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Extra Butter x Asics “Death List 5”: Volume 1

October 8, 2013by Aaron Kr.
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When it comes to selling sneakers, it seems like Extra Butter has more fun than just about anybody, and their authentic passion and enthusiasm shines through in everything they do. Whether it’s their creative conceptual photo shoots, their customer-friendly approach and in-store events, or their movie-themed collaborative endeavors, the EB crew takes no shorts, constantly going above and beyond to make the products they sell feel more like a genuinely fun consumer experience rather than just stuff you buy at a store. And while that has proven to be a successful business strategy for them, if you’ve ever met the Extra Butter guys, it’s pretty clear that it’s all done sincerely out of love for the culture they’re so engrossed in.

But obviously those interests stretch well beyond just sneakers and apparel as evidenced by their ever-present affinity for cinema. Their store looks and feels like a movie theater almost as much as it does a sneaker boutique thanks to some cool decorative effects and the flat screens that loop one cult-classic after another all day long. So when it came time to get their feet wet in the collaborative sneaker waters, it was no surprise that they looked to the world of film for their inspiration.

Extra Butter’s first foray into the collab game channeled Mel Brooks’ classic comedy, Men in Tights, with two Reebok Pump models based on characters from the movie. For their second project, they’re getting a little more serious not only in subject

matter, but also in terms of the epic scope of the endeavor. Now teaming up with Asics, EB is poised to unleash an ambitious five-shoe capsule featuring five different Asics silhouettes inspired by the unfortunate names on Beatrix Kiddo’s hit list in Quentin Tarantino’s beloved Kill Bill films.

With the table set perfectly by Asics’ own “Kill Bill” Gel Saga release earlier this year, Extra Butter’s “Death List 5” collection picks up right where those left off in paying tribute to the contemporary classic films as the Volume 1 installment approaches its 10th birthday. Like the movies, the release of the shoes will be split into two parts and follow the plot’s chronological order, with the first half focusing on Vol. 1 Death List victims, “Cottonmouth” and “Copperhead”, by way of the Gel Saga and Gel Lyte III respectively.

It’s needless to say that there’s a lot going on here, so before it launches, we caught up with Jason Faustino and Bernie Gross from Extra Butter to get the complete lowdown on the first two drops and the story behind their anticipated five-shoe collection. To commemorate the 10 year anniversary of Volume 1’s debut in theaters, Extra Butter will release the “Cottonmouth” Gel Saga Saga this Thursday, 10/10 at their brand new Lower East Side location found at 125 Orchard Street in NYC, followed by an online release Friday at noon EST. Stay tuned for release info on the “Copperhead” Gel Lyte III coming soon, and in the meantime, you’ll find the full interview and photo gallery in the pages ahead.

Sneaker News:  Putting out a five-shoe pack is obviously an ambitious undertaking. Did you guys have any reservations about taking on such a large project?

Bernie:  Ambitous, yes; but absolutely necessary to truly develop the concept.  The film in which it’s inspired by is multi-dimensional, why not a capsule collection? When approaching any project, we vet out all parameters and possibilities, so rarely do we have reservations because we go into it completely prepared for execution. When it comes down to it, doing one colorway wouldn’t have justified either of us claiming that this is one of our all-time favorite films.

Jason:  Reservations are only there for me within the first few minutes of it’s initial conception. From there, I see the vision in a way where it usually tells me that this is EXACTLY the type of project for us. I firmly believe in our team’s ability to come together and execute projects like this, and know we can learn things along the way and experience things that will be unforgettable.

SN:  Is it a given that any Extra Butter collab shoe we see will be movie-themed?

Bernie:  Although Extra Butter’s namesake and core element is film, our core followers quickly understand that we’re passionate for various things. Sooner than later, that’ll reflect in tangible goods that we produce.

