Inside the CLOT Sneaker Graveyard
World-renowned Hong Kong brand, CLOT, has covered some serious ground since its inception back in 2003, branching out well beyond their streetwear roots to work with a variety of heavyweight corporate giants across the globe on all sorts of creative endeavors. Longtime friends and business partners Edison Chen and Kevin Poon got their start selling CLOT apparel and goods before launching their JUICE retail locations a year later, featuring not only their own gear, but an assortment of like-minded cutting edge Asian fashion brands. Before long, their fashion and retail success led to all sorts of consulting and design opportunities and the chance to work with the likes of Disney and Kanye West to name a few, not to mention their numerous collaborative efforts in the sneaker world.
CLOT has done a wide range of sneaker projects with adidas, Converse, Vans, and most notably Nike, with whom they’ve whipped up some legendary designs like their infamous clear-toebox Air Max 1 or the silky red Air Force 1 they contributed to Nike’s 1World collection back in early 2009. While they might not be in the shoe business as a primary focus, there’s no question that the CLOT crew is deeply rooted in the sneaker game. Aside from the handful of collab shoes that they help bring to market each year, their passion for sneakers is a daily way of life and translates over into many of their other projects as well.
If you needed any proof of how immersed Edison Chen and the CLOT team are in sneakers, a visit to their office will tell you all you need to know. Dubbed by them as “the sneaker graveyard”, their Hong Kong headquarters contains piles upon piles of an insane array of sneakers spanning a few decades and representing a broad cross-section of brands and categories. The massive shoe walls and stacks are a completely random smattering, and if you start combing through, there’s no telling what kind of gems may get unearthed. These shoe piles are regularly used for reference and inspiration, but more than anything, they just look cool lining an office!
Sneaker News was fortunate enough to have the chance to go exploring through the graveyard, and we’ve brought back all of our sneaker discoveries to share with our loyal readers. We also caught up with the owner of a large majority of its contents, actor/musician/designer/entrepreneur extraordinaire, Edison Chen, himself for a 1-on-1 interview detailing the finer points of the graveyard and how it all came to be, so continue on for the full story, plus an extensive inside look at the mighty CLOT sneaker graveyard and all the wonders it contains.
Sneaker News: So, the CLOT sneaker graveyard – how did it all start and how many years have these shoes been piling up?
Edison Chen: I used to have cupboards of sneakers in my house. I moved once and then I put them in storage and then CLOT moved into a huge ass office so there was a little extra space and I decided to put all my sneakers in there randomly just because. There’s some gems in there, but I just put them in there because that’s my collection and it’s just where they end up. (Laughs) yeah.
SN: Do you have any idea approximately how many pairs are in there?
Edison Chen: I don’t know man because there’s still some boxes on the left side that they haven’t really put in there. I have no idea man, thousands?
Edison Chen: Yeah, thousands.
SN: That’s pretty crazy. How often are new shoes added there?
Edison Chen: Every week man. Because 80% of that collection in there is stuff that I bought. I used to buy samples of stuff before they came out. I’d spend stupid money on shoes, stupid money. But nowadays because we’re really blessed that a lot of people send us sneakers for just seeding and gifts and stuff – Adidas, Converse, Nikes and stuff – we get new stuff every week, so stuff is added in there almost weekly.
SN: Is there any specific criteria or a certain level of prestige that each shoe has to have to qualify for inclusion or is it more like whatever shoes you get just go in there?
Edison Chen: I think that there’s always some stuff that gets seeded to my staff because Poon and I get a lot of sneakers and we have a lot of staff and sometimes we spread the love, we give them the sneakers. There’s just like the classics and then some shoes that have some special detail to them. It can even be an Air bubble or a shoelace or something, it doesn’t matter. We throw it in there for future references just so that whenever we have to design a shoe, we have the exact thing there to reference and to show to people.
SN: How often do you use the graveyard shoes for inspiration when working on CLOT stuff, and are there any CLOT projects that have come as a direct result of pulling something off the pile?
Edison Chen: I think people are in there everyday man. I think other than when we do shoe projects I think that a lot of people do a lot of our styling shots with old shoes and stuff and I think that that’s an interesting look too. When we really go to war, it’s probably like six times a year when we have those real important sneaker drops to do.
SN: Have there been times that a sneaker was deemed not worthy to join the graveyard?
Edison Chen: Usually there’s sneakers that I don’t like and they don’t end up in there. My family has a lot of relatives. (Laughs) They enjoy any type of shoe. They’re not like the sneaker aficionados. Those kind of get seeded to my family and friends. Most of the sneakers that are in the graveyard are of a certain quality in some way or another.
SN: Do many of the shoes in the graveyard ever still get worn or “re-animated”, or are they retired forever once they get there?
Edison Chen: Oh yeah, definitely. For some random reason, when I was a kid I was a real big Jordan fan and then when that whole Woven, Air Force 1, and Dunk phase came out I was totally not into Jordans. I had all my Jordans just in a box and then I opened them and then I had the Defining Moments stuff and all this other stuff and I’m like “Oh wow, I have this stuff.” Stuff gets actually, yeah taken out and used again for sure.
SN: Is there any sort of categorization or specific sections within the graveyard or does stuff just get randomly dumped in anywhere?
Edison Chen: It’s just dumped man. It’s just dumped. There’s no categorization. There’s no… I mean at the beginning, some of my staff did try to. But after a couple grabs it just becomes something that’s, yeah… It’s also really fun to – say we’re trying to do some shoe and we needed to look at some 3M and we don’t know where the 3M is and then you just look through the shoes and you might even get some extra inspiration just flipping through these sneakers that are really dope.
