For decades now, sneakers have become a ubiquitous part of one's wardrobe whether you're an athlete or not. And as with most things fashion these days, automation certainly plays a part in helping to ensure that demand is met. Onitsuka Tiger's Nippon Made series, however, deliberately challenges that notion.
Sticking to its Japanese roots, Nippon Made was launched in 2008 as a way of celebrating the brand's heritage through the works of Japanese artisans and craftsmen. It is with Nippon Made that each and every sneaker is meticulously crafted in Japan's Tottori prefecture, where the brand's only shoe production facility in the country is located. Iconic Onitsuka Tiger silhouettes with the likes of Mexico 66 and Fabre are adapted as premium versions of the mainline by master craftsmen with more than 30 years of experience. Navigating thick pieces of quality leathers—sewing them together, moulding them onto the shoe last, and attaching them to what would be the sole of the sneaker—requires nothing short of deft skills.
But that's not all. Once the sneakers are fully formed, they're sent about 200km south to Osaka for the finishing touches. A small factory in Higashiosaka is tasked with creating the element that visually distinguishes Nippon Made from the usual Onitsuka Tiger sneaker. While both essentially may look the same at a glance, the former makes use of traditional skills including dyeing and washing to present a more apparent artisanal quality.
Onitsuka Tiger clearly doesn't take its 'Made in Japan' tag lightly. Nippon Made means more than just having sneakers crafted from start to finish in the country. In essence, it also means having them worked on by artisans and craftsmen who are able to translate Japanese heritage through their hands and into their creations. In turn, the time evolved in making these pieces by hand means that the Nippon Made series is only available in selected stores.
Relative to modern shoemaking, the handmade processes involved in Nippon Made may be slow. But as we've all learned in the past couple of years, we thrive on human connections—whether in the form of face-to-face conversations or in the very products that we buy.
Onitsuka Tiger Nippon Made is available online and at the Onitsuka Tiger Ngee Ann City store.