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Q&A with Amber Aarts

With two locations in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, the sneaker store Oqium (@oqium) has constantly brought new visions by infusing the basketball culture into the sneaker game in Europe, and their efforts can be seen in those excelsior graphics used on their social media.

To match the returning of Air Jordan 1 High OG CO.JP “Tokyo” — the 1 of 4 colorways in “Japan“ Pack released in celebration of the new century in 2001 — Oqium’s in-house photographer and designer Amber Aarts (@amber.aarts) created a poster with Japanese calligraphy that reads “Japan, 2001, 2020”. 

It’s that simple, but it still demonstrates the sophistication. 

With our curiosity, we asked a few questions to the designer Amber, to find out her inspiration. 

? Hey Amber, we really love this graphic, it looks so “Japanese” no matter one understands the characters or not, and it’s definitely bringing a new vision, what inspired you on this creation?
?  Within my work, commercial or autonomous, the concept is always really important. So when there’s a shoe coming in with a story like these Jordan 1’s, I try to integrate a part of the story within the image I’m making. Japan has such a rich culture of visual techniques. So I wanted to showcase this as an extra layer. Literally: I like to capture all the layers in one click. I did the calligraphy on a mirror so it would project onto the reflection of the shoes. 

? The calligraphy looks very professional to us, have you learnt it before? 
?  I actually never did any calligraphy before. I have been drawing since I was a kid so I think that helped me a lot. I love learning new creative techniques and I try to learn a new skill every year. 2 years ago it was embroidery which was very cool to apply in my work and this year it’s learning Hindi. Getting to work with so many different stories gives me the opportunity to try new things.

? How Japanese culture influences you in your design and daily life? 
?  When I was younger I really got into manga and anime. I bought lots of books that taught me how to draw it and I ended up drawing my own manga comics (the storylines were terrible but the drawings were not that bad). Later on when I started to develop my own style, I got inspired by the Lolita subculture that originated in Japan. It’s so colorful and girly but at the same time I thought it to be super badass. I still find a lot of inspiration in Japanese streetwear and anime. 

? If you own the Air Jordan 1 “Tokyo”, how will you style your outfit?
?  These AJ1’s actually fit my aesthetics very well. I love everything colorful or shiny. I would probably style it with my bright pink silk midi skirt, some silver / white glitter socks and the Uniqlo – Daniel Arsham collab tee with the crystalized Pikachu on it. 

Make sure you check out Amber’s other creative and art works at @amber.aarts and