HOW DOES ONE TR ANSFORM A JAPANESE LABEL BEST KNOWN FOR ITS RETRO - INSPIRED SNEAKERS INTO A FULL FLEDGED FASHION HOUSE THAT GETS THE NEXT GENERATION ALL HYPED? FOR ONITSUKA TIGER CREATIVE DIRECTOR ANDREA POMPILIO, IT STARTS WITH STAYING REAL. TO FIND OUT WHAT THAT MEANS FOR THE BRAND THIS F/W ’19, KENG YANG SHUEN HEADS TO BANGKOK TO SEE WHAT THE LUXURY-TRAINED ITALIAN DESIGNER IS REALLY LIKE .
"Drawing from Europe’s clubbing scene in the ’90s, Onitsuka Tiger’s F/W ’19 collection puts the cool back into the snowboarder look that was trendy at the time with punchy block colours and a playful mix of fabrics"
THE MAN WAS WEANED ON FASHION
“My earliest memories of fashion were of Franco Moschino and Gianni Versace. I come from a city in central Italy, and my family owned one of the most exclusive boutiques in Europe, so I could touch and see their clothes up close from a young age. I would save up to buy a Moschino sweatshirt or a pair of Versace pants… Fashion is a strong part of Italian culture and I was completely crazy about it. At eight years old, I told everyone that I wanted to be a fashion designer and everyone supported me. What’s more, I was surrounded by men who had their clothes tailored by the best. Today I try to bring this background to my work at Onitsuka (sporty vests with artful cut-outs, for example, while quilting is a key motif in F/W ’19) – like how I bring a lot of Japan with me whenever I go home.”
HELMUT LANG’S HIS MAN
“I grew up collecting Helmut Lang – his original pieces from the ’80s and ’90s – so a lot of stuff that he did is in my blood. I spent so much time studying his works. My sensibilities and designs change, but there is always something ‘Lang’ within (cue minimalist separates with oversized cuts in Onitsuka Tiger’s F/W ’19 collection, including nylon coats cinched with logo utility belts that recall Lang’s backpack-strapped bombers).”
HE’S A SUBCULTURE/STREET KIND OF GUY
“When I say street, I don’t mean streetwear, but real people who are walking on the streets, say, on their way to work. I’m not one of those designers who look for inspiration from beautiful movies. For me, it’s more important to see reality and what people want and love (key themes for Onitsuka Tiger F/W ’19 include the ’90s and athleisure, and comfort and function are always key). Being exposed to new cultures and generations tends to bring on the good vibes.”
PARTYING OPENED HIS EYES TO THE WORLD
“I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s near the Ibiza of Italy, and every weekend I’d spend time in the local discos. It was a very open-minded environment to grow up in because I’d meet and club with people from all over Europe – transgender, gay, whatever. And the music scene had all the best DJs and musicians. I can’t name a specific song now, but (the rich atmosphere sticks with me).” (Pompilio’s main inspiration for F/W ’19 is the ’90s European club scene with plenty of pop-hued puffer coats that allude to the snowboarder look which was big then.)
HE MISSES ’90S GLAMOUR
“Streetwear is very interesting, but I think we’re at the point where it’s going to die soon and people want to get a bit more dressed up again. Fashion is always about dreaming, and streetwear isn’t. When I look at a Gianni Versace show now with all its supermodels, I feel like crying because (it is so fantastic). If you lived through that period, you’d understand.” (For all its urban influence, Onitsuka Tiger’s F/W ’19 collection includes elevated zipped cardigans, boxy shirts and even flirty skirts with everything designed for layering to create one’s personal look.)
(Bottom row, near right): Andrea Pompilio, the fashion-mad designer establishing Onitsuka Tiger’s next legion of fans. (Bottom row, second from far right): The Chunky Runner is a retro-futuristic sneaker with blucher-style uppers and thick soles inspired by Buffalo shoes.