Korean designer KANGHYUK recently launched its collaboration with Reebok, a beautiful iteration of the sportswear giant’s Classic Leather silhouette. But the brand, helmed by Kanghyuk Choi and Sanglak Shon, has been making waves for years now, taking inspiration from industrial objects and other nontraditional motifs. While the Reebok collaboration is certainly a strong homage to the brand’s history (and one of my favorite sneaker collabs of the year), it’s merely the tip of the iceberg in regard to KANGHYUK’s incredible journey.
KANGHYUK was founded in 2017 by the two lead designers who were studying at the Royal College of Art in London. They would go on to be nominated for the 2019 LVMH Prize before creating a vast array of installations at many notable retailers worldwide and getting placements in some major music videos. We had a chance to hear some thinking from the team regarding the recent Reebok collab, their overall design process and what to look out for the rest of 2022.
In a 2019 interview with 032c, the team said that “Our design process focuses on using materials in their purest form.” This is a through-line in all of their design work, as material is emphasized in both their garments and installations, often taking inspiration from iconography not associated with fashion.
“We use details and materials from random man-made objects such as car-related accessories, airbag materials, anti-slip steel matt, sound insulation and we bring it to the texture; the small details depend on the fabric’s characteristics,” KANGHYUK tells ONE37pm. While this ethos is easy to bring to all of their mainline work, it’s interesting to examine how they managed to bring this signature style to their Reebok collab.
“We’ve brought our signature zig-zag stitching, circular shape and nylon fabric to replace existing materials,” the team says, adding: “Classic Leather is a key signature shape for Reebok, we wanted to re-interpret it, but in our own way.” At first glance the Reebok collab may look very similar to previous iterations of the Classic Leather model, the nuances of the materials and construction make them a departure from the longstanding version of the silhouette.
Aside from this Reebok collab, KANGHYUK has a lot in the works for the rest of 2022. “Our SS22 ready-to-wear collection will launch worldwide in stores in April, featuring our signature airbag pieces, plus new embossed styles,” they tell ONE37pm. Their use of airbag materials and other inspiration from cars and automobiles has been a constant motif throughout all of their work, from garments to sculptural installations.
They also revealed to us that this collaboration with Reebok is not the end of the road. “We’re fully focused on developing models for the upcoming KANGHYUK x Reebok Club-C release,” they tell ONE37pm, foreshadowing a play from the brand on what is arguably Reebok’s other most iconic silhouette, the Club-C. We’ve seen a myriad of incredible Club-C collaborations in recent years, as the minimal shoe gives designers a lot of wiggle room to put their spin on the model. We’re excited to see how KANGHYUK team will give the legendary model its own flair.
From beginning as a graduation project for RCA in 2017 to being featured in an A$AP Rocky music video in 2019, Kanghyuk Choi and Sanglak Shon have firmly cemented KANGHYUK is a designer to watch for years to come.