The new sneakers take cues from Mobile Suit Gundam and feature eight removable pouches.
Sarah Cascone, August 26, 2019
Sneakerheads and anime fans, rejoice: contemporary-art star and fashion-world favorite Takashi Murakami has created his first pair of kicks, and they owe their look to some of Japan’s most revered robot heroes. Called the TZ BS-06s, the sneakers are available exclusively at the artist’s official online store, Tonari no Zingaro, for the eyebrow-arching price of ¥64,800 ($611).
“From conception to drawing sketches to selecting the collaborator and manufacturer, I’ve handled everything, start to finish, every step of the way,” the artist wrote of the new shoes on Instagram. “In the past I have collaborated with brands such as Issey Miyake, Louis Vuitton, and Vans at their requests and designed the surface patterns, packages, and wrappings, but I was never really involved in developing any products. This time, I truly got [to] do everything from scratch.”
Murakami felt compelled to delve deeper into the sneaker business after the unexpectedly positive reception he received from sneakerheads at the inaugural ComplexCon, the hybrid streetwear exhibition, music festival, and pop-culture event, back in 2016. He was shocked that so many passionate collectors from outside the art world recognized him on sight and expressed admiration for his work. Designing and producing the TZ BS-06 was a way to forge an even stronger connection with this audience.
After a clunky pair of Balenciaga sneakers sparked his imagination three years ago, Murakami decided a Japanese-flavored take on the oversize footwear would resemble the giant manned military robots from the popular 1980s anime series Mobile Suit Gundam and its many spin-offs. In particular, he had in mind the Zaku, the bulky, heavily weaponized “mechas” tasked with defending the Principality of Zeon in the original series.
While Murakami was working on the design of the TZ BS-06s, he got a call from an executive at Porter Yoshida & Co, Ltd. The classic Japanese brand is known for its rugged Porter bags, specifically the Tanker Helmet bagsinspired by US Air Force flight jackets. The brand asked Murakami to collaborate on a special Tanker bag in honor of the design’s 30th anniversary.
He agreed, but with a request of his own attached: Could the company create removable Porter bags for his new sneakers? Murakami had already been thinking that the nylon fabric used for flight jackets could capture the Zaku’s military aesthetic, and that some kind of pockets would reflect the mobile suit’s tank-like compartments. Miniature Porter bags would be a perfect fit.
The package design for the TZ BS-06s is a multi-layered love letter to the Japanese fanboy culture of the ’80s. Featuring a manga-style rendering of a Zaku mecha, the box is also an homage to Kow Yokoyama, whose Gundam-inspired series SF3d became famous partly for the distinctively gritty aesthetic on the exterior artwork of its popular robot-model kits. Done with Yokoyama’s blessing, the illustration is the work of JNTHED, who has collaborated with Murakami on his anime series Six Hearts Princess and CGI/live-action sci-fi film Jellyfish Eyes.
The new sneakers offset the dark greenish-gray of the Zaku mechas with white and orange accents. The design also features no less than eight removable Porter pouches, which sounds like either a great alternative to a purse, or a massive obstacle to navigating a crowded street without losing accessories to accidental contact.
How does Murakami feel about creating the cargo shorts of the footwear world, though?
“I’m thrilled to the core,” he wrote.
See more photos of the TZ BS-06s below.