Thomas Rampino | Footpatrol Meets
During our recent New York adventure for our 20th anniversary celebrations with Stash, we met Thomas Rampino. Working behind the scenes but also, very much at the forefront of our Exhibit A and launch of Stashs’ SUBBLUEMINAL book, Thomas is a man with an eye for details and connecting the dots.
Whilst over on a recent trip to London to curate Stashs’ input to the ‘Beyond The Streets’ at London’s Saatchi Gallery, we caught up with Rampino to discuss him, his work and of course sneakers. Suitcase in tow, Thomas talked us through his five selects for FP Meets.
Footpatrol: Hi Thomas, hope you’re well, and thank you for taking the time to fit us into your busy schedule here in the UK.
Thomas Rampino: Thank you so much for having me! Of course. Much love to the FP crew, everyone I’ve met at and through this company is good people. Just needed to say that.
FP: Firstly, can you tell us a bit about who you are, what you do?
TR: Damn I’m not that good at talking about myself. But I guess I’ll say I’m a kid from New York and I work on projects with companies, stores, artists, and makers, working on product, moments, experiences? I get a lot of pleasure out of connecting things together that make sense. Like building Legos or something. I was into that growing up, and it somehow led me to sneakers and clothes, and seeing product in editions and being sensitive to details and quality – the knack for collecting things just became a part of my being. I direct projects, working closely with people who inspire me.
FP: We recently had you here alongside STASH for the ‘Exhibit A’ exhibition, and believe you’re here for the ‘Beyond The Streets’ exhibit, can you tell us a bit more about your involvement in both of these projects?
TR: Back in November I came to London for Exhibit A, a show born out of the celebration of Footpatrol’s 20th Year Anniversary, highlighting the vastness of Stash’s cultural impact in our world, as graffiti writer, graphic designer, streetwear pioneer, product designer, artist, the list goes on. For those that are unaware, I suggest you do some research. I curated the show on behalf of Stash and Blue Works Studio, working with your lovely team along with Gimme 5 to design and create the experience. We also paired Exhibit A with the launch of SUBBLUEMINAL, the first book on Stash, at Footpatrol leading up to the exhibition. It was really important for these moments to encapsulate the right feeling, and it marks a significant moment in time where the history of Stash’s imprint is ready to be celebrated. I learned a lot about our world through his work and influence. So handling some of the artifacts from the archive, and to be displayed in a city where he’s done so much, was truly an honor. Working with Footpatrol and Gimme 5 was a great experience.
This trip to London was for the Beyond The Streets show at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, and I was hand delivering the items I curated for Stash’s contribution to the show expressing Stash’s incredibly significant contributions to hip hop culute and what also became the “streetwear industry”, highlighting the Phillies Blunt tee amongst a couple other designs that greatly influenced the Ura-hara movement coming out of Tokyo in the 90’s. Very honored for me to deliver such a sacred narrative to a show highlighting so many legends in our culture. A lot of people don’t realize that Stash is the one who brought the Phillies Tee into this world. Needless to say, I had a great time during my visit. Anyone in London & reading this should check out the show, it runs until May 9th.
FP: Why do you think it’s important to host exhibits such as the ones mentioned?
TR: It’s become normal for things to move pretty fast in a trend-driven world where everything takes from everything. So much can get blurred or misconstrued, so it’s important to chisel the facts into the stone tablet, even if so many people are getting their news and updates off Instagram. So huge props to you guys for recognizing this, and also to everyone involved with Beyond The Streets for putting on. It’s so important.
FP: We’re aware you also headed up a successful project with Blue In Green Soho and also worked on some very unique bespoke sneakers for it, can you tell us more?
TR: This was my first project in New York and the first time I’ve ever fully seen a vision through from start to finish at that, so it’s very special to me. It was born out of the desire to wear one of my favorite shoes ever and the best Air Max 95 of all time (yes I’m claiming that), Stash’s collaboration that dropped in ’06. Blue In Green has been importing Japanese garments into Soho for over 15 years, and in recent years has become the best spot if you’re into good denim and Japanese Americana (shoutout to Naoki and the whole team for that). They’ve been carrying work from this incredible artisan Shun Hirose through his company RECOUTURE which is based out of Shibuya, and after seeing his work in person, I decided the nature in how how I wanted to present my first project to the world. I wanted to create a lot of moments highlighting the significance of the original shoe, Stash’s 95, but also repairing and representing them utilizing RECOUTURE’s excellence, also including a calm reference to a the cover of a really important Boon Extra Magazine issue and it’s various themes and relevancy, so we created 2 separate editorials, custom packaging, a special event tee, curated an entire evening to celebrate the project, had Stash paint a mural inside the store, and even had some vintage deadstock gear from the archive available for purchase. We went hard and the philosophy was to create a real moment that was fueled by passion, pay proper homage in a tasteful and culturally significant, way while playing in a current contemporary space, and also proving that not everything that’s cool needs to be a newly manufactured mass produced product. I’m grateful that a lot of people were able to understand and feel the essence of what we all tried to portray overall, and that it was received well. I explain it a bit more on Blue In Green’s website in their journal section for those interested in learning more!
