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NIKE is undoubtedly the American flagship of streetwear! The brand created by Philip Knight and Bill Bowerman in 1968 in Oregon has gone from being a sporting goods company to the most powerful and coveted streetwear brand in the world, both on the fields and on the catwalk.

The story really begins in the early 80s when Nike went public and became the leading athletic shoe company in the US. The brand launched the Air Force One in 1982 and signed Michael Jordan in 1984. The same year, Jordan was elected rookie of the year. A consecration that will strengthen the passion of fans for the player as much as for his Air Jordan 1, however banned by the NBA. And, what was supposed to destroy the Air Jordan 1 will propel it to the top. However, it is to the Nike SB (Skateboard) division and the launch of the Nike Dunk SB in 2002 that led to the emergence of modern streetwear. With its limited edition distribution, endless colorways and numerous collaborations, the SB line became the essential streetwear shoe of the 2000s. And it was also during this time that Nike developed its finest toy design concepts.

Coolrain is a South Korean Toy Designer very inspired by Street-Culture. Since 2004, he has been handcrafting articulated 12'' streetwear figures with impressive precision and attention to detail, especially for clothing and sneakers reproductions. His first feat was the "Monsterz crew" series, with many of the characters wearing Nike outfits. Nike saw a real opportunity and invited Coolrain to work on the 23rd anniversary of the Nike Dunk, for which he created up to 100 different models! Some models will also be presented at the "Be true" event in 2008.

Coolrain continues its collaboration with Nike with a series of customized 10cm figures called "Dunkeys", consisting of 6 very aggressive monkeys and gorillas wearing Nike and Jordan gear. The futuristic primates play an unbridled version of basketball called PreyBall, where the completely team-less players have only one obsession: making money.

Coolrain will then work on the Nike Air Max Days in 2014 and 2015. For the occasion, he shaped a lunar landscape, marked with a Nike imprint, with characters wearing realistic space suits. The latter wear space boots derived from Nike Air Max Lunar90, ultra detailed, as always.

Nike has also collaborated on many occasions with Hong Kong toy designer Michael Lau, author of the Toys Gardener, Crazychildren, Mr. Shoe, Lamdog or NY Fat series, and considered by many as the master thinker of toy design.

His first collaboration with Nike dates back to 2006, for the launch of the Swoosh shop in Hong Kong and for the 7th anniversary of his studio. He unveiled his Nike SB Wood Dunk. The very limited pack, designed around wood and intended for the Asian market, includes the sneakers, a Gardener NY Fat and various accessories.

2 years later he repeated the experience with the Air "Crazy" Force 1 for which he found his inspiration in a psychiatric hospital. From the quilted leather of the shoe to the accompanying "Crazy Michael" figure, the references are clearly palpable

In the meantime, Michael Lau has collaborated with Nike Pro. This collaboration resulted in 3 x 20’' figures of Roger Federer, Ronaldinho and Kobe Bryant in Nike Pro gear. The limited edition of 250 pieces will only be auctioned for charity.

Nike also – more recently – wowed us with the Nike SB x Gundam collaboration. The brand has teamed up with the toy giant Bandaï to create 2 models of sneakers and 2 kits inspired by the Unicorn Gundam (Destroy Mode) and the Unicorn Gundam 02 Banshee (Destroy Mode).

To crown the operation, Bandaï also called on the famous Japanese Toy Designer Touma for a series of 2 figurines in extremely limited editions.

The first NIKE x Be@rbrick sneakers were released in 2010, they were 2 Blazer models. In the following year, 4 AF1 models were released. Between 2017 and 2020, Be@rbrick and Nike have released 4 Nike SB editions, all with Be@rbricks 1000, 400 and 100% (70, 28 and 7cm).

As in rap, there is a remote duel between the East and West coasts in US streetwear. However, it is in California that most of the American streetwear brands are concentrated.

Among them, Vans is an ancestor. Founded in 1966 by the Van Doren brothers, the brand quickly became a reference in board sports, and the Vans Era, with its ultra-grippy waffle sole, in turn quickly became the favourite model of skateboarders.. The Vans Slip-On was to democratise the brand to a wider audience from 1982 onwards, as was Trasher magazine, created in the same year, which proved to be an unfailing communication medium for the brand as well as for the skateboarding community and streetwear culture worldwide in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 2000s, the brand opened up to Toy Design, with some memorable projects.