SN: With thousands of shoes all scattered together, how do you even know where to begin looking for stuff when you need it? Is there a specific area of the graveyard that you keep organized so you know where to find certain things?
Edison Chen: I wish there was a little extra special area there, but I was walking through the other day and I saw a bunch of the Stash BW’s and the Futura “For Love or Money” Dunks just sitting with these random shoes. There’s no categorization. A bunch of my shoes right now are actually being used in China where they had his Nike sneaker battle and they took all my Air Force 1s. Like all, every single pair of my Air Force 1s.
SN: From the graveyard?
Edison Chen: Yeah from the graveyard they went there and they took every single Air Force 1 that I have, so they have like 100 something pairs of Air Force One’s from the West Indies to the new Clot ones and whatever.
SN: The shoes in the CLOT sneaker graveyard are more impressive than most people’s personal collections. If this is what’s laying around in the office, what kind of goodies are you guys holding onto for yourselves?
Edison Chen: I don’t have a personal collection, I have the personal rotation. I have what I’m wearing during those few months and then after those few months those shoes go into the graveyard. That’s just how it is and I feel like that’s like an interesting art project. For me, it’s like an art project because you walk through it and it’s like something you would see in a museum, but just kinda carelessly dumping a bunch of the collection that you have.
SN: So it’s almost like a repeating rhythm for you? You get a new crop of shoes that you rotate for a little bit and then eventually just thrown them in the graveyard and start all over again?
Edison Chen: Yeah, yeah. A lot of people keep boxes, I don’t keep boxes. I’m not trying to resell my shoes. If I do resell them, it’ll be like I said through some crazy auction or as an art install in like a big transparent box, like all my shoes in there. You know what I mean? Something like that, but I’m not trying to grey-market my shoes.
SN: Obviously the graveyard started just for fun as a reference source, but is there any bigger picture goal you have in mind for it?
Edison Chen: I think that one day there’s two different things that might happen with the graveyard. It’ll become an art installation or we’ll have an exhibition of the shoes. Sometimes a lot of my friends are like “Oh I have all these shoes I’m just going to get rid of them.” I’m not getting rid of it. I’m not getting rid of anything. I have Bapestas, I have Neighborhood shoes, I have Atmos shoes. I have a bunch of stuff that’s like a catalog from the early 90’s to now. I think that one day culturally, it’ll be interesting to look at like kind of an art show with these shoes.
SN: When the graveyard starts to take up too much space, will you guys stop adding to it or does that just mean it’s time to move to a larger office?
Edison Chen: I don’t know. There’s so many things that one day maybe we can do with them. Maybe one day technology makes it so we can re-panel shoes and stuff like that, we can re-panel shoes. I don’t know, a charity auction? I don’t know man. There’s so many different possibilities, but right now I just want to keep it at the catalog to make better shoes for CLOT, because we’re blessed to have a lot of opportunities to work with a lot of good companies and we want to represent not only our culture, but our kind of Chinese creativity too. I feel like it’s an important thing for us to keep that catalog there for as long as we can.
SN: Huge random piles are definitely not the norm for most impressive sneaker collections. Have you ever seen anyone else store their shoes in a similar way or do you think it’s a relatively unique approach?
Edison Chen: No man. The graveyard is actually not… it’s an ode to Hiroshi Fujiwara. You should see his stuff. His stuff is like stuff that never been released that you would kill for.
SN: Some deep, dark secret stuff that people will probably never know about?
Edison Chen: The Fragment whatever, whatever, whatever, whatever. The Fragment this, the Fragment that, the other colorway. And he has it all in this… it looks like it’s garbage and that was just the inspiration, because I would look in there and I would be like “Oh my God, these shoes!” It’s crazy because there’s like the Hello Kitty Presto’s pressed against some boxes and shit. It’s actually more of a Hiroshi Fujiwara thing that I just kind of… I don’t think that my shoes are at the caliber of his, but it’s just my collection in the style of Hiroshi Fujiwara’s and the way that he stores his shoes.
SN: Not to deviate too much from the graveyard, but what do you think is the craziest thing you’ve seen in Hiroshi’s personal collection?
Edison Chen: Man I’ve seen some HTM Flyknit samples of colors that I really liked, but pinks and blues and stuff like that that were pink and blue mixed into woven. For me, what was really crazy was he showed me the WMK Air Force 1s – the first ever horse hair shoes and those were like the Holy Grail for me when I was a kid, so when I saw those I tripped out. When I first met him and I went to his office and I saw the – you know how they had just re-issued those brown kinda snakey crocodile whatever ones. Before those brown ones were just for staff and friends only, so they had the black one and another color, but the brown ones were staff only. And I saw them and I was like really begging him for the shoes, and I don’t think usually many people ask him or are actually blatant enough to be like “Yo I want this pair of shoes.” It kind of caught him off-guard, but at least I got a pair. (Laughs) Those were shocking to me when I saw them there, yeah.
SN: Are those currently in the graveyard or did Nike borrow them for that Air Force 1 exhibit?
Edison Chen: Yeah, Nike has them right now, but they are part of the graveyard. The graveyards an interesting place to go and see if you ever come to the CLOT office.
A big thanks to Edison for taking the time to show us the CLOT sneaker graveyard and fill us in on the story behind it. Keep an eye out for CLOT‘s ongoing collaborative sneaker endeavors, as well as the brand’s own apparel and other goodies!