FP: Onto the collection in question, it’s quite a diverse selection, can you tell us a little bit about each pair and just why they have made it into this rotation?
TR: Absolutely, to be honest I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to geek out about kicks, so sorry (not really) if this is a bit lengthy. Starting with the Air Force 1’s… You can just feel the level of integrity and love when holding these cultural artifacts. The cut, material quality, the intentionality of the details; it’s really a product. The quality of and build of earlier AF1’s are just incredible, with the 2001 pairs having some of my favorite detailing and construction quality. Peep the satin lining. Nike’s Air Force 1 is one of my favorite silhouettes of all time. The co.jp program embodies much of what drew me close to sneaker culture. Neither pair needs an introduction. Everyone knows about the linens, but honestly it’s the tip of the iceberg of special pairs from this time. The Atmos pair, in its own right, is a perfect shoe.
Virgil’s Off-White Jordan 1 Chicago is a special shoe no doubt. Way beyond the hype and whatever the market value. I was really fortunate to get a pair before the global release at this event they had in New York to celebrate the launch called “OFF CAMPUS”. It was massive, so much so that I was able to sneak into a press panel and somehow talk my name onto some list to purchase the shoe. I had little money but didn’t even think of selling them even though people were offering me thousands. I got to exchange words with Virgil, he blessed my pair, and I just remember being amazed at how calm, collected, and humble he was while in the midst of shocking the world. His work, with this shoe being the headliner, was so representative of change in many different ways. It was truly a cultural shift, and I am very into cultural shifts. Everything about this project meant something. The entire world eventually bent to it. It was so powerful and reminiscent of the energy of previous generations, that you can so obviously tell V paid such close attention to, honoring and interpreting it in his own way, and on his time. I was so inspired by the energy of this moment, that I decided around that time that I want to contribute to this world that has given me so much to be passionate about. It’s strange to think that that was almost 6 years ago. May he rest in peace, I am devastated that he is no longer here.
The next two shoes are two that come with me everywhere, the Asics Gel-Burs 2 by Kiko Kostadinov and the New Balance CM996 x mita by Shigeyuki Kuni. I remember putting the Asics on when they came out and they just never left my rotation. They looked brand new for years even with heavy wear. I may need to start looking for another pair now, and it’s because I just think they are such a good option for everyday. The proportions, the panels and overlays, the colors, the fit. They are very thoughtful, without being overstated. Genuinely a good product that casually proves Kostadinov’s genius and justifies Asics re-resurgence in the past couple years and they’ve been killing it.
Shortly after I discovered the work of Shigeyuki Kuni, learning about his ascension to footwear designer and creative director of mita sneakers in Japan, I found out about this special project that dropped around the summer of 2019. 6 boutiques in Japan were given the opportunity to outfit the CM996, with less than a thousand pairs of each produced (it could be 996 units each but don’t hold me to it). mita’s contribution was modeled after the famous Shibuya Crossing, and the application of the stripes is fascinating. It’s truly a wearable piece of art. Incredibly thoughtful and beautiful. They somehow are so calming for being a shoe with huge stripes overlaid on top of them. It’s astounding and I get stopped in the streets because of these almost every time I wear them, which is very often. They released during a storm of New Balance collaborations, but you had to be paying attention to catch these. Luckily I have 3 pairs – one that’s already cooked, these slightly used ones you’re looking at here, and a brand new pair for later. I want to meet Shigeyuki Kuni and learn about his philosophy on shoe design. He’s had many fantastic contributions to the landscape in the past, and his work has such a great consistency, I love the new Gel Lyte III’s he did in collaboration with bal.
FP: Tell us about your time spent in Tokyo, and traveling in general, how has it broadened your mind?
