Several names stand out in the world of sneaker customization, such as JBF customs, Mache, and SBTG to name a few. Filipinos, known for their artistic take on different ideas, are also being heard worldwide all thanks to Singapore-based sneaker artist, Jon Timbre.
Jon executes his ideas, takes photos of his craft, and showcases it to the world exhibiting Filipino pride.
Learn more about Jon's vision on the world of sneakers in our exclusive Q&A.
SA'ICHI: Tell us a little background about your early days in sneakers.
Jon Timbre: I started with basketball sneakers because I played the sport. After I graduated, I was sent to the U.S. by my employer. There I discovered the Niketalk forum, and met a lot of Filipinos in the California area. I had 2-3 pairs of sneakers, which I thought was a lot that time, but most of them had 40 pairs or more. The first lifestyle sneaker I acquired using my own money was a Nike Cortez. After that, I always back-read the forums to search more Jordan Retros.
"Basketball sneakers ang hilig ko nung nag-start ako. Yung first pair ko using my own money is Nike Cortez. After I graduated, napadala ako sa U.S ng company, dun ko na-discover yung Niketalk forum. Madami ako na-meet na Filipinos na nasa California area, I think I had 2-3 pairs that time. Akala ko madami na yun pero ang common pala dun is around 40 pairs or more. After nun, back read lang ako palagi tapos naghanap ako ng Jordan Retros."
SA'1: What made you shift from basketball sneakers to lifestyle sneakers?
JT: I brought my Jordans when I started working in Singapore. I flew in a lot of basketball sneakers with me because I wanted to play the sport with my Filipino friends. Then they introduced me to a New Balance pair, which I instantly loved. At first, I never knew the value of the pair, but it was a rare one, a Hanon x New Balance 1500 "Chosen Few" (photo above). My first pair from SA is an ASICS GEL-Lyte III Black/Tan (photo below) made available at SA Katipunan.
"When I started working in Singapore, dala ko nun is mga Jordans. Madami ako dalang basketball sneakers kasi alam ko maglalaro ako dun with my Filipino friends. Then may gathering kami nun may pinakitang New Balance pair na size ko. Pagkakita ko kinuha ko na agad kasi ang ganda. Late ko na din nalaman na rare pala yun, Hanon Chosen Few 1500 Royal Blue. Then first pair ko from SA is ASICS GEL-Lyte III na Black/Tan."
SA'1: Around how many pairs of sneakers do you currently have?
JT: I really don’t count them, but I'm sure it’s around 100 but not exceeding 150. My customized pairs are around 15-20.
"Hindi ako nagbibilang masyado pero I’m sure nasa 100 plus na pero di naman lalagpas ng 150. With 15-20 customized pairs."
SA'1: How did you start customizing sneakers? What inspired you to evolve through design?
JT: I actually started restoring sneakers because my Jordan's midsoles cracked upon aging. That time, only one person offered sneaker restoration services in the Philippines, so I tried it on my own pairs to lessen the costs. After that, my friends wanted their pairs to be painted. My first customized pair was my Lebron Low, which had good feedback from my friends.
"Actually, sneaker restoration muna. From the Jordans, usually pag may crack ang midsoles upon aging, dun ako nagayos. Isa palang sa Pilipinas ang nag-offer na mag-paint ng midsoles, kaya naisip ko gawin din to lessen costs. It’s for myself lang naman, then yung friends ko gusto nadin nila yung pairs nila pa-paint. Tapos may nakita akong Lebron Low pair na-customized kaya I tried it on my own din, okay naman yung feedback nun sa mga tao."
SA'1: Which one is your favorite? How do you come up with fresh ideas?
JT: I base it on popular colorways of silhouettes then I mix and match them. It mostly happens when I want a pair but it’s just priced too much. For example, the Salmon Toe GEL-Lyte III, I loved the colorway, so why not try it on a different silhouette? I don’t want to imitate the exact pair because it will look and feel fake.
"Ako I base it sa mga popular colorways ng mga silhouettes, then I mix and match. Usually, it happens kung may gusto akong pair tapos ang hirap makakuha kaya I make my own nalang, example yung mga Salmon Toe na GEL-Lyte. Why not put it on a different silhouette? Ayoko naman same pair tapos gagayahin ko parang fake na yun."
SA'1: What is your go-to colorway?
