SHOP657 has given several Academy of Art University design students an opportunity for real-world experience. The store, located at 657 Sutter Street, is a chance for people to snag a truly unique piece from a young designer. Soon M.F.A. merchandising and product development student, Shihkai Tai, will be among the designers featured with his new KAI footwear collection.
Tai, who is affectionately known as “Kai,” considers himself to be a “sneakerhead” and attributes this characteristic to his passion for shoe design. Kai hails from Taiwan and many of his designs have a Taiwanese cultural element tied into the aesthetic. His brand logo is the outline of Taiwan’s island. A question Kai raised to me was: “What is the core value of a country (Taiwan) that gathers multiple cultural elements?” It is Kai’s wish to use these elements to help people all over the world to understand how rich Taiwanese culture truly is.
“Observation is the most crucial part of the process,” Kai said in regards to being creative. “I look around at people and the environment for inspiration.”
Being an international student, Kai experiences constant culture exchange, which is especially apparent at the Academy. “Academy of Art University sharpens my creativity, including my drawing skills and prospect to the world,” he explained.
Student designers everywhere work tirelessly to produce exceptional work that will get noticed and eventually placed into stores for consumers to enjoy. You can imagine the gratitude that Kai had when he found out that his footwear was being considered for the Academy’s boutique. “I think the school store is a sort of pop art store because it sells many sophisticated items,” he said. “All of the items are so unique and can only be found in that store. I think this is a good place to start with selling my shoes.”
Kai designs boots, canvas shoes and sneakers, but he gets the most enjoyment from designing sneakers. He believes that wearing sneakers with other fashion apparel will be a trend as many high-end brands have added sneaker lines into their assortment plans in recent years. “I once waited for a limited edition sneaker for 18 hours,” Kai said.
He dreams of collaborating with infamous Los Angeles Laker shooting guard Kobe Bryant. “That’s why I’m here,” he explained. “I want to design shoes for him after he ends the contract with Nike.” In 10 years, Kai hopes to have a global brand that makes Taiwan proud of their culture. “My shoe line could be as classic as the Nike Air Force 1 or Adidas Superstar,” he commented.
Best wishes to you, Kai!
You can view Kai’s entire collection on his website: kaisneakers.com.