Last August I got to visit Tokyo for the launch events surrounding Stash’s collaboration with A Bathing Ape and legendary German camera company Leica. It was my first time in Japan. It was also during a time where travel to the country was limited due to concerns about Covid-19, so we had to get business visas to travel and there weren’t many tourists. Because of this, I think I got to see a very intimate Tokyo. It was almost like I had training wheels because I think it would have been a bit overwhelming had the city been in full operation.
Being in Tokyo for the first time, I was in a foreign land for sure. But somehow, I felt at home and a strong sense of familiarity in contrast with being in a constant state of discovery. I felt very full the entire time I was there. It was a very spiritual experience of just feeling overwhelmingly grateful and excited when turning every corner to see what types of niche and specific shops I would find, the constantly changing landscape of the city, even stuff like graphic design and street signs, obviously food and culinary experiences, mind blowing to my taste buds. Like over-stimulation in the best way. Luckily I had many friends over there, some that I had met for the first time through our work, some that I met while they were visiting New York months or even years before, and just getting connected with friends of friends out there. It was a surreal experience.
Getting to travel around during the past couple of years has definitely taught me a lot. I grew up in the bubble that is the United States and it became apparent to me that I needed to see so much more of the world, so I’m grateful that I’ve been able to start having these types of experiences early enough in my life to where I am not yet stuck in my ways and can willingly expand my mind.
Besides learning about different cultures, the origins of some of my favorite interests, tying historical events with physical places, spending time with some of the incredible humans of our world… funny enough some of the greatest ways I’ve broadened my life through travel is through what I’ve been able to learn about myself and about the principles of life and the universe’s laws. I learned that for every positive, there exists a negative. Like a natural balance, ebb and flow. It’s inevitable, and it’s really about your mindset and how you process things that will ultimately determine what you get out of a situation. The past couple trips have been some of the best moments of my life. In Tokyo I was having back to back best days. And you can’t just have that without having “bad” things. And it’s not like a boulder falling out of the sky and crushing you, it’s not as literal as that. Sometimes it’s time to face things about yourself or challenge yourself. I think those are the ultimate moments of personal growth. And it’s why I encourage anyone to travel. It’s cliche, but the self discovery is real.
FP: What is the mission of co.Rampino?
I have a couple of internal mantras that I won’t list, but they all surround the concepts of being honest and clever and true. I really just want to add value, and contribute things that I genuinely want to see in the world. So I guess the mission is to restore essence and provoke feeling, since as a connoisseur I’m constantly looking to indulge in projects that are properly communicating the values that initially got myself interested in all of this. The mission and identity will show through my work and the approaches I take in expressing my visions. I don’t really have a pitch nor do I plan on coming up with one. I’ll also say it’s a bit weird to name a company after yourself, especially to operate within a world where many people won’t know who I am. But if I am projecting what I want to see in the world, it did not make sense for me to come up with a word or phrase to represent that.
FP: Random one… If you were a sneaker, what would you be?
Haha, okay. I don’t think this is technically a sneaker. But if I had to choose something off the top right now, it would be the Manual Industrial Product 10, Ryo Kashiwazaki of Hender Scheme’s interpretation of the Air Jordan 4. ‘Manual Industrial Product’ is a project that really speaks to me for many reasons. It comprises Hender Scheme’s reworking of the iconic footwear of our modern times. Traditional high quality shoe making techniques, paired with their thoughtful and artful use of vegetable tanned leather, each pair tells a unique story with wear. The product and concept kind of ran perpendicular to how “sneaker culture” was consuming at the time when these really gained popularity – low quality materials, mass production quality, only brand new or pristine condition shoes being valued… so these just blew my mind when I discovered them and they stuck with me, and they embody my approach and thought process when it comes to product related projects. I need to dust my pair off, I have them signed by Ryo Kashiwazaki from when he was in New York debuting the company’s home goods line at this perfect shop by the East Village called Nalata Nalata. I haven’t worn them in a while. Maybe it’s time.
FP: Thank you very much for taking the time to chat to us Thomas, we look forward to seeing you again soon! Is there any words of wisdom or upcoming events we can see you at?
I haven’t given this type of intimate thought to my collection in a long time, I’m thankful for this opportunity to connect with and share really important possessions of mine. Footpatrol is an institution in this world and I’m honored to be able to have a relationship with you all. Hopefully I’ll be back in London and also Tokyo later this year. For now I’m going to stay in New York plotting my next couple moves. My words of wisdom would be to focus on value added and protect your energy. Energy is the real currency.