From the ground up

Last month we spend a couple of days in Tokyo to attend the Asia launch party of the Reebok Reethym of Lite campaign. Along with the campaign launch, Reebok also announced that Verbal, that you guys know best from Ambush and the Teriyaki Boys, has been named creative director of the brand. We wanted to know what that means and how he will exactly be working with Reebok over the next seasons.

Check out our interview with Verbal here below.

Highsnobiety: How did the talks between you and Reebok start and how did the idea of working together arise?

Verbal: Long story short, I was meeting some people from Reebok, we were having some drinks and I talked to them about my history with the brand, having the basketball Pumps during High School and my basketball years. Also it just happened so, that I was writing a paper on Reebok during college… I was a business major. Those things mixed with what I do in music and fashion seemed like a good fit for Reebok.

H: How would you describe your personal history with the Reebok brand. What is the most iconic thing you remember about the brand, when did you start wearing Reebok? What comes to mind?

V: My first connection was with the technology stuff. Right around the time when Nike also had the pump technology, but attached externally to the sneaker, I was wearing the Reebok Pumps. It was a technology renaissance in footwear. It was a great time.

I almost feel sorry for the young kids today, as they did not get to experience the same as we did. This ‘Oh my God Hexilite, oh my god Air, of my god Pump’, there was something new around the corner all the time. Pump Furies, ERS, the way it was designed on the sole, taking aside the comfort for a moment.. it just looked cool and I remember that as if it was yesterday.

Read the rest of the interview after the jump.

H: Now you are in this partnership with the Reebok Classics brand. How would you describe your involvement and your job as part of this team-up going forward?

V: Its a creative director position that I have. From my understanding, my role is to bring culture back into the sneaker scene. To connect the brand with the scene. The other day somebody asked me ‘What’s sneakers to you?’. And I had to say ‘Culture’. When people watch ‘Do The Right Thing’ they wanted the Jordans, or when they dance they had to wear vintage Polo with Air Max’s or Run DMC’s adidas. Reebok had that image in the music scene. It was very organic. Kids wanted it because it was natural to their environment. With all the high fashion brands making moves into the market, with all the corporate people moving into the market, its time to bring culture back. We want to bring that feeling, the renaissance that I spoke about, back for the kids.

H: Through your music involvement and various design jobs. You have a deep foundation in the Tokyo design and music scene. Will we see any of this play into the Reebok partnership?

V: I think naturally it would. I know a bunch of energetic young designers and they see Reebok differently, they have no pre-conceived notions of the brand, have a fresh start and it will be refreshing to see what they can create. Also pioneers will hopefully get involved, such as Nigo. I can tell you already, everyone is excited and is asking me what I will do.

H: With Ambush you have a successful jewelry brand. Will Ambush play a role in the Reebok partnership?

V: If it makes sense it will happen. Ambush is a part of me. If it makes sense for Ambush and Reebok, I’d love to do something in this direction.

H: If you look at the current and upcoming Reebok Classics offering, what product are you most excited about?

V: What I will be working on, that is what I am excited about. Ha! I am very inspired by the iconic stuff. The Lite’s that are out now look great and are based on the classics. I will work further in that direction with Reebok.

H: You are basically Swizz Beatz counter part for Asia. How do you and Swizz interact, if there is anyinteraction at all?

V: This is a new partnership. I am just starting to get to know Swizz on a fashion level. He is taking it global, so I would not want to compare myself on that level. All I can say is, I can help Reebok in Tokyo, Japan and Asia, because we have a different culture and approach here than the West does. I think we will inspire each other. I am looking forward to a combined movement.

H: Will it be a global initiative, or will a lot of your work stay in Japan?

V: I think a lot starts local. When I started Ambush I did not mean for it to be sitting at colette in Paris. But it happened. So, I think if we do cool stuff here in Japan, it will eventually also go global or at least influence other markets.

H: Previously you have always been working on some kind of collaboration in the music and design business. How would you compare your previous collaborations with this new one with Reebok?

V: This is definitely big.. Most of the past collaborations were more personal. For example with Nigo I was sitting at a table and he went ‘Yo, don’t you want to do some jewelry for Bape?” and I was like ‘Yeah, sure, let’s do it’. It was very organic and that is how it mostly went. This is full on, it is actually a job – creative director. Here we are planning, we are creating things together far beyond one capsule collection. Its definitely bigger than my previous projects.

H: Is it a big step for you as a person, as a designer? Sort of a next step on your path?

V: I would definitely say so. I want to execute this right, because it makes sense for everybody involved.

H: What is next for you? How do you see your next 5 years as a creative? What would you like to work on? More music, more fashion?

V: Its safe to say that I will probably involved in music and arts 5 years down the line. I want to pass the torch to the next generation. Its like a CEO of a company, you are only supposed to be there for a certain amount of time and then pass on the responsibility. I have this drive now, but I want to pass it on to people that have more energy. I want to help kids out and become more creative and make their projects happen. The internet helps, but its not there yet full on.

H: Thanks for talking to us and good luck with all your future projects and we are of course excited to see what you will do with Reebok!

Photography: Highsnobiety
Interview: Highsnobiety

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