By Maurice Merrell
The Air Jordan III is a staple favorite for most sneakerheads. Revered for being the first Jordan with a visible air unit and debuting the distinct elephant print pattern that would become synonymous with Jordan Brand for decades to come, it was an ambitious design for its time.
True visionaries of the sneaker world often put it in their top five, and Cam's Customs founder Cam Kiyokawa's no different. In fact, it was the AJ III that got him interested in kicks in the first place.
"I was about 10 years old when I was at the pool at Grant Park and I saw some random dude wearing them," Kiyokawa says. "My eyes just kind of lit up. I was like, 'Whoa. I don't know exactly what it is about them, but I'll have them someday.'"
In that moment, Kiyokawa's passion for pavement pushers was born. Like the story goes for most sneaker fans, the kicks he truly loved didn't exactly fit his or his parents' budget, so he turned his hobby inside out to buy the sneakers he wanted. By 15 years old, he started to flip shoes to buy new pairs. Waiting in lines for the latest drops also fostered a chance meeting that would thrust him into Portland's sneaker scene on a serious level.
While in line for a drop in 2014, Index PDX owners Terrance Ricketts and Mike Nguyen let Kiyokawa cut in line to be with his friends—and also because he wears different size than they do. That act of kindness led to purposeful meetings of the three that led Kiyokawa to quit his job at Foot Locker and find a new family of sneakerheads at Index PDX.
As Index's active manager for the past few years, Kiyokawa has learned more about the sneaker world's business side from Ricketts and Nguyen. But he's also made a name for himself, becoming the go-to guy of athletes, artists and entertainers around the country when they need the latest hard-to-get pairs. Inspired and eager to further his name and add to Portland's growing sneaker scene, he developed an idea to bring together the many artists, designers and sneaker detailers he knew with the community that craves head-turning kicks.
Launching last summer at Sneaker Week PDX, Cam's Customs serves as a bespoke experience for sneakerheads and an artistic showcase for designers and artists. Mixing talented customizers from cities across the country with local Pacific Northwest talent, Kiyokawa created a space that highlighted creativity and community through a shared passion for footwear by allowing the general public to have their sneakers customized by some of the best in the game.
"I wanted to push the envelope with my friends and do something that hadn't been done in Portland before," Kiyokawa says. "I knew my homies would come, but I had no idea I would get the reception I did. Especially in its first year. To be real, it was a pleasant surprise."
With Sneaker Week PDX 2018 approaching, Kiyokawa says there'll be a few new surprises, along with more artists and daily Q&A sessions.
What else is there to look forward to during this full week of sneaker love? See wweek.com for more highlights.
MORE: Cam's Customs is at Wacom Experience Center, 1455 NW Irving St. Unit 110. 11 am-5 pm Tuesday-Friday, Aug. 28-31. See sneakerweekpdx.com for complete schedule.
Aesthete Society presents Common Threads: Icons
The art collective Aesthete Society presents the latest in its Common Thread series, exploring the intertwining points of sneaker culture and everyday design. Through an interactive environment, this year's event will focus on sport through the filter of iconic footwear. 417 NW Couch St. 2-6 pm Sunday, Aug. 26.
Deadstock Coffee presents Deconstructed
This event explores two of the industries Portland is known for. Deadstock Coffee owner Ian Williams and the Coffee Homies brew up new ideas on how you look at the premium parallels between the details of coffee culture and sneaker culture. Deadstock Coffee, 408 NW Couch St. 6-8 pm Tuesday, Aug. 28.
Hosted by Esaie Witherspoon and Ian Williams, the Kick N' Knowledge crew drops insider stories on how the shoes that shaped sneaker culture were made. Special surprise guests and topics make this meeting of sneaker minds a must-see event. 412 NW Couch St. 1-3 pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Aug. 27, 29 and 31.
ICYMI and Wacom Block Party
Wrap up the week with Trill Blazin's ICYMI and the Wacom Block Party. Looking for the kicks you've always wanted to cop? Find your holy grails at ICYMI. If you're looking for a fun cap to the kicksperience, hit up the Wacom Block Party in the North Park Blocks afterward. Roseland Theater, 8 NW 6th Ave. 11 am-6 pm Saturday, Sept. 1.