H33M x Lakai is a Collaboration the Streets Needed

One evening, while scrolling Twitter, I saw that H33M recently announced his upcoming collaboration with skate shoe company Lakai. “What the fuck,” I initially thought to myself. These were two companies I did not see collaborating any time soon. Firstly, given Crailtap’s (Lakai parent company) tendency to do some random collabs, such as Sanrio and Kodak, I certainly found it interesting that Lakai would collab with such an underground, forward thinking brand.

The skate shoe market has changed drastically in the last 10-15 years, with companies such as Nike, Adidas, and Converse pushing out many endemic skate shoe brands. You don’t see Lakai in the conversation as much in streetwear when compared to these other, much larger brands. But, it doesn’t hurt that Lakai is one of the most legendary skate shoe brands of all time (Fully Flared is still one of the best skate videos ever). It also doesn’t hurt that Kahim Smith, the founder of H33M, is a good friend of ours here at Casual Fridays. I sat down with him to chat about cupsoles, workwear, and shoes reselling for $900.

Bailey: How long has H33M been a brand for?

Kahim: H33M will be a brand for six years next month in October. Around the 14th.

Bailey: Fuck yeah, that sounds awesome. What inspired you to start?

Kahim: At the time, I had a store in New York and a couple of friends called The Good Company and I had just had some ideas that I wanted to work on artistically that weren’t really in line with that brand. So I branched out and started doing my own project. And once it started, it just kind of just kept growing and growing on its own.

Bailey: That’s amazing! Where in New York was your shop at? 

Kahim: So we were located right in the LES on Allen and Delancey.

Bailey: What would you say your biggest fashion influences are, both all time and currently? 

Kahim: Ecko Unlimited, FUBU, Wu Tang Clan, those are the shits I used to like. Like Girbaud Jeans back when I was in high school. I guess my fashion influence now is more kind of the intersection of where culture meets. I grew up around a bunch of guys who like skateboarding, I used to ride track bikes. It was just kind of always the fashion that was really just for being outside. So it was never even so much “fashion”. It was more just like gear you could wear out into the real world.

Bailey: That’s sick. Have you ever done footwear before? 

Kahim: This is the first time I’ve ever done footwear.

Bailey: When compared to something like a t-shirt, there are a lot more technical requirements that go into a shoe. Were there any unique challenges that you faced?

Kahim: You see people making shoes and you’re like, “well, I could make my own shoe.” But I think the unique challenge was not doing that and waiting until I got the opportunity to work with a company that already produces quality footwear. So that way, my first foray into it would not be making some fake brands off Alibaba or some fake Jordans, you know. Like what a lot of people are doing in order to get into the footwear game. That was a unique challenge, just waiting for the right kind of thing to come across the table the way it was like organic and actually made sense rather than just doing some knockoff shit.

Bailey: So how did the collab happen? 

Kahim: It came together pretty fucking organically. One of their skaters is a friend of mine named Yonnie Cruz, who I met when I lived in San Francisco. He skates for them. And one day I was out of the bar with some friends and I got introduced to a guy who worked over there and we just ended up hitting it off, having a good conversation. And it was one of those things where it’s like, “yeah, you should come by the meeting like next week and let’s chop it out, like shoot my email on Monday and let’s take it from there.” And it just wasn’t a bullshit conversation at all. Like within the next week, we already were having meetings and cooking up ideas, and that was roughly about a year ago. 

Bailey: I think it’s really awesome that this kind of a collab is happening because you don’t see that as much anymore in the skate world. Most of the collabs are Nike and Adidas, and a lot of these endemic skate shoes have been forced out of the market. Lakai is one of the few skater-owned shoe companies left. What are your thoughts on the changing market of skate footwear?

