Pharrell was very meticulous about materials, color shading, weight etc. He’s hands-on every step of the way and I imagine that’s how he works whether it’s on a shoe, apparel or a song.

Why are sneakers and their stories important to you?

I’ve met so many amazing and creative people through the sneaker community. Tapping into this industry has taken me to different places of the world to experience so many different things. Through sneakers, I’ve been able to witness so many different forms of creativity and that’s inspired me.

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