Hong Kong artist Micheal Lau is the godfather of urban vinyl toys. In honor of the Suede’s 50th anniversary, Micheal Lau joins Puma in a bold and innovation collaboration #ForAllTime. Read the interview below for an insight on the sneaker and head over to J-01 for more.

How did you get your start as an artist?

MICHAEL LAU: I’ve liked drawing ever since I was a kid. I was naturally interested in it.

Then when I was old enough to really have a say at what I wanted to do, I started doing exhibitions, and holding art shows. I’d say it was when I actually started putting out figures when the public considered me as a real artist. This was around 1999. 1999 - 2000 was probably when it all started coming together.

Where do you get your creative inspiration?

ML: The way you live your life. Everything that’s tied to your life can give you inspiration. Life experiences, meeting new people, travel... anything you found interesting, or left an impression on you can be inspirational. Even the smallest of things can be impactful. The most important thing is that you have to wait for these things to happen. Everyday you’re technically waiting for something to inspire you, and at the same time you’re going to be busy working on things, but eventually something will jump out at you.

What would you say is the piece you’re most proud of?

ML: There’s no question in my mind. The 1999 Gardener figure exhibition was the best era for my most memorable body of work, to me.

The Gardener project started off as a few exhibitions with mostly paintings but evolved in 1999 with my growing interest in 12-inch G.I. JOE figures. I then was thinking of ways to incorporate this interest of mine into my next show. Also happening at this time was the growing popularity of street culture. Skateboarding, graffiti, hip-hop, these subcultures were all developing into something big during this era. So that’s what I did. I took the figures, the art, street culture, and mixed it all together into an exhibition, and that’s how the Gardener figures came about.

What excites you about this collaboration with PUMA?

ML: This is my first time working with PUMA. I am pretty excited as I was able to work on such an iconic model such as the Suede, and that PUMA approved my idea of turning it into a ‘sample’ version.

Tell us about the Suede you designed.

ML: For PUMA’s 50th anniversary, I wanted to still keep the theme of the “Sample” Suede that was released in November, but at the same time have something that reflects the 50th anniversary. The shades of grey are like looking and flipping through old black-and-white photographs. This also gives the sneakers a nostalgic feeling. We’ve kept a lot of the classic features intact along with the “Sample” Leather’s details like the shape, logos, swatch tags, but instead of the “Sample” Leather version of the tag, we used a special 50th anniversary branded one.

Just like the release of the “Sample” Suede, this will also come with a figure. Each figure matches one of 7 shades found on the sneaker, so there are 7 different figures with different facial expressions. And with the figures, it’s just great that I am able to incorporate a figure with my collaborations, including these sneakers. I wanted to take attributes from the sneaker and put them into the figure as much as possible to compliment the sneakers for a complete package. This name of the figure is “The Worth Cat.” It’s based on a sample swatches shape, but also has parts from a puma. The best past is, if you look at the nose, paws and tail, you will see that all details are from the PUMA logo.

The insole is basically taken from the form that you would often fill out when receiving a sample: name, project number, code, factory, inspector...etc. You will also always find the word “looksee”. No matter what brand you are dealing with if you are working with samples, you are going to come across the word “looksee.” I thought it would be playful to incorporate that form into the insole - just to follow that ‘sample’ concept.

The base of this shoe is entirely white, and so I found areas where a different shade could exist on the shoe. That number of areas turned out to be 7 - 1, 2, 3, 4….7, and so we then went on to isolate 7 shades of grey. These are the areas that I found to be the best for the different shades.

A lot of the times when I come up with a sneaker design, it’s not going to be for everyone. I rather think of them as products that are for collecting. I guess that because I approach it like artwork.