In 2006, VANS collaborated with German Toy Designers Mark Landwehr and Sven Waschk, better known as Coarse Toys, based in Los Angeles. This resulted in the creation of 2 « Cream » & « Switch » characters, packaged in a nice box with interchangeable pans, legs, hands and heads and various essential accessories such as skateboards and surfboards.

For the 10th anniversary of Coarse Toys, the designers revisited the project and proposed 2 new editions, entitled "Cream" and "Pain". In the meantime, Coarse Studio has developed other characters, very often with Vans anchored to the feet.

For the Vans Classic X Star Wars collaboration in 2014, 6 different sneaker models were designed and South Korean Toy Designer Coolrain Lee was responsible for materializing the operation with the object.

For the occasion, he revisited his "Break Time" & Mr. Series series.

Vans has also produced more stylized toys like "The Skater" figurine with Buweon or the Hi Monster figurine for the brand's 50th anniversary. To celebrate its 40th anniversary and the opening of a Parisian shop, Vans also teamed up with Artoyz and Toy2R for the limited edition of a 2.5" Toyer Qee.

Founded in the early 1980s by Shawn Stüssy, Stüssy is now one of the most international US streetwear brands. It has benefited from the surfwear trend alongside brands like Billabong or Rip Curl, but above all it has been endorsed by subculture, hip-hop and a certain Hiroshi Fujiwara (Fragment Design), who became the brand's ambassador in Japan in the early 90s. And, the many achievements with the Japanese Art Toys producer Medicom Toy, also brought Stüssy closer to Japan. Collaborations, anniversaries or tours, any excuse is good to release a Be@rbrick.

Stüssy is also a compulsive publisher of Be@rbricks bearing the image of Star Wars.

Still with Medicom Toy, Stüssy has also collaborated with New York Street Artist Reas, also known as Todd James, for 2 series of figures: Be@rbricks but also the "Wayback Throwback ».

X-Large is a streetwear brand and clothing store based in Los Angeles. It was created by Eli Bonerz and Adam Silverman in 1991, based on an idea by Mike D. of the Beastie Boys. Its little sister, the X-Girls brand, was created by Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) and Daisy von Furth. Since then, the brands have multiplied prestigious collaborations in the world of fashion but also in Toy Design.

In 2007, X-Large collaborated with Toy Designer Michael Lau and streetwear brand Fingercoxx, both based in Hong Kong. Inspired by characters from his Crazy Toys series, Michael Lau delivered 6 figures: FX Joe, FX Buster, FGXX Work, Space Finger, Finger King and X-Laugh, the flagship figure of the line.

Between 2007 and 2008, X-Large collaborated with American illustrator David Flores. A Mickey VCD and no less than 6 Be@rbricks 100 and 400% were published.

In 2018, X-Large offers the services of Japanese illustrator Hajime Sorayama, famous for his hyper-realistic pin-ups mixing eroticism, fetishism and SF. The result is 2 pretty Be@rbricks and a sculpture called "Robot Guerilla".

More recently, X-Large collaborated with the English street artist D*Face for a VCD (Vinyl Collectible Dolls) available in 2 versions and 2 Be@arbricks.

Streetwear brand and boutique UNDEFEATED (UNDFTD) has also made a name for itself in LA since 2002. It develops exclusive collaborations and products with influential brands like A Bathing Ape, Neighborhood, Adidas, Converse, Nike, Vans… It has also developed some interesting collaborations with Medicom Toy around the Be@rbrick, the U-Man - its mascot- or Disney characters like Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse.

In 2003, still in Los Angeles, Bobby Kim and Ben Shenassafar created The Hundreds, a men's clothing brand and an online magazine. The collaborations are heterogeneous, they reflect the brand's inspiration for Californian culture, pop culture, music, art or skateboarding... The brand has its own mascot: Adam Bomb, which inspired Toy Designer Michael Lau or Medicom Toys. Garfield skateboarder also had the right to his character.

SSUR is the perfect link between the East and the West Coasts. Created in New York by subversive artist Ruslan Karablin, originally from Odessa, the brand migrated to LA in 2010. Karablin's favorite themes are sex, politics and war, and his name as a graffiti artist was RUSS. He stands out from his compatriots with his shocking reinterpretations of current events, luxury or pop culture, immortalized in clothing but also in art objects.

Rebel Ape is a recurring character in Karablin's work. It's a curious mix between Che Guevara and Planet of the Apes. It has been materialized in different forms of busts, 12’’ action figures or Kubrick figures.

SSUR also recently collaborated with Superplastic, an American Art Toys production company created by the former boss of Kidrobot, with whom SSUR had produced the gold and black skull sculpture titled "SSUReal From the Cradle to the Grave » in the past. This time, one of Superplastic's flagship characters - Guggimon - takes the break, made up as Christ with a pile of ingots as a crucifix.

