Hiromichi Ochiai On The New Why Not? Zer0.4 x FACETASM Collaboration
The designer was asked by Russell Westbrook to create a special colorway and apparel collection for the fourth chapter of his signature line.
Words: Nick Grant
Illustration: Coin Parking Delivery
Why not? It’s one of those questions that the ambitious and precocious ask — those who don’t want to live by what others have already done. Russell Westbrook’s on- and off-court style follows that mantra; he embraces multiple aesthetics and always has surprises up his sleeve. While Russ can be polarizing, he’s never boring, and he’ll always jump at the untraditional way of doing things.
It makes sense, then, that the debut of Russ’ Why Not? Zer0.4 includes a collaboration with Hiromichi Ochiai’s cutting-edge brand, FACETASM. Who else would have that kind of introduction to a new signature shoe? Only Russ.
Russell Westbrook and Hiromichi Ochiai at the FACETASM store in 2018
Russ first met Hiromichi at the FACETASM flagship store in Tokyo during his 2018 Asia tour. He was immediately enamored by Hiromichi’s innovative yet classic approach to clothing, which included some custom Why Not? pieces for his visit. “Meeting Russ in Tokyo was a really special experience for me,” remembers Hiromichi. “We talked about lots of different things. He spoke with a beaming smile about fashion, and he took real interest in FACETASM. He really understood the designs, and he wears them well.”
Just over a year later, Hiromichi debuted the Air Jordan I Mid SE Fearless x FACETASM collaboration that showed his reverence for the iconic silhouette, in addition to his subtle way of muting the traditional saturation of sport colors. Though there were already conversations about a Why Not? x FACETASM project, that AJI Mid brought Hiromichi into the Jordan Brand family and previewed how he and Russ could transform a performance shoe.
When it came time for Hiromichi to officially collaborate on the Why Not? Zer0.4 and apparel, he was given a full briefing on what makes this new signature special. “When I first saw the sneaker, I was amazed at the construction and the technology,” recalls Hiromichi. “I knew that coming up with a concept for it would be difficult, but it was a new challenge for me, and one that I found really enjoyable.” He learned that the shoe embodies Russ’ triple-double mentality, with a double-stacked Zoom Air bag in the forefoot and material innovation in the upper. Based on the “ground game” of Russ and basketball players everywhere, the shoe is built to deliver on responsiveness, cushioning and containment. Given all of Russ’ incredible PEs (including a special “Tokyo” PE for his 2019 tour), Hiromichi knew there would be additional WNZ.4 expressions alongside his design. So he took a page out of Russ’ book and decided to keep things authentic while branching out from FACETASM’s usual aesthetic. Because, why not?
“The colors are the most important detail in this collaboration,” says Hiromichi, who wanted the shoe and apparel to embody both the fluidity of streetwear and the “slice-and-dice” style that FACETASM employs. He and Russ went with unexpected pairings, like FACETASM’s signature smoke blue paired with stadium green, red, pink and orange accents. “They’re not colors that we would have ever picked as FACETASM, but because Russell explained how he was feeling, and what he wanted to do, we were able to come up with this balanced colorway. It’s a colorway that could have only come out of this collaboration, and for that reason, I really like it.”
Beyond their experimental instincts, Hiromichi and Russ have a lot in common. Hiromichi founded FACETASM in 2007, and Russ joined the league in 2008; Hiromichi was just leaving his twenties, while Russ was just entering his. They were both shining stars at prestigious universities, and throughout their careers, they’ve both preferred not to say too much — to keep certain things mysterious when others are eager to overshare. Perhaps most importantly, they both know how to have fun and be adventurous within their respective industries. “We’ve always operated from a similar perspective of being open to facing any sort of challenge,” says Hiromichi, of his similarities with Russ and the Why Not? mentality. “The word ‘Facetasm’ is a neologism of the word ‘facet,’ which reflects the same connotation of multiple perspectives. It represents embracing various types of creativity. In my creative output, I’m not limited to a single approach.”
The accompanying Why Not? x FACETASM apparel includes a mix of textures, materials and draping, from a reversible, bomber-inspired jacket made with cozy sherpa materials, to a tailored tracksuit, to a sweatshirt with a graphic that merges “Why Not” and “FACETASM.” It feels very “Russ” in its elevation of sportswear silhouettes, while also very “FACETASM” in its oversized shape and transformation of materials. “I didn’t want to do something ‘sportswear,’ but instead, I wanted to use the knowledge we’ve learned through FACETASM,” says Hiromichi. “It’s about how to use different materials, and in doing so, creating new value.”
Though the apparel is meant for lifestyle wear, Hiromichi kept going back to Russ, his style and the fact Russ would wear the Why Not? Zer0.4 x FACETASM on the court. “There’s this sense that athletes and fashion culture are coming closer and closer together, and style trends are being influenced by that, as a result,” says Hiromichi. “Russ has an excellent balance when it comes to fashion. He also has a strong interest in it and a respect for the culture. This collaboration has been a dream. I never imagined that I’d see shoes I designed on an NBA court. I’m so happy that I was given the opportunity to make that happen.”
The Why Not? Zer0.4 x FACETASM collection is available starting December 27 from FACETASM, SNKRS and select retailers.