Limited edition sneaker pays homage to indigenous culture

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 08 2017 01:05 AM | Updated as of Apr 08 2017 03:20 AM

The “Kultura” Gel-Lyte V will be released on April 8. Vladimir Bunoan, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — Global sportswear brand ASICS Tiger and US-based specialty boutique Commonwealth have collaborated to create a limited edition sneaker that pays homage to one of the Philippines’ preserved traditions.

The “Kultura” Gel-Lyte V will be available starting Saturday at POV by Commonwealth at SM Aura in Taguig. 

The Kultura pop-up store, which is set up like a gallery with large photographs of the Cordillera region taken by Steve Tirona, will only be open for a week as Commonwealth Philippines co-founder Michael Concepcion expects the sneaker to sell out quickly.

“We think it’s going to be sold out in a day,” Concepcion confidently told reporters at a media preview on Friday. 

This special edition of the Gel-Lyte V, one of ASIC Tiger’s more iconic models that was originally released in 1993 as a marathon shoe, features a nubuck, premium suede and breathable mesh upper with Kalinga-inspired art on the shoe’s signature mono sock-tongue.

Concepcion has good reason to be confident.

According to Commonwealth Philippines manager Javier Marclain, the Kultura will retail for P7,900, making it accessible to many sneakerheads. “We’ve seen the demand these past few days. People want the product,” he told ABS-CBN News.

But more than the rosy sales projections, Concepcion has a lot to be proud about. 

“Opening my own sneaker store is a dream in itself. To partner with a historic sportswear brand like ASICS and to design our own shoe is just truly incredible,” he said.

Commonwealth Philippines co-founder Michael Concepcion says he wanted a sneaker that avoided clichés; instead of splashing the shoe with red, blue and gold, his team went for beige and tan. Vladimir Bunoan, ABS-CBN News

Although Commonwealth, which has stores in Washington DC and Virginia Beach before opening in Manila, has become an internationally recognized brand, it “definitely has strong Filipino DNA,” thanks to its co-founder Omar Quiambao.

About a year ago, Commonwealth pitched the idea of creating a shoe with a Philippine story to ASICS Tiger.

“We have a long-standing partnership with ASICS. They knew about Commonwealth, they knew about Omar, they knew our capabilities and our reputation as a store,” noted Concepcion. “So we made a deck, we pitched it, we did a couple of renders, and they said, ‘Let’s go.’ So here we are a year later.”

While the Kultura Gel-LyteV is about #PinoyPride, don’t expect the usual red, white, blue and yellow colors. Instead, the shoe comes in beige and tan with black accents. 

Concepcion said this was intentional. “When you think of Philippine projects, it tends to be a little cliché. We think about the colors of the flag, we think about the jeepney. We wanted to move away from that and find something that’s really indigenous and a story that’s worth telling,” he said.

A closer look at the shoe’s Kalinga-inspired adornment. “We like the idea that this is something like a tattoo on skin,” says Commonwealth Philippines co-founder Michael Concepcion. Vladimir Bunoan, ABS-CBN News

Quiambao further explained: “We look to the simplicity to help us communicate the inspiration of the shoe. We chose beige and tan for the foundation of the shoe for a number of reasons. No. 1, to be wearable but also to be a neutral color representing nature. The greatest part of the concept would be the sublimated neoprene sock, embellished with designs inspired by nature found on the arms and chest of the Kalinga people.”

Moreover, the batok-inspired art on the shoe’s tongue suggests the intricate tribal tattoo art. “We like the idea that this is something like a tattoo on skin,” said Concepcion, adding that they were very much inspired by the country’s oldest mambabatok, Whang-Od, whose hand appears in one of the photos in the store.

But while ASICS Tiger and Commonwealth hope to preserve this Kalinga tradition through sneaker culture, “bridging the gap between a reverence for the past and a foot towards the future,” Concepcion stressed that Kultura is about Philippine culture in general.

“This shoe is so much more than just a sneaker for us. It’s really a celebration of Philippine culture and we hope that Filipinos would take pride in this project,” he said.