JT: For me, it’s the Salmon Toe because I started customizing sneakers using that colorway. During that time, people were not into customization of lifestyle sneakers, they were mostly personalizing Jordans. It's hard to paint suede, but I tried a different technique, which is fabric dyeing. Personally, it’s a challenge because I want to retain the original texture of the materials.
"For me, Salmon Toe, dun kasi ako nag-start. Wala pa masyado nag-customize ng lifestyle sneakers nun, medyo mahirap nun kasi usually sa Jordans leather paint. What I use naman is dye for suede. Personally, ang hirap kasi I want to retain the original texture of the materials."
SA'1: If you could combine 3 sneaker designs customized for your own taste, how would the sneaker look like?
JT: Maybe an UltraBOOST Salmon Toe. I will "uncage" it, then add a little touch of the NMDs.
"Salmon Toes for sure, maybe on an UltraBOOST. I will "uncage" the original UB, then with a touch of the NMDs."
SA'1: How do you see yourself 5 years from now?
JT: Definitely, I will still be into sneaker collecting and customization. It might reduce a bit, but this will always be a part of me, as this is my hobby, and it's my form of relaxation after a long day. I will still make time for customization even if I have a full-time job. I also started to buy "baby" pairs, I am saving these for the future, because definitely, he/she will be into sneakers.
"Hindi ako mag-stop mag-collect/customization. Baka mabawasan ng konti pero andyan na ‘yan sakin. I started to buy baby pairs nadin, I just keep it for the future. Definitely, yung magiging baby namin will be into sneakers din. I will still make time for customization kahit may full-time work ako. It’s my hobby, it’s my form of relaxation after a long day."
SA'1: If you could wear only one pair of shoes for the rest of your life, what would it be?
JT: The UltraBOOST is very comfortable. Maybe the custom UB “Salmon Toe”. Hopefully I can make one soon!
"Definitely, yung UltraBOOST custom “Salmon Toe”. Comfortable kasi ang UB. Hopefully magawa ko soon!"
SA'1: Do you have any sneaker photography tips to aspiring photographers?
JT: Honestly, I'm not really a good photographer. Maybe it all comes to life because of the effort I put into taking the photo. I am not also particular in background settings, my favorites are large aperture shots, paired with good lighting, plus good color contrast.
"Di naman ako magaling talaga na photographer! Siguro yung effort lang na mag-take ng picture ang nagdadala, hindi ako particular sa background. Large aperture and good lighting ako, plus good color contrast."
SA'1: Since you have traveled a couple of times, what can you say about the Filipino's passion for sneakers on a global scale?
JT: I felt proud when I first came to the United States. Most of the passionate/deep collectors in the U.S. are Filipinos, they’re just low-key.
"Yung pagpunta ko ng U.S dati, nabilib na ako sa Pilipino, yung matinding collectors dun at that time is mga Pinoy. Madami talagang collectors, na dati palang talaga. Tahimik lang sila pero matindi talaga."
SA'1: Do you have any message to your followers?
JT: First of all, to my family, my parents, Joie, my sisters, tita Jo and Tito Louie and Julian, thank you for your support. I know it’s not a cheap hobby to maintain but they are always in full support. To my friends, thank you!
"First of all sa family ko, my parents, Joie, my sisters, tita Jo, tito Louie, and Julian, thank you sa support, I know it’s not a cheap hobby pero andyan padin sila to support. Sa friends ko, thank you!"
SA'1: What makes Jon Timbre #BESTINCLASS?
JT: I wouldn’t say I am Best In Class. I'm just a normal person who loves sneakers. Maybe, I just love it and it's my passion. The best part is I am be able to meet people with the same hobbies. We are talking about class as a whole, not individuals, as we are all equal, no one stands out.
"I wouldn’t say I am Best In Class. Because, normal lang naman ako na tao na mahilig sa sneakers. Siguro lang, mahilig lang ako talaga and it’s my passion. Then yung opportunities na ma-meet ko yung mga tao with the same hobbies feels good. We are talking about class din, not individuals. Lahat tayo pantay pantay, walang stand-out."
On his days off, Jon takes time to fly back to the Philippines to spend quality time with his family and friends. His work ethics throughout the years pays off in every single way through his various accomplishments in sneaker customization.
Despite the tight competition of artists, Jon takes note of equality of visionaries as a whole, with no one better than the other. For us, his work speaks for itself.
Check out more of his photos: flickr.com/jht3
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