Jason:  Most times for me at least, it’s films that seem permanently lodged in my head – almost as if they have to make their way out and onto something in some way shape or form. But, I don’t think it will be a given at all. We’re a mixed bunch that are close-knit and inspired by a lot of things. The conversations and experiences we have together often lead to ideas we end up wanting to touch on later. Nostalgia is always a driving force behind the projects we head towards, but it’s not limited to film by any means.

SN:  Knowing that these projects are worked on so far in advance, how aware were you of the inline “Kill Bill” Saga release that Asics was doing?  Is that what sparked the concept for you guys or did your idea come independently?

Bernie:  We had been coordinating with the Asics guys, trying to work around schedules when we finally set up a time to present our ideas and initial designs, which included a colorway for our protagonist in the film series. Literally days before the meeting, we get the sales sheet for a yellow and black Gel Saga with blood splatter, almost the exact same model and colorway as one of our designs.  When we showed the presentation, they were amused at how similar our Saga design was to theirs. Truth be told, it was the same yellow and black, except our blood splatter was throughout the upper, and the striping had the black snake skin which all our other “Death List 5” models also have.

Needless to say, that one wasn’t accepted, but the mere fact that we had already prepared to celebrate this momentous piece of Onitsuka Tiger/Asics history was why they were confident in pursuing the collaboration. Fortunately for us, we already had the other characters’ designs to present. From then on out, the focus was the villains who make up the Death List Five and are a huge component to the film.  It’s actually great that Asics had their inline release for the hero in order for us to then focus the attention on the rest of the cast, which I think is more important because they are the driving force for the revenge plot.

Jason:  I always find myself gravitating towards the stories of the villains in movies. I also like how we view ourselves as a brand/store and the connection we feel to the disruptive nature of a villain.

SN:  Please give us the breakdown of how each of the colorways and its materials relate to their respective characters.

Bernie:  Although we wanted each model to have unique colorway, the challenge was have a unifying element to ensure the continuity of all being a part of the DL5 collection.  And so, we decided to give each model snakeskin in the Asics brand striping, which ties in the idea that each assassin had a snake-inspired codename.

The overall color blocking for the ‘Cottonmouth’ Gel Saga isn’t inspired by the character per se, but more so the epic setting of her death.  The quiet, serene Japanese garden is the last place you’d expect a battle, but it’s the perfect mood and aesthetic to juxtapose the gravity of the scene. The entire upper shows the deep indigo of dusk skies melding into the snowy ground, soft snowflakes on the midsole, and a custom stitched inner lining to reference the character’s scalp being sliced off to reveal the top of her brain. We played around with a few options, but we liked the suede toe dueling a white pebbled  leather heel. Micro-mesh nylon facilitated the gradient effect the best, working out in our favor because it’s one of the OG Asics materials that we love and is seldom appreciated by the new wave of Asics consumers.

The ‘Copperhead’ Gel Lyte III is a more straight forward take of its respective villain. The micron upper in vibrant royal blue with black and white accents is taken from Copperhead’s velour track jacket, complimented by a grey pinstripe midsole that came from her pants; a quintessential piece to a suburban soccer mom’s attire. We flipped it by dropping the aesthetic into the midsole, which we felt really gives the shoe some character and makes it stand out.

SN:  Obviously, you guys couldn’t make direct call-outs to your source of inspiration because of copyright issues. Was there any trouble getting around the legal stuff and did it dictate the way any of the designs were executed?

Bernie:  Not really. The designs in themselves are quite transparent of the characters we used, and the name “Death List Five” is even more direct. Those who are familiar with the film series are quick to decipher who’s who. For those who were confused and didn’t get the reference, they could have easily done their homework. We didn’t think we were being that cryptic.

Jason:  And if we were, I don’t mind it. A little research never hurt anybody. When I was younger I often didn’t have the luxury of going onto SneakerNews to find out the back stories for products. I’d have to dig in. God bless NikeTalk, and being able to converse with shop staffs or other passionate collectors.

SN:  Were there any design obstacles along the way or things you wanted to do on the shoes that weren’t possible?

