Identity forged through “relationships“
-What was the concept for the initial model, and what was it like?
Sakabe: The concept of “grounds” is to “change the relationship between humans and the earth (gravity). The outsole (the part of the sole), which is the most important part that embodies this concept, has its own name, the oldest being “INTERSTELLAR” and “JEWELRY. The clear color and tall shape of the outsole is also used in other later designs, and is still a core part of the shoe.
-Why did you focus on such features?
Sakabe: When I thought about recreating the relationship between humans and the earth (gravity), the first thing that came to mind was to have a “floating” feeling. To achieve this, we added thickness to the outsole in order to lift the foot off the ground, which is always touched with the ground. Then, to avoid making the shoes too heavy, we used a clear light material.
-Any difficulties in the actual manufacturing of the shoes?
Sakabe: When started, it was difficult to find a manufacturing factory. I used to make clothes, but I knew nothing about the shoemaking process. Sneakers, in particular, are a special field, and there were no factories that we could ask to work with because their business partners such as NIKE and adidas had rules about not leaking their technology to other brands. We searched and searched, and finally found a factory in Indonesia that we are still working with today.
-Is there anything that is important to you in the production of grounds items?
Sakabe： The design of grounds is basically neutral, and we plan and manage it as a team. My role is to check the items that are released each season closely, but the team takes the lead in the new items that are released every week, and I rarely have any say in the details.
-What do you pay attention to when designing as a team?
Sakabe: Sharing the same value. If there is an environment where we can share the mood and values that form the basis of the design, it is possible to develop a product from 1 to 100 within the team. Also, if you have a good balance of designers with different tastes on the team, so that the overall atmosphere is in various directions, you can naturally create interesting products.
-So you value relationships in the production process as well?
Sakabe: That’s right. In terms of presentation, at grounds, we don’t show the shoes as individual items, but rather emphasize the relationships within the collection, such as the gradation of colors and the unevenness when the shoes are placed side by side. I want customers to choose what they like among them.