Global producer and DJ Steve Aoki teams up with ASICS to debut the new shoe that all his friends keep 'asking about'


Gone are the days of fighting between what's comfortable and what's in style.

Our lives move fast and suddenly, with instant gratification and results becoming the norm thanks to technology and a cultural shift towards 'quick and efficient' -- it's no secret that we want clothes that accommodate that constant on-the-go lifestyle.

Not to mention, we all still want to look on-trend while doing it -- ASICS newest shoe might be the first step (pun definitely intended) towards accomplishing that.

ASICS newest footwear franchise, HYPERGEL, combines high-performance GEL technology with a completely unique streetstyle look that makes the new design one of the only shoes that you can wear straight from the gym to the office to the bar — while most likely feeding off compliments about the out-of-bounds design the entire time.

The company is launching their first iteration, HYPERGEL-KENZEN, exclusively with Foot Locker, Inc. and rolling out a massive campaign with global DJ and producer Steve Aoki, a top-line example of someone who’s constantly on-the-go but consistently looks downright cool doing it.

CEO and President of ASICS North America, Gene McCarthy, isn’t calling the shoe's technology ‘revolutionary’, but something different:

“I’ll refrain from using the word revolutionary because once you hit a revolution, then everything stops after that. So I'll call it 'evolutionary.' What this came down to, was 'How do we explore taking a tried and tested component like gel .. and how can we utilize it in a lighter-weight foam and do it in a way so that the way it interacts with the foam is something that can cause a different effect?’"

Summed up in three words, McCarthy describes the shoe as one suited for ‘morning, noon and night’ — and it seems as though ASICS has created a shoe that can handle just that:

“Today, the consumer is telling us how our shoes should be made, we’re not selling the consumers. I always like to say that we don’t own this brand, kids do — we just manage it for them. And if you look at the lifestyle of today’s athletes, there’s nobody compartmentalizing themselves as being runners, tennis players, there’s no more ‘-ers’ — there’s people who are just active, so that was another thing that inspired us ... if you go to the gym, it works perfectly for you. If you run 10 miles, it works perfectly for you. And if you want to go out and watch Steve Aoki play in a club, you’ll look cool too."

And if you actually are Steve Aoki playing in a club, the shoe works for you as well.

Aoki explained:

“I was lucky enough to get one of the first early samples to road test them — I’m the best road tester! I’m out there and I really put these to the ground — all my workouts, running around from one city to the next and then doing the shows — usually I do bring multiple sneakers when I’m traveling, but with the HYPERGELs, I didn’t even realize I was wearing them through the whole day. It’s great to have a shoe that fits my lifestyle, it fits everything that I do. So I think if it does for me, it’s going to do it for other people as well.”

It’s that level of innovation, trendsetting and subtly breaking barriers in an in-your-face way that makes Aoki as big of a cultural influencer as he is — an oxymoron of can’t-stop-won’t-stop energy working in tandem with this effortless level of chill that makes everyone who’s watching want to hop on board with whatever Aoki’s serving up next (which, at nearly all of his shows, is often a sheet cake that’s thrown into the audience.)

Aoki’s method of trailblazing is a test-and-see method, one that he applies to his music and used in preparation for the launch of this campaign:

“When I started wearing the shoes in general people were like ‘Yo! Where do I get those shoes?’ and when you have your celebrity friends or whoever going ‘Dude, I need a pair of those’, you know you’re doing the right thing, when your friends are asking how to get your shoes.

I’m the kind of guy that puts it out there subliminally, sees what kind of response I get and then start tweaking it. That’s how I do it with my music — I’ll play a song in my set that I worked on without saying it’s fresh or new and see if there’s any feedback on it, or see if there’s negative feedback on it — and then I can change it before it’s actually out. I do that all the time — with fashion, with music, just being creative — seeding it, putting it out there, seeing the response, going back to the lab kind of fixing and retuning it and putting it out there so the product that’s finally out is tried and tested.”

This trial-run mentality oozes into Aoki’s entire demeanor — he’s someone whose vibes convey this sense collectedness and intelligence but lacks any sort of apprehension to try something new, to go for the next big thing.

And it’s the ability to have that creative leverage that made the partnership with ASICS such a seamless one:

“It’s important that if I work with a partner, that they allow me to express myself. That’s really important. And they already get it — if I bring up an idea, they want to hear it. We have a lot of these group kind of dynamic conversations about how to put my DNA into their brand and really build together, instead of me just being a face. With ASICS and our overall brand partnership, it’s really been that kind of mixing of our DNAs and putting it out there together — and that to me is like the big ‘A-ha’ moment, finally finding a brand that has a global footprint that really touches on the overall game of shoes and allowing my vision as part of their vision —that’s a really big deal.”

The campaign seemed to be a no-brainer on both ends — the biggest irony, perhaps, being that the way in which McCarthy and Aoki met was completely on-brand with what the HYPERGEL shoe stands for: An on-the-go, day-to-night, nonstop lifestyle, as McCarthy shared:

“I knew of Steve but I didn’t know him, so as I thought about it I was in London and I heard he was playing a show in the south of France, so myself and another guy jumped on a plane — we went down and had dinner with him … when I got to know Steve and I listened to his personal values, the fact that he has a Japanese-American heritage, the fact that he was born and raised in Newport Beach, California about 15 minutes from our office, the fact that he’s an athlete that makes music (and in some cases, he’s just as fit as some of the athletes that we’re associated with) … all meant a lot to me.”

Both ASICS and Aoki’s mutual connection and dedication to Japanese culture and heritage was another major fusion point for the two.

Aoki shared:

“There was a synergy for sure … [ASICS is] a Japanese brand which was a huge, huge deal for me. I love working with other brands that are Japanese and Japanese culture has always been a major point of inspiration for me in fashion … they also get who I am, and that’s also really important to me — they understand where I come from, they totally believe in what I’ve been doing and that’s important that we have this mutual understanding of ‘they get me, I get them’ and then we started coming together.”

On the ASICS side, McCarthy explained:

“Our company was founded 1949 by a man who was worried about the well-being of kids in war-torn Japan and his whole premise was ‘If I can get them to move, if I can get them to just exercise, play, then it would help their well-being.’"

It’s clear that Aoki would never compromise who he is or where he came from for any sort of trend or style — and he’s a believer in the idea that style and function can, and should, exist hand in hand:

“People want performance — they want something that’s athletic and something that’s in fashion and stylish, that’s just whats happening nowadays. Even shoe brands that are not in the athletic category need to have some performance attributes to their shoes or they’re not really competition in the overall footwear footprint. It’s just the way in which we all wear sneakers — you need something that’s going to do you justice while you’re doing your thing, and you gotta look fresh doing it. At the end of the day, everyone wants to look fresh.

I’m proud wearing these shoes. They’re unique, they’re different and I was lucky because I got them before anyone else got them and I’ve been traveling around the world and everyone’s asking me, commenting, finding out how to get these shoes and now they finally can.”

And if Aoki ever finds himself taking his HYPERGEL shoes off, it’s safe to say he’ll have a pretty solid place to put them:

“You should see my closet — I have an entire room, it’s a sneaker museum … it’s sick.”

The shoes, which are currently available exclusively at Foot Locker, Inc. stores, will roll out globally starting later this month.