SSUR has also produced some beautiful editions of Be@rbricks with evocative motifs.

Supreme is the streetwear brand of clothing and fashion accessories founded in New York in 1994 by James Jebbia. While its community was initially mainly made up of skateboarders, Supreme is now widely considered to be one of the best streetwear brands in the world. Although James Jebbia has admitted on several occasions that he is not a fan of toy design, he has been involved in it on several occasions.

Centuries-old American brands such as Converse, New Balance, Reebok or Carhartt also have some great Toy Design achievements.

Converse has had a tumultuous history since its creation in 1908. The first brand to create the first basketball shoe - the All Star in 1917 - and to collaborate with athletes, it was quickly caught up on its ground by its competitors Nike, Adidas and Puma in the 80s. For a time, it became the icon of American pop culture, but the brand collapsed in the early 2000s. Bought by Nike in 2003, it gradually regained its colours with some prestigious collaborations with Yohji Yamamoto, Missoni, Louis Vuitton, Comme des garçons, Margiela, Off-White…

In 2010, Converse released a series of 3 "Weapon" sneakers: the "86Basic Hi", the "SF Hi" and the "Street Pattern Mid, each accompanied by a Be@rbrick. 2 editions of Be@rbrick Converses will be released in 2011.

In 2016, for the opening of Converse's Korean online shop and the release of the Chuck II, Converse collaborated with Korean Toy Designer Coolrain, who created 2 new versions of his "Dunkey" character for the occasion. The limited set also included a "No Life Without Converse" t-shirt, in reference to Coolrain's slogan "No Life Without Toys".

In the streetwear landscape, New Balance is an outsider, but over the decades, the brand has managed to pull its weight and is also regularly courted by major fashion designers today. If there is one New Balance toy design project to remember, it is the collaboration with the American artist Ron English for the release of the 850. At the origin of the Popaganda movement - which is a form of "Pop Propaganda" - Ron English uses the iconographic codes of multinational signs and popular culture to create a universe where mythological superheroes and art history are mixed.

In this century-old category, it is difficult not to associate Carhartt with streetwear today. Initially specialised in the manufacture of workwear, the brand gradually diversified. At the beginning of the 90s, it attracted a wider public, notably rappers, who praised its robustness. In 1994, everything accelerated when Work In Progress (WIP) acquired a licence to manufacture Carhartt products outside the United States. The brand opened up to skateboarding and music and launched its first capsule collections in 2010 with A.P.C, Converse, Fragment Design, Nike, Patta and Vans.

Among her toy design feats, let’s mention the Carhartt x Michael Lau collaboration in 2017. The famous Hong-Kong toy designer has designed 2 superb 12" action figures, called « Streetmaxx » and « Workmaxx », in the line of his Garden (Palm)er series.

Like Atmos in Japan, BAIT is an American streetwear and sneaker shop that develops collectibles and numerous collaborations with brands such as Adidas, New Balance, Puma, Reebok... or pop culture licenses such as Bruce Lee, Transformers, the Minions, SpongeBob, Felix the Cat, Naruto and many others.

In 2013 BAIT collaborated with Reebok for the release of the Question Mid "Snake". To celebrate the collaboration they called on the South Korean artist Coolrain. Coolrain created a limited edition figure of American basketball player Allen Iverson, entitled "Bubba Chuck", from the player's nickname in high school. The figure features a unique geometric look and comes with several sets of clothing and a miniature pair of BAIT x Reebok questions in 1/6 scale.

In 2016, on the occasion of the collaboration with Dreamworks and Felix The Cat, and the edition of the N9000 Runner, BAIT released 2 figures with a whole bunch of accessories and a Be@rbrick.

In 2017, BAIT teamed up with Billionaire Boys Club, for a series of figures developed by American artist Hebru Brantley.

In 2018, on the occasion of the Astro Boy capsule collection, BAIT produced several editions of figurines of the iconic character by Osamu Tezuka. The first is an 18" figure. This was followed by two magnificent limited editions with the Tokyo-based brand Ambush. The first one includes the original character in silver and gold. In 2022, Ambush and Bait renewed the collaboration with 'Boy W/ Luv', a superb open hearted metallic version.

In 2018, BAIT took on the Ninja Turtles and Rick & Morty licenses and made a few Bearbricks editions.

Part Three to follow: Toy Design & Streetwear in Europe


Part one just here

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