Interview with Daniel Tupara
10th of November 2017 was one of the greatest day for me from a sneaker collectors perspective. It’s not everyday that you get to display your collection at the flagship store of your favourite brand. Hi I am Jolin Jose also known as @the_shoe_story on Instagram. I have been collecting Asics Gel Lyte III collaborations for the last 2 years and have managed to collect a fair amount of sneakers thanks to all the good lads in New Zealand and Overseas (thanks to my team members from Epsilon)
I was recently approached by one of the most well-known names in NZ sneaker and fashion scene, Mr. Daniel Tupara aka DT. DT is one of the admins and founders of Sole Central NZ, the biggest sneaker group in Aotearoa. He is a very kind-hearted and down to earth person and when he approaches you with some work it’s almost impossible to refuse and say no to him. And am I glad that I accepted his offer because I knew if this man has thought of you then there has been a lot of thinking and research done behind it. So I was asked if I am happy to display my small collection of Gel Lyte III at an event to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Asahi Beer in collaboration with Asics Tiger NZ and believe me this was something I could not say no to. Even though I live almost 2 hours away from the place where the event was organised and was supposed to work that day I made sure I am available for the event by hook or by crook as not only was I able to display my small collection to the sneaker enthusiasts from in and around Auckland, NZ but also got to meet a lot of the who’s who from both the brands @Asahibeer_nz and @Asicstigernz . To top it all off even got the opportunity to have a good chat with DT in the middle of everything that was going on during the event. Let’s see what he has to say about his journey, the event and the New Zealand sneaker scene.
The pictures shown in the interview, are taken at the Asahi x Asics event.
Hey DT thanks for giving me this amazing opportunity and to take some time off for this interview.
Where do you live?
I was proudly born and raised on a small Māori settlement in New Zealand called Ratana Paa. I am now based in Auckland, New Zealand.
How did you get into sneakers?
As a teenager growing up being a massive NBA fan I was always captivated by the uniforms and sneakers worn by the players from a fashion and functionality perspective. That was the start of it all.
How long have you been into sneakers?
You’ve forced me to count way back but I’ve been a sneaker enthusiast for 27 years so far. The first pair that really kicked it all off for me was the Air Jordan V Black Metallic. I managed to save enough money as a 13-year-old teenager over a 4 month period cleaning toilets at a warehouse factory to buy a pair. The feeling of satisfaction of owning that pair was enough to get me hooked.
What do you enjoy about sneakers?
For me, there are levels to sneakers. Having a background in both design and fashion I look at the materials and construction, colour and the execution. I then like to research the inspiration for the design and the history. For me, the story plays a big part.
Outside of design, I love the thrill of the hunt tracking down pairs as well as the community and people aspect that sneakers bring.
I’ve made some of my best friendships through sneakers and they have taken me around the world which is an amazing thing to look back on.
When did you start customising?
I’ve been customising for friends as well as my own pairs for years now and as the demand for unique pairs became popular over the past 5 or so years with brands flooding the market I began @R26_Customs commissioning full custom sneakers and packaging for people taking on the jobs I thought were interesting and that I could do justice to.
How did you land this project?
Having done creative work in the past on projects for other companies I decided a year ago to start my own Creative Agency called R26 - “Brand Architects”. We are a small boutique agency which allows us to pick and choose the projects we want to get involved in and really pursue.
Having done work with other major brands earlier in the year we decided to pitch for the Asahi Super Dry 30th Anniversary project because of the history behind the Japanese icon and the synergies we could see between the lifestyle culture.
We came up with a concept and pitched it to Asahi NZ and they really believed and got behind it.
Why Asics out of all the other brands?
Synergy. Both Asahi and Asics are iconic Japanese heritage brands and for us it made total sense. Anything else wouldn’t have had the same level of authenticity. When we introduced the concept to Asics they could see what we were working to achieve and supported us all the way through.
What was the inspiration behind the custom pairs for the Asahi project?
The goal of the custom project was to deliver a range of sneakers which reflected the Asahi brand and heritage celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Asahi Super Dry.
Firstly we took four base pairs of Asics Tiger Gel-Lyte III’s sneakers to customise paying homage to the Asahi Super Dry 500ml Silver Can and the Black Box Packaging everyone knows.
Two pairs of the retro Asics Tiger Gel-Lyte III’s and two pairs of the modern Asics Tiger Gel-Lyte III NS models. This was to represent the history and evolution of both the Asahi and Asics brands presented on old and new models.
The fifth pair - premium Tan/Tan Asics Tiger Gel-Lyte III’s, were based on the traditional Japanese village houses, or Minka, characterising the aspects of the wooden engawa verandas, tatami mat flooring and sliding door materials and colours commonly used.
The wooden box lids were branded with the Asahi commemorative logo to highlight the grain which reflects another Japanese process called “Shou-Sugi-Ban” which literally translates to “burnt cedar board” which is a technique that is centuries old and used for fencing and decking projects.
The box size labels have been laser-etched into silver laminated composite material to reflect the Asahi Super Dry 500ml silver can with the premium version in gold as an ode to Kintsugi which is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum.
We were told that every person who was invited was handed an origami crane at the gate which then happened to be the raffle for the free pairs, would you like to share some light on the idea behind that?
This was simply a creative way to engage with those who got the chance to come along referencing the Japanese heritage of both Asahi and Asics. We had specially made over 100 Origami Cranes which were numbered inside the wing. This was a cooler way to wrap things up than simply issuing a ticket with a number and was a memento people could take away.
What are your thoughts on the recent ASICS collaborations?
I’m an Asics head from way back so I am always excited to see what releases and is to come with collaboration projects. I mentioned earlier that I love the back-story and ideas translated by these partnerships which come to life on sneakers.
We have heard that you play a big role in the New Zealand sneaker community would you mind sharing a bit more insight on that?
Well it’s really all developed from a love of sneakers where up to the late 00’s there wasn’t really a sneaker scene here in New Zealand. There were a huge number of enthusiasts and collectors across the country but no real community.
Working with a few good friends across different groups I worked to help establish what is now New Zealand’s largest Facebook sneaker forum called Sole Central NZ as well as a dedicated marketplace for everything sneaker related. At last count we have over 20k members which doesn’t sound like many but from a global perspective, considering we only have 4+ million people, that works out to be close to .5% of the country’s population which is a crazy number of sneakerhead’s when you think about it.
In addition to the forum groups I am also part of a dedicated sneaker family called PAC HEAT. We hold the country’s largest and most active swap-meets and exhibitions and have crew members around the world the likes of Bobbito Garcia. This year we celebrated our 17th event which is a milestone considering we’ve only been going for a short while.
I also own New Zealand’s premier online sneaker and clothing store called Sole Merchants (www.solemerchants.com) where our crew source and consign sneakers, clothing, accessories and collectibles that you can’t easily access anywhere else. We also run regular pop-up stores through the country and support events with the PAC HEAT crew. Our site is currently under-construction but goes live in its new look at the end of November 2017 just in time for those Christmas and Summer pick-ups.
Any upcoming plans in mind or anything else that you would like to say to our readers?
We are in discussions with a few sneaker brands regarding projects for 2018 which we are amped about and look forward to sharing more info as it’s made available.
If you’d like to check out what we do you can hit us up on the following IG accounts: @DTxDT, @R26_Customs, @SoleMerchants, @Rtwenty6, @SoleCentralNZ