Kahim: Well, the fact that a lot of it’s run by Nike and Adidas kind of sucks, they’re allowing the market to be basically placated. You either have to get on the app and try to win a chance at a raffle, or get all purchased out by bots and then resold on whatever website for $900. I think that’s pretty wack, honestly. I think people should be able to buy the shoe. If you make a limited release, that’s cool, but figure out some sort of system where people can actually buy it. And that’s what led me to want to work with a smaller company. Let’s do something that is actually for the people and the supporters who I work with when I have a chance to do it. And then at the same token, we can make something that’s actually unique. We’re not just saying, “oh, I’m going to wait in line and try to get an SB.” Sure, everyone would love to collaborate with Nike, but it’s like let’s do something just a little bit different. And it also ties back to the roots of growing up in San Francisco, hanging out at FTC. All these fools I know, a lot of them being like pro skaters or in the skate industry. Like the homie GX1000, his shit super blew up. And he’s like, #1 filmer in skate pretty much. I just wanted to do something that organically tied with the brand and was able to make sense, even though I’m not the best skateboarder ever, So it just seemed like it was like a really organic way to do a shoe that was a little bit unique that people would actually get to enjoy.

Bailey: That’s sick. I need to get a pair; they’re so fucking hard.

Kahim: The cool part about them is we ended up like coming together on an idea, and the shoe that we made isn’t a shoe you can just go buy right now on their website. We took the top from the Newport, which is the classic skate model that has the vulcanized sole, and we took the sole from the Proto, which is a much more teched out cupsole skate shoe. And we did the mashup. So even though we’re still calling it the Newport, it’s like a whole new fucking shoe. It’s not like any other shoes on their site.

Bailey: No, that’s actually really interesting because I saw them and I thought it was a Newport. I didn’t realize that the soles got changed from a vulc to cupsole.

Kahim: We thought it would be cool to like try something new. Once we started doing the mock ups, we really decided to push forward with it, because it kind of gave it a court, kind of an old school like tennis shoe type vibe. So you could skate it, but it looks more like a Stan Smith or something. You can literally go play tennis in them one hundred percent.

Bailey: I think that’s getting back to the original spirit of the SB Dunk, which is like you’re supposed to skate it and chill in them. I know you talked about the cupsole; are there any other unique features on the shoes?

Kahim: It has 3M detailing, so the logo on the side, the tongue, and the back are all reflective, and then it has some little details on the sole. It’s got nails printed on the inside of the sole, the orange bottoms on the insoles to match with the rest of the colorways, which is pretty sweet. Normally the insoles have blue bottoms. The sole being different is the main one. It is like a completely different shoe. Who knows if they’re going to make it again after this collaboration, that I have no answer to. But it is different than any other shoes that are currently available on their site.

Bailey: Is there any significance to the nails on the insole? It reminded me a lot of the old Shorty’s ads where Rosa would be naked in all the bolts.

Kahim: Honestly, it was kind of like a play on how sometimes people would talk about dropping the hammer when they’re skating, just like a little reference. And then also I’ve been really on a workwear meets streetwear kick for H33M as a whole brand movement. So the logo that is on these shoes was actually inspired by a toolbox logo. So we designed the box of the shoes to be reminiscent of a toolbox as well. So it’s kind of like a work theme. Get the shoes and put in some work.

Bailey: It all ties in so well, because growing up skating, and it’s like, what would you wear? Dickies and Carhartt’s, you know? 

Kahim: They really mesh fully together. The styling is really the same, even if it’s skate or street. It’s all just spun off of workwear at this point.

Bailey: Where can someone get these and how much are they retailing for?

Kahim: They are going to be available on Lakai.com 9:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on Friday 9/25. There will be apparel to go along with it. We are dropping two t-shirts, a hoodie, shoes, and that’ll be like the whole little capsule. And the kicks retail for 85 bucks.

Bailey: What’s in the next what’s in the works for H33M? Any drops coming up? Any potential collabs, anything you’re willing to talk about?

Kahim: So October is going to be a big month for us. Like I said, we’re going into the six-year anniversary. We decided this is going to be the first anniversary that we’re going to actually celebrate because this divided are divisible by three, and we’re on our weird numerology shit. So we’re going to have the six-year anniversary and every single Friday in October, we’re going to have a new release of all-new products. So people should definitely keep their eyes open for us revisiting some of the other collabs that we’ve done. We’re going to do a H33MFIRE part two, which is our collab with L.A. based brand Hot Fire. We’re going to have some old graphics come back as new designs. And then we have a couple other little secret collabs that we’re mixing in there as well. So every Friday we’re going to drop.

h33mylakai_final from H33M INC. on Vimeo.