Known as “the Godfather of Toy Figures,” Hong Kong–based artist Michael Lau is renowned for his collectable vinyl toys and graffiti-style illustrations. His latest collaboration with PUMA brings to the design process to life – from scribbling first ideas to manufacturing the final product. Collection pieces feature hand-drawn pencil graphics, graph paper textures, and other playful design references.
The PUMA x Michael Lau capsule features the Mirage Mox, Ralph Sampson 70s Clean and 70s Mid and the RS-2K. All coming soon to HANON...
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Q: Michael, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! It’s been two years since we caught up with you about your PUMA Suede 50 collaboration. We know that the Suede collab was a few years in the making, how long have you been working on this one for?
A: The beginning is always the hardest. After the last innovation of SUEDE 50 project, PUMA and I have much better understanding of how each other works. It took us more than a year and a half this time round and I would say the process is certainly smoother than last time.
Q: Over the recent years, we’ve seen a lot of brands and designers collaborating together. What is it about the opportunity of a collaboration that appeals to you as an artist?
A: It has to be a brand that appeals to me, that allows me the freedom to express my creativity without too many constraints. Certainly if it involves an opportunity to work on icons of the brand, it makes it more interesting. Also the people; this plays a big factor.
Q: When designing your latest collection with PUMA, what design philosophy inspired your creative process? What’s the story with it?
A: “SAMPLE” documents the mental journey of the creator, and expresses the interaction between the artist and the product. In this inspirational collaboration, I keep on stressing the importance of “trial and error” in the creative process, which is a crucial element that injects fun and joy in each item.
Based on my creative experience, an item, no matter if it’s a figure or apparel or sneakers, sometimes amusing design may likely be a result of the designer’s or the factory technician’s unintentional mistake in the making. Facing these accidental miscalculations, most people will probably dump the prototype and revise immediately. However, I would gladly embrace the mistakes. I like to observe the beauty of such “errors” from another angle, and weave these elements into my design. Such vision and my artistic perceptions would be unveiled in the products of this PUMA x Michael Lau collection.
Q: Why specifically did you choose the Ralph Sampson and RS-2K model?
A: Besides Suede, Ralph Sampson is another classic for PUMA. I always like to recreate the classic models. For RS-2K, I guess it is the new generation shoes. Hopefully different generations can find shoes from this collaboration that resonates with them.
Q: What are the primary elements you chose to focus on in terms of aesthetics and functionality?
A: In terms of the aesthetics, I always input my style and quirky kind of humour into the details to make it ‘Michael Lau’; for functionality, it depends on the project. For the limited edition shoes, I design them like I’m working on an art piece and I expect people who buy them treat them like a piece of art and may not necessarily wear them. I always like to put in a lot of details around the concept to make the story telling more interesting, so maybe each time when you look at it, you will discover something that you may not notice before.
Q: How did your plans for the capsule and its rollout alter amidst everything that has happened in 2020? Were there any challenges that you faced with this project, if so, how did you overcome them?
A: During the process of the making, some physical meetings were not possible due to the COVID situation which prohibited travel and we had to resort to Zoom meetings. Also for the capsule launch in China at the Innersect street cultural fair in Shanghai which I was supposed to attend, I couldn’t be there in the end but I have my figures to represent! Afterall, I think every challenge forces us to think and arrive at a solution somehow, it may not be easy but you will always find a way!
Q: What can we expect to see from Michael Lau once things go back to some sort of normality? Or will we have to just wait and see?
A: Exhibit! My exhibition was supposed to take place in 2020 but was postponed, which I certainly hope can be rescheduled in 2021. I miss going into museums and art fairs, I miss having my exhibition where people can physically see the work and feel the work. At the end, I still believe human interaction cannot just be done virtually.
Q: Thank you very much for your time! Any wise words you’d like to add for our followers?
A: Please enjoy and make fun of the process of trial and error. It may surprise you!