Bernie:  Getting the correct spectrum and location of fade for Cottonmouth did present some issues, especially when the gradient had to keep consistent throughout the medial panels and midsole.  For Copperhead, we originally were pushing to have a velvet for the upper to best represent the plushness of the velour jacket, but ultimately decided on suede as a better option.

Jason:  The color took to the suede and brought it to life beyond my expectations. I remember the samples came in the day of our 5 Year Anniversary (just so people understand portion of how long exactly we’ve been working on this, and being misleading about what we did or didn’t have up our sleeves). Right after our long day of Black Friday sale madness, we had a few minutes before setting up our 5 year party, and I showed the staff the samples. It was so rewarding to see their reactions to the actual, physical pair, especially to Bernie and I having been consumed with this project for so long.

SN:  Was it the plan from the beginning to break up the release to be split into two parts like the movies?

Jason:  When a concept is solid from the start, I feel a lot of decisions fall into place rather quick, as evidenced even in the fact that we have chosen 10.10.13 as it’s release date.

Bernie:  There were several production and logistical factors that needed to be worked out with Asics, but the timing did work in that we were able to follow the breakdown like the villians killed in each movie.  Like I said before, the timing of this entire project was just destined!

Jason:  Plus we were excited and willing to wait a bit, when Asics opened us up to the opportunity of working with shoes that had never been retro’d until now – the GT Cool, Gel Epirus, and the Gel Lyte V. But destiny surely plays a huge part.

SN:  Any idea if a certain legendary director is aware of your homage, and are there any plans to send him a set?

Bernie:  That would be a firm negative. From the beginning, we were asked to tread lightly and maintain all promotion to be as indirect as possible. Legal issues always present roadblocks for conceptual sneaker designs, but that’s part of the fun – being kept on your toes and thinking in a non-linear way to find solutions.

Jason:  However, if I had the opportunity to send him a set, I would in a second. That man is a god to me.

SN:  What are the benefits of participating in collaborative projects like this for your store and brand?

Bernie:  It certainly builds brand culture and global visibility. But I think what’s always been more important to us is the benefits that have led to collaboration opportunities. From major footwear brand to independent clothing labels, we’ve always focused on working with the people that we have genuine relationships with. People that have compatible personalities and interests, similar passion towards our respective business, and ones that simply share the same ethos of this culture that we partake in. Ultimately, the effects of these projects are outnumbered by the simple fact that we’re building with people we consider friends and not just business colleagues.

Jason:  I know I already said it, but it also allows for a lot of fun to be had. I’m sure other shop’s that do collabs feel the same way in that we work hard at what we do. Being able to celebrate our work in this fashion is truly a blessing.

SN:  What can we expect from Extra Butter in the future? Are there any other collab projects in the works right now?

Bernie:  The first release of this DL5 collection will also mark the opening of our new location in Lower East Side, Manhattan. We’re really excited about that because it’s the homebase of a lot of pioneers of sneaker and streetwear lifestyle, and we’re looking forward to carrying the torch and continuing the culture in this area.

We were given the honor of being a part of an elite list of sneaker boutiques from around the world, but our main criticism was that we haven’t provided enough collabs of our own. Too bad that list didn’t come out a bit later because I think this 5-part collab with Asics is a major statement, and it’s only the start of a solid string of other special projects. Just keep in mind what I mentioned before about taking inspiration from plenty of other interests other than movies. And it might come sooner than people will expect.

Jason:  Basically, it’s terribly painful and simultaneously enjoyable to have to hold onto the secrets we keep, but that is our way. We love to experience what we create with everyone when the moment is just right. We’re all extremely thankful to everyone that’s supporting us, there is a value we gain from this support that I can never quite articulate, but know we feel and appreciate on every possible level.

Much thanks to the Extra Butter guys and make sure you check out the “Cottonmouth” Gel Saga releasing this Thursday night at 8pm at their new LES location. More info here.