Discussing sneaker customization & craftsmanship w/ Rifare Co.

21. Juli 2023

Customizing sneakers has become very common within sneaker culture, with individuals embracing their footwear as a form of expression. Frank is a Taiwanese sneaker customizer with a background in sneaker design, who reconstructs popular silhouettes to create a whole new shoe under his brand Rifare Co

What sparked your interest in shoemaking?

My passion for collecting sneakers started in my childhood, and being exposed to the Ura-Harajuku culture in Japan further fueled my interest. I traveled to Japan on business trips with my family, where I was immersed in Japanese fashion culture, which greatly impacted my design sensibilities.

Sneakers hold a profound significance for me, as I realized that they extend beyond their athletic purpose, having symbolic meaning as well.

You studied at the famous Polimoda in Florence, Italy. How has your education impacted your work?

was in the “Shoe and Bag Design Master” program at Polimoda. I gained valuable knowledge about design thinking and logic, which is incredibly useful for someone like me, who aspires to create shoes. They taught me how to approach creative thinking and encouraged cultural exchanges to embrace the different design points of view.

Additionally, I had the opportunity to connect with a variety of professionals within the fashion industry. It’s become clear to me that networking is just as important as design in the fashion industry.

Are there similarities between Italian and Taiwanese shoemaking techniques?

During my studies in Italy, I primarily focused on the art of handmade shoe craftsmanship. I learned techniques such as shaping the upper part of the shoe by hand, where I had to sand a wooden last and fix the leather onto it, continuously spraying water to mold it. The most intriguing part was hand-stitching, especially using boar bristles as needles. Even the waxed thread had to be created by rubbing cotton thread with wax. It was truly unique and fascinating.

On the other hand, in Taiwan, the focus is often on understanding how to produce shoes in bulk and how to optimize costs. The emphasis is more on mass production and efficiency.

What inspired you to remake sneakers with the split toe?

Ive always admired the Japanese samurai style. Im also captivated by the chivalry and wild styles. So, when personalizing sneakers, I chose samurai as a tribute, and the result was the Tabi Sneaker.

Take us through your process. How do you redesign a shoe? How much work goes into a single pair?

In general, when all of the materials are ready, Tabi sneakers can be completed within two weeks. However, producing only one pair of shoes at a time is uncommon. To avoid the difficult process, we attempt to manufacture more than five to six pairs at the same time. In reality, each step of the sneaker reconstruction is difficult. From the trimming of the shoe last to the modification of the shoe version, it takes a long time. It is much more difficult to reconstruct the shoes than to make a new pair of sneakers since the original shoes must be preserved in their original style, uniqueness, and beauty. Its difficult, therefore trying on more than 10 pairs of shoes before manufacturing and reconstructing Tabi sneakers is common.

What is your favorite model to work on?

The New Balance 2002R Tabi, which was created by the Korean celebrity G-Dragon under his brand Peaceminusone. It features the signature daisy embroidery patch as an embellishment.