The Eternal Appeal of the GEL-LYTE™ III with Shigeyuki Mitsui

Sitting down with the designer of the legendary GEL-LYTE™ III silhouette, END. and Mitsui-san discuss the cultural importance of the iconic ASICS sneaker ahead of the release of the END. x ASICS GEL-LYTE™ III "Pearl".

Mitsui-san in a recreation of his ASICS studio
A seminal part of modern day sneaker culture, the ASICS GEL-LYTE™ III entered the world as a game-changing style back in 1990. Designed by Chief Designer Shigeyuki Mitsui, more commonly known as Mitsui-san, 2020 marks the 30th Anniversary of the iconic model.

Over the course of the silhouette's 30 years of life, the ASICS GEL-LYTE™ III has become a permanent fixture within the world of streetwear and sneakerhead culture. A rightly celebrated and storied icon, Mitsui-san's design has cultivated a rich and varied heritage with an impact that has continued to pervade through all levels of the sneaker universe. Boasting an impressive number of colourways and special edition collaborations, for three decades the GEL-LYTE™ III has been at the forefront of sneaker culture. With collaborations from legendary Japanese retailers atmos to Kith's Ronnie Fieg and, most recently, Sean Wotherspoon, the split-tongued marvel remains one of ASICS' most beloved and recognisable sneakers from their SportsStyle collection.

Ahead of the release of END.'s latest collaboration with ASICS, the END. x ASICS GEL-LYTE™ III "Pearl", we sat down with Mitsui-san to discuss the importance of his legendary silhouette and the lasting impact of the model.

Mitsui-san in a recreation of his ASICS studio
A recreation of Mitsui-san's ASICS studio

A beloved silhouette, the ASICS GEL-LYTE™ III has become an icon of modern sneaker culture. How has it been observing the model’s rise to sneaker stardom?

I often comment that the GEL-LYTE™ III is like a “daughter” to me. The GEL-LYTE™ III, which was originally an ordinary girl has been transformed into a great actress by everyone involved.

When I first designed the GEL-LYTE™ III, I had the feeling that I did not want to follow the customs too much. I had the idea that I should not compromise the design that I had in mind. That being said, I believe the reason this shoe is loved by many people, even today, is because shop directors and designers with great creativity have made their original GEL-LYTE™ IIIs with different characteristics.

When initially designing the GEL-LYTE™ III, what influenced your creative process?

I believe that when music, art, and sports combine, a fantastic piece of work will be created. This is why I definitely added these elements to the GEL-LYTE™ III.

On a technical level, various materials and parts are used for the GEL-LYTE™ III, but I tried to make each of the lines connect and to create a sense of unity with the design. I worked very hard on the overall shape of the model to create an elegant silhouette. At the same time, I didn’t want the design to be a boring repetition of lines. To prevent that, I tried to be creative with the lines on the design of the outsole, and gave it a unique character.

As for the colour, because the colour sample book didn’t have too many variations, I created a new colour with paint, and sent an original colour chip to the factory. This was how the original colour was created. Today, young designers are creating new colourways based on their own sensitivity. I think that’s similar to how I approached my own work.

A recreation of Mitsui-san's ASICS studio

The silhouette is rather esoteric in design, with the bold split tongue and expressive colour choices. Did you intend to create a style that was disruptive to the status quo of footwear design at the time?

I tried to begin by challenging the common idea of “how a running shoe should be”. The Split Tongue was created from the functional perspective of preventing the tongue from moving around when running. As for the colour, there was a common thought at the time that runners liked simple and light colours such as white and grey based tones. Although some would prefer such colourings, I thought other runners would prefer different types of colours. Therefore, I worked hard on the accent colours and their placements. This is why I also made sure the structure and the specific types of materials of the shoes allowed a variety of colourings.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, the GEL-LYTE™ III has been the focus of a plethora of collaborative offerings, including our own upcoming rendition, the “Pearl”. What do you think the "Pearl" brings to the GEL-LYTE™ III?

“White” is actually a difficult colour to create, and in nature, “pure white” is rarely found. Even with paint, I think until the Middle Ages, ivory was considered to be white. However, “Pearl white” is a mystical colour that has been created by nature, and I believe many people are attracted to that enticing colour.

A recreation of Mitsui-san's ASICS studio

When so many other silhouettes have been forgotten, why do you think the GEL-LYTE™ III has stood the test of time?

I think the reason the GEL-LYTE™ III is worn by young people, even today, after 30 years from its first launch, is because there is no single answer to how the silhouette of the model has to be. Because of its unique structure and the way that it uses various patterns on the upper, different materials and colourings can be used. Younger designers have used their own imagination and creativity to make their own GEL-LYTE™ IIIs. I believe sneakerheads who wear such shoes also enjoy the model in their own style. I hope that ever-changing silhouettes of the GEL-LYTE™ III continue to be created, and that it continues to entertain the sneaker world.

A recreation of Mitsui-san's ASICS studio

Release information

END. x ASICS GEL-LYTE™ III "Pearl"

Lavender Grey/Ivory

1191A356-500

17.10.2020

writerEND.
|photographerMarc E. Marquez
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