Before KITH’s Ronnie Fieg or Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia—two extraordinarily proficient collaborators—there was Hommyo Hidefumi. Hommyo, as he is colloquially and respectfully referred to, has been cited by Jeff Staple as one of the most important people in streetwear. On an even greater scale, he may be one of the most influential and important people in fashion as a whole, especially when it comes to his pioneering and tireless approach to collaboration. See, Hommyo Hidefumi is the man behind legendary Tokyo-based sneaker boutique atmos—though he would kindly remind you that atmos has now expanded to sell its own clothing, in addition to sneakers.

Let’s put it this way: If you have heard of atmos, you’re undoubtedly familiar with at least one of the store’s myriad collaborations. If you have not heard of atmos...well, you’re undoubtedly familiar with at least one of the store’s myriad collaborations.

Like other legendary sneaker tales, Hommyo’s begins with a trip to the American East Coast in the early-‘90s. As a student in Philadelphia, Hommyo found some of the most popular sneakers in his native Japan being sold at comparably cut-rate prices. Air Force 1s were a dime a dozen and there wasn’t yet a vintage market in the United States; instead, you could pick up what would now be called “pre-loved” sneakers for less than a meal.

After graduating from Temple University, Hommyo headed home to Japan, with countless pairs of kicks in tow. Back in Tokyo, Hommyo languished at a textile trading company, where he was tasked with producing T-shirts. This was the case until 1993 when, using a bank loan, a loan from his wife and a loan from his mother he launched a flea market enterprise. In 1996, it would morph into Chapter, a vintage clothing and sneaker emporium based out of a junk yard in Harajuku. Using the success of Chapter, Hommyo proceeded to launch atmos in 2000. The seeds of collaboration at atmos were apparently sewn early on, as Hommyo credits Hiroshi Fujiwara—of Fragment Design—with devising the store’s name.

Known thanks to the success of Chapter, equipped with a deep rolodex and wielding the buying power that comes from stocking hundreds of models simultaneously, it didn’t take Hommyo and atmos long to draw interest from Nike. Within a year, Hommyo was commissioning SMUs from the Portland-based sportswear company to give atmos something exclusive to offer its legions of customers. While not official, co-branded collaborations, 2001’s grey and navy SB Dunk Low and Air Force 1 Low are today revered as iconic collaborations. Perhaps it’s revisionist history—bestowing greater meaning and significance to the shoes knowing what came after them—but both are still highly sought-after by collectors and have been used as the jumping-off point for recent releases.

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