Owning a wealth of sneakers is one thing, but caring for them is another beast altogether. Cody Yunshen — founder of Shenzhen-based shoe care brand SupBro — was compelled by this duality and has established himself in the footwear industry by generating products like waterproofing spray, cleaning wipes and luminous display boxes.As a lifelong fan of kicks, Yunshen has also always appreciated the various ways in which they are created and marketed. When thinking about the innovative minds that have made their mark on sneaker culture, he views Virgil Abloh as one of the most important figures to have carried this torch. It only makes sense that he chose to highlight one of the late designer’s creations for his Sole Mates feature, which is why he selected the ultra-rare Off-White™ x Nike Air Force 1 “MCA” sample.Hypebeast caught up with Yunshen to talk about the genesis of his sneaker journey, his views on Abloh’s impact on design and his entrepreneurial experiences.How did you get into sneakers?My love of sneakers spawned from the many subcultures that I tapped into growing up. In elementary school I was a fan of basketball, hip hop and BMX, so I naturally gravitated towards street style and sneakers. It’s a love that I’ve shared with my peers ever since.Do you remember what your first pair of “special” sneakers were and how you got them?When I was in high school, my mom got me my first pair of Jordans, an Air Jordan 13, for my birthday. They were ¥ 1,399 [roughly $203 USD] — which was a big deal for me considering that my family didn’t have much money. I recall admiring Michael Jordan’s game and watching the Bulls play any chance I got, so it was special for me to see him live on TV rocking the “Bred” 13s. I felt connected to him because I had the same pair of shoes he did!What about the Off-White™ x Nike Air Force 1 “MCA” sample speaks to you?I picked these up at SneakerCon in 2020 and was attracted to them because I heard many bloggers discussing how rare this sample pair is. I was planning to attend a Louis Vuitton or Off-White™ fashion show in hopes of getting them signed, but he unfortunately passed later that year. There’s speculation that there are only three pairs of this version in the world, one of which Abloh wore at the LV show’s curtain call.[Virgil Abloh’s] “The Ten” collection with Nike gave the sneaker community a newfound language that has spawned new trends and impacted the way we view design.Do you have any other favorite Off-White™ sneaker collaborations in your collection?The Off-White™ x Air Jordan 1 “Chicago” was given to me as a gift, and that was the first time I came into contact with Virgil’s design so those have sentimental value. Since then, I’ve ramped up my sneaker collection, and have picked up pairs like the Off-White™ x Air Jordan 1 “UNC” colorway, which I also love.Why does Virgil Abloh inspire you?He transcended culture and shifted our traditional impression of sneakers thanks to his innovative concepts. I admire that he was the only black LV Men’s Artistic Director in the past century. His “The Ten” collection with Nike gave the sneaker community a newfound language that has spawned new trends and impacted the way we view design.Do you have any other coveted paris in your collection?I keep the Diamond Supply Co. x Nike SB Dunk “Yellow Diamond” in heavy rotation. Some of the other grails that I own are the Concepts x Nike SB Dunk “Yellow Lobster,” a pair of Air Jordan 1 High “Chicago” from 1994 and a breast cancer awareness-inspired Nike Air Force 1 that I recently made on Nike By You.Was working in the sneaker industry always a goal of yours?I chose to work in sneakers because it has always been a passion of mine and my past experiences working in a factory and sales would translate seamlessly. I remember watching a documentary about a townsman who opened a shoe washing shop, and because of the excellent service and word of mouth, he became a millionaire. It inspired me to work hard, especially after I became a single father.Your brand SupBro makes everything from light-emitting shoe boxes to electric shoe brushes. What products are you hoping to release in the future?In the beginning, we were just a cleaning and care company selling sneaker cleaning fluid and waterproofing spray. Later, when we tried to gradually digitize our products. Now, we’re gradually transforming the traditional sneaker care industry by improving the efficiency and quality of our products.In 2023, we will optimize the existing luminous shoebox to become a mode of human and computer interaction, which will be more intelligent and entertaining. I also hope that in the future I will have the opportunity to make a joint product with Hypebeast and give it to the most loyal readers for free.Your brand has participated in many exhibitions and offline activities around the world. What’s the main difference you’ve seen between Chinese sneaker fans and other sneaker lovers?The most obvious difference is the way that children’s parents support their love for sneakers. Chinese parents do not understand sneakers and sneaker culture as well as parents from other countries do.The sneaker crowd is getting more into high fashion and outdoor-focused sneakers nowadays. Do you see this trend shift affecting your business in any way?No matter what type of shoes you wear they need to be well protected, so what I can do is to study how to protect all kinds of shoes. It’s what I love doing and I think will continue to be reinvented thanks to the constant changes that are occurring in sneaker innovation.This issue of Sole Mates was originally posted on HYPEBEAST CN and has been adapted accordingly.
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