Ye Chun COLOR Nike Air Foamposite One Sole Mates

Ye Chun COLOR Nike Air Foamposite One Sole Mates

Sneakers have almost always been admired on a global scale, but few cities in the world can identify with a certain silhouette so strongly that it confidently claims it as part of their culture. When people hear “New York City,” they automatically think of Timberland boots and Nike Air Force 1s. Los Angeles is most often associated with Cortez. And Tianjin – a coastal destination in northern China – is strongly associated with the Nike Air Foamposite One. Regarding the latter, Ye Chun – founder of sneaker store COLOR – understands the relationship between his hometown and the classic basketball lifestyle silhouette.

The owner of the sneaker company is an avid collector of Foamoposites, even possessing sample pairs from before the Eric Avar-designed offering debuted to the public in 1997. He has religiously studied almost everything about the beetle-inspired kicks from its origins to its way into in the mainstream. And he is one of the first people to recognize its profound impact on his community and Tianjin culture, so much so, in fact, that his city called itself the “hometown of bubbles” – unofficially declaring the model its own.

In this last part of Single matesHYPEBEAST sat down with Chun to talk about his abundance of rare sneakers, how he played a pivotal role in bringing Tianjin-influenced Air Foamposite colorways to life and more.

HYPEBEAST: What got you into sneakers?

YC: I would say it really started back in 1986 when I first started watching the NBA, and that’s when I started to feel drawn to what sneakers the players were rocking. I gradually began to follow Michael Jordan’s miraculous performances and how his sneakers played such a big role in his career, and I have been immersed in the sneaker space ever since.

At that time, everyone was wearing brands like Huili and Pisces, and having a pair of basketball shoes could almost be described as a “dream” for ordinary families like me. Getting into this industry can be considered to some extent as compensation for the things I missed out on in my childhood.

Do you remember what your first pair of sneakers were?

The first pair of sneakers I owned was the Air Jordan 2 Low “Chicago”, which was given to me by Wang Zhong, another manager of DEAL at the time. I still think the Air Jordan 2 is in the top nine of the Air Jordan series. It is definitely one of the most comfortable.

As a veteran of the Tianjin sneaker circle, what do you think has created the inseparable relationship between the city and Foamposite?

I think there are three inseparable relationships between Tianjin and Foams. First, the sneaker culture was actually divided into northern and southern ends in China, and the colder environment in the north was what helped the sneaker culture get started. The Nike Air Foamposite One was very popular in many northern cities thanks to its futuristic shape and thermal properties.

As an important coastal port city in the north, Tianjin has always been a transit point for goods. Back then, when Foams couldn’t enter China through Nike’s official channels, they poured into parts of Tianjin through unofficial channels, and the city has been inseparable ever since.

Second, the family conditions of the children in Tianjin at that time were average, and the children paid particular attention to the durability and cost-effectiveness of sneakers. Foam has highly durable materials, is easy to care for and has extreme comfort given the double-layer Zoom Air cushioning, which is why it undoubtedly became one of the most popular products in Tianjin.

We’ve heard you have a lot of rare foams in your collection. What are your thoughts on seeing the model evolve?

Most likely. As many of you know, Nike Foams officially debuted in 1997, but we have sample pairs of the OG “Royal Blue” colorway from 1995 and 1996. There are subtle differences in shape and branding that few people have ever seen before, and it has been a joy to see its original form and detail.

What is the difference between the sneaker culture in Tianjin and other cities in China like Beijing and Shanghai?

I think the sneaker culture in Tianjin is relatively special. The sneaker culture in this city has the same future-oriented thinking as the northern cities and the acceptance from the southern cities. Beijing and Shanghai can be considered cities with two extremes, and Tianjin falls somewhere in between.

For sneaker culture in Tianjin, “bubble” is the root.

Released in 2015, the Nike Air Foamposite One “Tianjin Spray” shot the city’s passion for “bubbles” to its peak. Did you play a significant role in helping this shoe come to life?

You could probably say we played a role in the launch. Once Gentry Humphrey – former president of Nike Sportswear footwear and apparel products – unexpectedly visited COLOR in Tianjin. We had a chance to cut it open and show him all the foams that we had collected over the years and he was thoroughly impressed by our passion for them. After he saw it, he made sure that the city of Tianjin got its own special colorway of the Air Foamposite One – “Tianjin Spray”.

It’s been 18 years since COLOR opened its doors in 2004, what changes in Tianjin’s sneaker culture have you witnessed, and are Foams still a prominent model in today’s scene?

Over the past 17 years, there have been countless sneaker events, big and small. We’ve seen the rapid evolution of sneaker technology, the replacement of basketball shoes and sneakers, the revival of Air Jordan 1s and SB Dunks, and the popularity of co-branded sneakers. But no matter how the times develop, there is always a group of young people wearing Foams in front of Tianjin COLOR. For sneaker culture in Tianjin, “bubble” is the root.

We know that almost all DEAL’s stores are expanding under the names DEAL or WZK. Only COLOR still maintains the original store name, and there is only one store in Tianjin. Does this represent a form of persistence in your hometown of Tianjin?

DEAL, WZK and COLOR are three store IPs belonging to the same DEAL group. DEAL and WZK are more representative of services and consumers across the country, while COLOR is a local sneaker culture deeply rooted in Tianjin. The culture of each city is unique, so the IP of COLOR has always been unique, representing the original intention of Tianjin sneaker culture.

COLOR has recently updated and upgraded its logo. What is the meaning behind the new insignia?

The new logo of Tianjin COLOR still uses four colors red, blue, green and yellow, which represent our most important attributes. However, the stories we have with sneakers over the years make up our true colors.

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

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