This person has affected my life a great deal because we used to go on inspiration trips and every year, we would pick a location or a destination and one year I took him to Art Basel. And guess who asked for a ride to New York? Was this gentleman on the far right. Mr. Kanye. Unbeknownst to him or us, he didn’t know he was gonna be flying back to New York with us. He takes his backpack out and empties all the notebooks out of his backpack and there are sneaker drawing after sneaker drawing after sneaker drawing in his backpack.
Out of that conversation, that unexpected unusual connection came this: that drawing those discussions on the plane led to the very first Air Yeezy that he wore at the 2008 Grammys and of course you all know those who follow sneakers and understand the the difference of opinion that happened between Nike and him and then he went to adidas and of course, it is the major success of adidas today.
So Hiroshi Fujiwara the godfather of street culture no matter what country you’re in, in ’98 I introduced him to Nike—to Mark Parker—and what that relationship has, what I’ve enjoyed is a first of all when I opened the new Wieden offices, he designed these shoes exclusive 50 pairs for my staff. At that time, at a very small office at that time.
But more importantly, he has gone on to do these collaborations that called them one of the most exclusive his HTM. ‘H’ for Hiroshi, ‘T’ for Tinker Hatfield, the creator of the Air Jordan, and end the ‘M’ for Mark Parker and of course, I don’t think Jeff is here yet. But Jeff is of course, is one of the godfathers of course and my only connection here is kind of a loose one. But I want to show you something. He is the one who created this sneaker riot that is infamous in the history of sneakerwear, his store.
But fast forward just this past year he—for a celebration—he created that limited edition t-shirt in which he listed his unexpected connections and the people who have influenced him. And lo and behold, I get the shirt and my name is on there. So the one thing that’s important for me here is that my name is between Jenny Holzer and Steve Jobs, and this will be the only time in my life that those three names are ever mentioned in one breath at the same time. I guarantee you.
So Tom Sachs, one of my favorite artists and someone that’s really really important today and very important to me. Tom began riffing on brands, making fun of fashion, making fun of luxury brands and commodifying art. And when I brought the Nike executives there, they didn’t quite understand what he was doing at that time. But he has turned out to be— in my mind, in my opinion—probably the most interesting collaboration between an artist and a shoe company. And so when he came in, I introduced him to Japan. He came when I opened the Wiedenoffice in ‘9, he was my first guest speaker and so he made a surprise for my opening date.
He made that thing on the left, the rolling DJ booth. So what he did was that he went to Canal Street and bought the cheapest equipment that he could:, the cheapest refrigerators, speakers, and turntables, relabeled them as Bose and so forth and made them all luxury brands in terms of the markings anyway. And then when the crate came, he was so excited he called me right away when it arrived and we’re opening it. He says, “did you see my little surprise for Japan?” I said, “no.” He says,”did you see the hidden key?” I said, “no.” There’s a key and I open up, use the key and inside hidden was a zip gun made of materials that he found on the streets: an operating handgun with six bullets inside. I’m lucky that I’m not speaking to you as a hologram from jail right now! If you know Japan.
And of course, his artwork is extraordinary. His Mars landing, Lunar landing and that has inspired this shoe: His latest shoe which will come out next year. The over shoe, which is all related to lunar landings and so forth. (Video plays)
So please come and visit me and if you come to Portland, this is my unexpected connection space here. This is my my lab and my studio in Chinatown and having personal space—this has been really really important to me. So I have a library of course in the kitchen, lots of art, my office, but my latest project is this: this is brand new—I don’t think Julia even knows about this.
My newest project is a private building that I’ve acquired where I can make and show my own art and supporting fellow artists. So on the ground floor is a meeting space of course in this industrial building and the whole first floor is for exhibitions and for artists to make things, support for myself to make things. On the top floor are all these studios and what I’m doing is finding the right artists that I think are inspirational, so that on the days that I feel uninspired, I can just walk through their space and find inspiration through their work. And I go back to this one is that I haven’t had a chance to even have an event yet and my son has already taken it over and he had a Japanese food street fair on the first weekend.
So unexpected connections: seek to make a conscious effort to constantly explore the new unexpected. Why? Of course to seek new information, inspiration and insights outside of your expertise and to always always always try to be original and the connection to get off that damn computer and make for personal connections with people who inspire you, to help others connect to new people, help others to connect new people and to connect with young mentors—people much younger than you. So help others before they can help you. That’s the one mantra I will always believe in and build your personal network and make it global as well as local, inspire others to develop an open mind. Meet as many people as possible here today, please. And not only meet them but meet MAEKAN, meet Eugene, meet Julia and meet all the speakers today ,please. And make one unexpected friend in this room to carry with you.
Go someplace new when you leave here to open your mind. Thank you so much. (Applause)