Beyond sneaker culture with Kevin Concepts
Our radar 📡 went cray when we discovered the leather goods created by Kevin Bui — better known as Kevin Concepts — using upcycled sneakers.
The self-taught creative with years of retail experience learned that there can be a lot of waste in inventory storage — so why not use it the best way possible. Sneaker culture gets a capital S in Kevin's work by transforming pairs into everyday items with classic elements like Nike's swoosh or the elephant printed leather used for the Air Jordan 3 by Tinker Hatfield (one of Bui's influences).
His leather cardholder wallet made to celebrate Air Max Day represents his passions like no other as the ultimate combo of a sneaker classic plus experimental design, art, handcraft & sustainability. His custom ideas such as the Air Force 1 Low inspired by the Cactus Plant Flea Market x Nike captures the essence of the collab but with the timeless leather silhouette of the AF1.
Kevin's sneakerhead nature has always been the ruler of his creative steps as the 25-year-old seeks to reach his ultimate goal. What goal is that? You'll have to keep reading for the full profile of the designer who continues to prove that good ideas + premium leather (even the scraps) shift culture ⏳.
Kevin Concepts in one tweet
A self-taught creative based in Portland, Oregon, with a passion for footwear and sustainability.
Based in Portland, Oregon, I’m fortunate to live near two of the most influential athletic footwear and apparel companies, Nike and Adidas. Growing up in Portland, I’ve been surrounded by sneaker culture and have been able to enjoy experiences I wouldn’t have had elsewhere. During high school, I had the opportunity to job shadow Footwear Designers, Developers, and Product Line Managers at Jordan Brand at Nike’s World Headquarters. This experience allowed me to see how a product comes to fruition and how a team of many people work together to make it happen. Experiences such as this influenced me to pursue a career in product at Nike.
In addition to this experience, events like Portland Design Week have allowed me to visit design facilities around the city such as the University of Oregon’s Product Design studio, where I was able to pick up new knowledge on design.
Many of my concepts come together through my desire to make use of scrap and ordinary materials like plastic bags or leather remnants from footwear. I’ll often hold onto scrap materials to use for future projects.
I believe my experience in retail exposed me to how much waste daily operations generate, which encouraged me to find methods to repurpose plastic shopping bags and cardboard boxes. Upcycling and repurposing scrap material has become a common element among my projects.
The biggest influence on me as a creator is an artist that passed away a couple of years ago. Their desire to influence the youth to pursue their dreams had a big impact on me. I’d like to inspire people to pursue their passions just as this artist inspired me. I believe everyone is capable of being great and achieving their dreams. I want to inspire them to do just that.
Another influence of mine is Tinker Hatfield. Everyone knows him for his work at Nike and all the amazing sneakers he’s worked on. Back when I worked at the local Nike Store, Tinker came in to shop, so I had to say hello and let him know how much I appreciated him and his work. He was extremely kind and asked me my name and what my goals and aspirations were. This interaction meant a lot to me.
Other than these two people; the creators, artists, designers, developers, and everyone else I’ve connected with through social media and through informationals at Nike have inspired me to continue to develop my skills. Everyone is so full of talent and knowledge, I’m grateful to have connected with them.
Not including my job shadow experience at Jordan Brand, it definitely was a turning point during my retail experience at Nike. After having worked there for 3 years, I realized that the opportunities weren’t there for me to make the transition to headquarters. I loved the product and enjoyed connecting consumers with the right product, but I wanted to impact consumers on a larger scale. Instead of selling products at the end of their life cycle, I wanted to be a part of the team that helped bring those products to life and have an impact on the work that reaches global consumers.
After speaking with some friends who worked at Nike’s headquarters, I realized I could carve my own path and develop my skills outside of retail. This essentially encouraged me to leave my role at the local Nike Store and dedicate my time to working on personal projects to build my portfolio while also attending informationals to learn more about the various roles on campus.
It’s been exactly one year since I left, and I’m grateful for everyone I’ve met and the skills I've developed.
I have quite a few projects in mind for the near future that involve upcycling shoe boxes and scrap sneakers. I’m looking into turning shoeboxes into everyday household items, such as picture frames, lamps and planters. I just love merging sneaker culture with everyday items.
Outside of design I really enjoy exploring the Pacific Northwest. From hiking to food, there’s a lot to do out here. I also enjoy sports and music.
One day I will...
One day I will inspire people through art and design.
We have a feeling this day is coming pretty quickly, Kev 🏃♂️.
To dive deeper into where his ideas come from, we asked for his top 5 sneakers of all time right here.
& meet more rising creative minds of design at [metcha originals].