Ethical Onitsuka Tiger Sneakers Blend Style and Performance With Thai Craftsmanship

The new Doi Tung collection continues to support minority artisans from the kingdom’s renowned social enterprise.
by Yanni Tan

Credit: Onitsuka Tiger

Well-known today for its stylish streetwear and retro-inspired aesthetics, Japanese fashion brand Onitsuka Tiger has also been putting its focus on sustainability in recent years. Its innovations ranged from sneakers made from reformed and recycled cow leather, and vegan leather featuring resilient cactus fibres, to a capsule collection of womenswear manufactured with Tencel fabrics made from sustainably sourced wood in an eco-friendly production process.

One of Onitsuka Tiger’s most popular projects is its sneaker collaboration with Thai social enterprise Doi Tung, which was first launched in Singapore in 2021. Three iconic shoe models were given a creative twist with traditional Thai patterned textiles handwoven by artisans under the Doi Tung Development Project, a flagship initiative of the Mae Fah Luang Foundation under the patronage of the Thai royal family.

MEXICO 66 in directoire blue and cream (Credit: Onitsuka Tiger)

Now anyone who has visited Thailand or familiar with the Doi Tung brand would know that it is not just much-respected and supported by the Thais themselves, but also a source of national pride for the high quality, beauty and creativity of the kingdom’s heritage handicrafts. In addition to preserving the culture and livelihoods of craftsmen from minority groups, Doi Tung products are also made using eco-friendly methods.

This year, Onitsuka Tiger revisits this partnership to offer new eye-catching designs in three models: MEXICO 66, MEXICO 66 PARATY, and SERRANO CL. Crafted exclusively for this project, the textiles took one week to produce, and are softer and more detailed than their machine-made equivalent. All three version also incorporate OrthoLite inner soles for superior cushioning.

MEXICO 66 PARATY in cream (Credit: Onitsuka Tiger)

Popularised by Bruce Lee, who wore a yellow and black pair in the movie Game of Death, and later donned by Uma Thurman’s “The Bride” character in Kill Bill: Volume 1, the MEXICO 66 is one of the first models to showcase the iconic Onitsuka Tiger stripes. Originally a training shoe made for the 1968 Olympic pre-trials in Mexico City, it became an instant hit with athletes for its superior performance and unique silhouette. With the rise of contemporary sneaker culture, the model is today a collectible classic and favourite of celebs like Bella Hadid and Kaia Gerber.

MEXICO 66 PARATY is a cool convertible version of the MEXICO 66, and can be worn as a slip-on without laces or as a mule or slipper. Both the MEXICO 66 and MEXICO 66 PARATY combines the features of the original LIMBER-UP training shoe that debuted in 1961 and the design of Limber shoe debuted in 1966.

SERRANO CL in mikan orange and putty (Credit: Onitsuka Tiger)

Meanwhile, the SERRANO CL is a contemporary classic known for its innovative yet simple design. Based on 1970s track-and-field kicks from the Onitsuka Tiger archives, this model features a thin-style sole with a unique outer sole design where the toe box is slightly curved upwards.

The DoiTung models are now available at Onitsuka Tiger Takashimaya S.C., Suntec City, Raffles City, Jewel, and online.

This story originally published on The Peak Singapore.

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