Mar 26 2024

Photo: Wang Zhijun

Born in 1982, Wang Zhijun is a renowned designer and artist who has made a significant impact in the world of fashion and environmental activism.

His unique blend of creativity and social consciousness has led to the creation of a series of remarkable works that have garnered international attention. The most famous ones being a series of air masks made of sneakers.

Sneaker Mask by Wang Zhijun
©Photo: Wang Zhijun Wang’s journey into the world of design began in 2008 when he started learning traditional crafts and making customized sneakers. His passion for sneakers led him to create the ‘Chinese Zodiacs’ series, one of his most famous customized sneaker collections.

In this collection, he transforms sneakers into intricate masks, each representing a zodiac animal. These masks blend artistry, craftsmanship, and environmental consciousness.

In 2013, Wang’s work took a new direction when his home city, Beijing, was engulfed in heavy smog due to rapid industrialization. As a sneaker collector who like to exercise and jog on a regular basis, Wang was directly affected by the deteriorating air quality.

This led him to create his first sneaker mask, a unique piece that combined aesthetics and utility. Over the past seven years, he has handcrafted over 200 pieces of sneaker masks for private buyers, exhibitions, fashion brands, collectors and beyond.

He uses a variety of materials for his sneaker masks. The primary material is the sneakers themselves. He noticed that most of the upper material of the sneaker is lightweight, durable, and breathable, making it an appropriate replacement for the fabric of existing facemasks.

Wang Zhijun Masks
©Photo: Wang Zhijun

He often uses limited-edition sneakers with a special story behind the pair. For example, he has made a mask from a pair of limited edition Adidas Yeezy Boost 350 V2s, designed by Kanye West. He also constructed a single-edition facemask out of materials from a CLOT x Nike Air Force 1 PRM (premium) sneaker. In some designs, he used the shape of the heel to fit over the wearer’s mouth and nose.

Sneaker Mask by Wang Zhijun
©Photo: Wang Zhijun Since then, Wang’s sneaker masks quickly gained popularity, leading to collaborations with major brands ranging from Nike and Adidas to Louis Vuitton and Off White. His Yeezy Boost 350 sneaker mask is even part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Wang’s partnerships extend beyond sportswear brands. He has also worked with luxury brands like MC, popular toy brand Kidrobo, fashion designers like Virgil Abloh, and footwear maker ANTA for a one-off Ironman mask project.

Wang’s work has been showcased in several exhibitions. His ‘Items: Is Fashion Modern?’ exhibition was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2017. He also had a solo exhibition ‘Maskology’ at Hidari Zingaro in Tokyo in 2018. In 2019, his work was featured in the Jerusalem Design Week ‘EAST’ at Hansen House.

Impact and Recognition

Wang Zhijun
©Photo: Wang Zhijun Wang’s work has not only been recognized for its artistic value but also for its social impact. His sneaker masks serve as a statement about the increasing air pollution worldwide. By transforming sneakers into functional breathing apparatus, Wang has used his art to shed light on a significant environmental issue.

Path to the Future

Wang continues to innovate and push the boundaries of his craft. He plans to work with more brands to promote his concept to the public.

With eagerly-anticipated upcoming promotions with Adidas and other brands, today, Wang dedicates most of his time doing what he loves and nurturing his passion for art and sneakers.

Wang Zhijun’s journey from a sneaker collector to a globally recognized artist is truly inspiring. His innovative approach to design, combined with his commitment to environmental activism, sets him apart in the world of fashion and art.

His sneaker masks are not just unique pieces of art; they are powerful symbols of the need for environmental consciousness in our modern world. As Wang continues to create and collaborate, we can look forward to more groundbreaking work from this remarkable artist.

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