Ronnie Fieg and the Kith NYC team may just be the hardest working team in the footwear industry right now. Fresh off their trip out to California for the West Coast Project pop-up shop, Ronnie Fieg and the Kith team are back at it again, this time they set out to Tokyo, for The Tokyo Sakura Project pop-up shop located inside the United Arrows and Sons Flapship store, in Shibuya, Japan. For The Tokyo Sakura Project we see Fieg teaming up with footwear brand Puma for a double-dose of collaborations on Pumas R698. We've seen the R698 used quite a bit by Puma in recent years, but in typical Ronnie Fieg fashion, Ronnie took the Puma runner and made it his own by creating a truly unique color scheme on the Sakura R698, and continued that by creating the Sakura R698 Mid, an updated, mid cut version of the R698. A detailed explanation on the background of the Sakura Project concept can be seen in the recap video Kith did to give those of us who weren't able to make it over to Japan(Which is about 99% of us) an inside look at the events that transpired.
Now, I've got to admit, while I've been a fan of Ronnie Fieg's work for awhile now, dating back to later portion of his time at David Z, myself, along with many others, have began to wonder if Ronnie's focus has slowly shifted away from the footwear projects, with a greater emphasis on the Apparel line now. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of course, but the level of popularity of many of Fieg's latest footwear collaborations seems to have declined, with some of the projects sitting online for days, while most of the collaborative projects of 2014 are selling for very reasonable prices around retail, or in some cases, below retail. I definitely agree that some of the footwear over the last year or two has been lacking a bit, but the apparel line has definitely picked up any slack. Now, this may not be the case, but I can definitely say the Kith apparel line has progressed immensely over the last, and if what we've seen so far in 2015 is any indication, RF shows no signs of slowing down in terms of the apparel category. Again, this is all a matter of individual opinion, and I'm sure many of people love some of the more recent releases, and I would argue the case that while the quality of footwear Fieg releases is well-above most other collaborators, whether they're individuals or shops working on the project, we just haven't been getting the consistency we once saw from Ronnie Fieg's earlier footwear collaborations, or at least that's how I was feeling up until I saw the video recap for the Tokyo Sakura Project. Maybe its not the sneakers themselves that are lacking, but the concepts behind them, maybe people didn't get behind the West Coast Project more because in reality, the concept just didn't make sense. While I must say, I really enjoyed both of the Gel Sights from the WCP, the bar was set pretty high after RF and the Kith team dropped 2013's East Coast Project, which payed homage to Ronnie's favorite East Coast Cities, his home in NY, and what he considers his home away from home, Miami. The East Coast Project which encompassed a wide variety of products, from the NY and Miami Asics Gel Lyte 3 pack, to Miami and New York Inspired apparel, and lastly a slew of dope accessories including Towels, sunglasses and a collaborative effort with Herschel on 2 ECP themed backpacks. With past projects as strong the East Coast Project, it's no wonder that the WCP was pretty boring excluding the actual design of the Pop-Up shop itself.
Don't get me wrong, a good looking sneaker will always sell, and that is usually the case with a majority of Fiegs projects, but the story behind the project is what can really draw some of us in. Sometimes you can look at a sneaker and it just doesn't make sense until you hear the backstory, or the theme of the sneaker, sometimes its the exact opposite, you can look at a sneaker and tell exactly where the idea came from. While it may seem some of RF's latest offerings have a fairly weak backstory, if any at all, the Tokyo Sakura Project is definitely a different case. The idea for the Tokyo Sakura Project is interesting and unique, and was perfectly executed by Fieg on his latest collection. While, I will openly admit that I still am not the biggest fan of the R698 Mid silhouette, I think the theme is well executed with the usual premium materials used throughout. The Sakura R698 Low has really grown on me, and has left me asking myself, what made me decide to pass on them? I think I can answer my own question here, although I did like the look of the sneaker, with the exception being the gradient midsole, It wasn't until I saw the recap video from the TSP and the passion Ronnie showed about the project that I was truly sold on supporting the TSP.
With so many releases from so many different brand and shops releasing each week, what will set all them apart? Again, I think I can answer that question, or at least give you my personal answer to the question. Brands like Kith, Concepts, Extra Butter, and Packer Shoes, all of which go above and beyond to tell stories through their projects and create unique shopping experiences for their customers, will continue to be fan favorites amongst sneakerheads. Something such as the recap video from Kith's TSP does such a great job of connecting the designer and the consumer, and giving the consumer a look into the inspiration and execution of the project. Maybe it's because at this point in my life, its about more than a good colorway, we see plenty of great GR's from a wide range of companies for very affordable prices, so what is going to make the consumer want to spend the typical $160+ on a collaboration? The passion brands I previously mentioned put into their projects and into creating the best possible customer experience is what will continue to sell these collaborative projects and creating a core fan base for the shops and designers. With that said, Thank you to Ronnie Fieg and the whole Kith NYC team on another well executed collaborative effort and pop-up shop, and a big Thank You for giving your followers a chance to feel connected to your brand and the project through the recap video, it's the little things like this that will continue to raise the bar for others to take it to the next level.
Though I will 100% agree that not only Fieg, but the Kith brand as a whole are more popular than they've ever been, I hope they won't lose site of what got them there in the first place, putting out high quality product that connects with the consumer. As i've stated a few times previously, I really appreciate what Kith did with this recap video, I just feel like it gives the consumer a chance to connect with RF and the Kith team and understand where the idea behind the entire Tokyo Sakura Project originated.
Take an in-depth look at Kith's Tokya Sakura Project in the video below which features commentary from Ronnie and many of his associates who attended the festivities in Japan. Definitely head over to Kithnyc.com to check out the collection and pick up anything that may be left. The Tokyo Sakura Project \ features the RF x Puma pack, a bunch of new Kith NYC TSP themed apparel and an exclusive apparel capsule from Kith and John Ellliot + Co. Let us know what you think about the direction Kith is heading in and if you grabbed anything Tokyo Sakura Project.
Photos thanks to