The ever-blurring line of high fashion luxury and sport-and-streetwear grit has culminated in countless collaborative ventures in the pursuit of style. Some, like Moncler and Off-White’s 2016 winterwear collection, stress form and functionality to break down the walls of fashion’s segmented classes; others, like Supreme’s controversial collaboration with Louis Vuitton, demonstrate the ease with which brands can quickly become cannibalised by their respective audiences for betraying their supposed ethos. Unlike the latter’s inflated branding attempt, Italian designer Andrea Pompilio has no interest in parading his name on the wares of his longstanding collaboration with Onitsuka Tiger – even if he has the credentials to warrant it.
Born to a family involved in the clothing industry in Pesaro, Italy, Pompilio honed his craft at fashion houses that include Prada in Milan, Calvin Klein in New York, and Yves Saint Laurent in Paris, before launching his namesake line in 2010. Despite these accolades, the sartorial designer hasn’t lost sight of the subtleties and refined details that have made Onitsuka Tiger x Andrea Pompilio collections continually interesting and accessible since 2013. Speaking on his SS17 capsule collection with the Japanese sportswear brand, Pompillio speaks on the dynamics of the partnership and the urban muses that inspired the latest offering, while reiterating that sneakers are made to be on feet, not on shelves.
Buongiorno, Andrea! You’ve been working with Onitsuka Tiger since 2013. What is it about this partnership that has made it work for so long?
It has evolved a lot! We started off the collaboration with only one pair of shoes. The next season, we created a whole capsule for men together with 12 looks, then ran the catwalk in Pitti Uomo with 35 models, both men and women. Now we have full co-branding, with a unique creative vision for both Onitsuka Tiger and OT x AP.
Did you have a favourite Onitsuka Tiger design or fond memory of the brand before you first started working with them?
I loved the Onitsuka Tiger Mexico 66 trainers worn by Uma Thurman in Kill Bill! A classic – who can forget that?
Your latest capsule collection is inspired by a ‘urban safari’ concept. Which environment or city did you take inspiration from?
Well, there isn’t one in particular. I have been lucky enough to live in many different cities like Paris, Milan and New York in my life, and sometimes I have to admit that living in a big city is a nightmare! It’s almost like being in a jungle; it’s unpredictable. I love my metropolitan life; don’t get me wrong. Like the jungle, it also has its perks. Sometimes you stop, and what you see is breathtaking.
"Refined trainers like OT x AP are perfect for movement...trainers are meant to be used!"
When designing sneakers and clothing for the capsule collection, do you think about how well they will fit with your own clothing designs?
I try to only focus on Onitsuka Tiger, and on how new items will fit in their collection and previous history – but, of course, there is a lot of Andrea Pompilio in the collection, reinterpreted in Onitsuka Tiger’s key look.
Having worked for high fashion brands like Prada, Calvin Klein, Yves Saint Laurent and most recently Canali, does it require adopting a different approach or mindset when designing items that have ‘street’ appeal?
It’s a feature of my namesake brand to mix sportswear and sartorial expertise, so it’s easy for me to channel both of these! Since I was a young designer I’ve always jumped from one brand to another, even when they were totally different from each other. Prada to YSL, Calvin Klein to N.21… I’m just used to it!
There's almost no logo placement or your name anywhere on the sneakers or clothing from the collection, with the exception of tags stitched to the interiors and insoles. Why do you choose to hide your name when so many other collaborators would have made their involvement very visible?
It’s cobranding, so I want to make sure that I highlight the brand and our product, not my logo. My logo is already used extensively on my own line, so it’s also a way to distinguish the two.
What are your thoughts on the rise of athleisure and its place within fashion?
It just reflects how society has changed in the last couple of years; people are valuing keeping in shape, and that’s only a good thing! Fashion follows the demand of customers.
Appearing in Singapore for Laneway Festival 2017, KOM_I of Japanese band Wednesday Campanella was wearing a pair of sneakers from the OT x AP collection. Given your sartorial method and the fact that touring musicians have the tendency to damage their shoes, what are your thoughts on OT x AP as the choice of footwear for musicians?
Refined trainers like OT x AP are perfect for movement – I mean, trainers are meant to be used! I can’t see a reason why not to wear them for a show! They’re comfy, fashionable and allow you to be confident on stage… it’s the best choice, I think! And if the shoes are worn too much, then that’s an excuse to go buy another pair!
The Onitsuka Tiger x Andrea Pompilio SS17 capsule collection is available at Onitsuka Tiger stores islandwide.
Text Trent Davis
Images Onitsuka Tiger