Kaito Choy is full time Industrial Designer by day and Footwear Designer by night. Born in Hong Kong and raised in southside Chicago since the age of 10, he started designing when he was around 12 years old.
Kaito has designed the COMMA and the APOSTROPHE and the long lasting collaboration has led to him being the Underdog in charge of special projects at WAU.
The thought of being a footwear design started when I was in design school, the story telling aspect in an everyday product was what captivated my interest.
What were your first contacts with the culture?
Being immigrants in the states, it has always been about being practical and economical. So I was never the kid with the coolest shoes. I wasn't even aware of the sneaker culture till I started speaking english during my high school years.
How was that, being a second generation Asian-American? Do you feel it was harder because of your ethnicity?
First gen Asian American actually. It was definitely a challenge! From learning the language to understanding the nuances of American culture, I still feel like an outsider still today to be honest. But I learned to adapt and put my unique perspective to good use.
What did you do to pursue your dream?
I have always been quite competitive growing up, and seeing how progressive the athletic industry pushes sneakers really ignites a fire to pursue and create work that reflects the current state of my mind and the world that I see. So to answer the question, I studied tech, and design of footwear quite intensively which led me to enroll in Pensole Academy back in 2013.
What brands / designers influence you the most?
Yohji Yamamoto has a huge influence on my work and philosophy. His monolithic styling and deep influence from his family history. To me he walks a fine line of expressing his psyche through his commercial work.
What was your feeling when invited to be an "Underdog"?
It was very exciting. I had just returned home from Portland as a runner-up for World Sneaker Championship 2018 and was fired up to work after my full time job to execute my design vision. So it was a dream come true in many ways.
You are now the Underdog in charge of special projects and already have two signature sneakers available to the public. How does that feel, considering that having a signature sneaker was something only accessible to a few athletes and artists?
It's truly a special experience to be able to touch and feel the products that were once only sketches, and to see people wear them!? It's unbelievable.
Overall, how has your experience been collaborating with WAU?
The footwear industry is definitely a hard one to crack into. So to be able to have a vision executed and tested in the field and all while building my name as a designer is truly an unreal experience. It has been an honor to be a part of the team, and I am excited to see what comes next.
Where do you envision yourself in 10 years from now?
The dream space would be to own my personal brand. A physical space that represents my flowing ideals and growth, a facility to learn, teach, and share.
What would you say is your "signature" in terms of sneaker design?
The main theme has always been around a "narrative", a story worth telling. That's why the first two signatures are Commas, and Apostrophe. Marks that help build and frame my story.
What mark would you like to leave in the industry?
I hope to build a community of creatives that are driven by work ethic and humanity.