Sole Mates: Hiromichi Ochiai and the FACETASM x Jordan “Why Not?” Zer0.4

Sole Mates is a weekly HYPEBEAST series that asks one simple question of its participants: “why do you love shoes?” Searching for a deeper meaning beyond hype, Sole Mates uncovers each subject’s sneaker origin story, letting them wax poetic on why a particular shoe means so much to them.

FACETASM’s Hiromichi Ochiai doesn’t collaborate, he tells stories. When the brand’s Air Jordan 1 Mid released back in 2019, it was all about creating something organic and original, fitting it with crinkled leather in honor of the brand’s aesthetic alongside core colors such as “Celestial Teal,” which itself is a play off FACETASM’s signature “Smoke Blue” hue. 

So when news broke of a very bold FACETASM x Jordan “Why Not?” Zer0.4 collaboration, the sneaker world was thrown, to say the least. While the brand doesn’t steer away from color, it seldom explores it in a way such as this. But, in 2020, “Why Not?” 

Sporting an upper of “Smoke Blue” suede and black overlaying components alongside white synthetic fabrics, red and orange pull tabs, contrasting topstitching, red-and-white laces, and a bold red embroidered pattern on the medial, the FACETASM x Jordan “Why Not?” Zer0.4 is nothing short of busy. Yet, under the eye of Ochiai, the pair is cohesive. It tells a visual story, one of a harmonious partnership between FACETASM, Jordan Brand, and Russell Westbrook (with more on that later). 

Ochiai doesn’t like to boast, but he can’t help but hope how his creations will serve as the foundations for a better future — a more interesting collaborative future, at that. In the latest issue of Sole Mates, we speak with Ochiai about the FACETASM x Jordan “Why Not?” Zer0.4, what makes something uniquely FACETASM, how his relationship with Westbrook came about (again, it’s all rather humble to be honest), and what the future holds. 1 of 2

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Hiromichi Ochiai

Why do you design?

Designing has always come naturally to me. Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to become a designer. I mainly design to create new value 

What got you into sneakers? 

I got into sneakers when I was in junior high school. I can still remember the shock when I first laid eyes on the Air Jordan 5. 

What is the sneaker scene like in Japan?

I think the sneaker scene in Japan is a very enthusiastic community and I think it will only get bigger. As a designer in Tokyo, it is a great honor to be able to collaborate with Jordan Brand at a time when not only Japan but the whole world is really into sneakers.

How does FACETASM play a part in the global streetwear scene?

I don’t really know to be honest. I always consider FACETASM as a high-end brand, though outside of Japan, people view it as a streetwear brand. I guess what we do is somewhere in the middle, hopefully closing the gap between them. I think that in general — creations from Tokyo are always viewed in a strong way by the rest of the world. I also want to design something that’s considered as one of those.

Why does Jordan Brand stand out for you?

For me, Jordan Brand is not just a sneaker brand but the timeless symbol of a hero. [It’s] a brand that always remains at the top and I believe it will continue to stay at the top for the next 100 years.1 of 3

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Hiromichi Ochiai

How did the FACETASM x Jordan “Why Not?” Zer0.4 collaboration come around?

It started while having a conversation with Russell [Westbrook] when he visited Japan during his Asia Tour in 2018. He visited our flagship store in Tokyo since he was a fan of FACETASM, something I still can’t believe. So the fact that Russell wanted to visit our store was really exciting. Right there, we started talking about a potential collaboration together with Jordan Brand. From there we started working together on the color scheme and designs. During the whole process, there was a nice environment and good teamwork, which I really enjoyed.  

“Russell’s “Why Not” mantra also fits perfectly with FACETASM. I like that it’s about being fearless and to face challenges rather than avoiding them.”

You explore many messages with your brand, from gender-free expression to bold use of color. What is the message behind the FACETASM x Jordan “Why Not?” Zer0.4?

Russell’s “Why Not” mantra also fits perfectly with FACETASM. I like that it’s about being fearless and to face challenges rather than avoiding them. The designs are a mix of the sense of Russell, an NBA top athlete who is a fascinating player, and our playful attitude towards design. I hope this collaboration will create new value and a statement, bringing together sports and fashion.

The FACETASM x Air Jordan 1 Mid was much more laid back than the “Why Not” Zer0.4. Why did you take different approaches with these? 

This time it was a performance shoe instead of only a fashion one. After the first collaboration, the smoke blue color in combination with orange became our signature palette, but with Russell wearing them during a game, I thought a more colorful approach would fit better. It has been a great honor to work on the collaboration that Russell wore during a match. This has really brought it all together.

Who is the “Why Not” Zer0.4 for?

I hope it will get into the hands of those who appreciate this collaboration and the new value it will add by bringing together the fashion and athletic industry. 

How do you see your work changing the future of fashion and the sneaker industry? 

I can’t give you the exact answer. But with this collaboration — for a Tokyo brand to be able to work with a global brand like Jordan, and an international athlete like Russell — I feel like it’s the first time for something like this to happen. It’s really a step up and I think we are at a new point in the industry where an athlete and fashion brand meet and create something together. I can only hope that the creations we will keep bringing will be the ones that create a better future.1 of 5

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Hiromichi Ochiai

What makes a FACETASM collaboration unique? 

With every collaboration, I think it’s important for all of the parties to have fun and enjoy it. When everyone is happy it should create the best results. We always bring something which is signature to FACETASM, like the rib stripe or “Smoke Blue” color, and try to mix that with the other brand or person’s style for the perfect harmony. 

What are your thoughts on the sneaker industry, and more so, the collaboration industry?

The development in the sneaker industry regarding design and technology is truly amazing. For me, collaborations let me develop my own skills and open possibilities by working on unusual designs and facing challenges. I always learn a lot throughout the process. Collaboration in the sneaker industry is something completely different from collaboration within fashion. It reaches a different audience than our usual FACETASM one. I am looking forward to hearing the different reactions.

Will we ever see a FACETASM own-brand sneaker?

We’ve done own-brand shoes in the past but never sneakers. It’s is not something that’s on my mind at the moment, so we will see.

How has this year been, and what does the future hold?

The unfamiliar coronavirus has dramatically changed our values and the environment around us. I would like to pour this time and the feelings we have experienced into new designs and strong creations and as something positive.
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