G Ming Soulgoods AIr Jordan 1 Sole Mates Interview
From the youngest age, G-Ming soon realized he had a passion for three things: basketball, sneakers and hometown pride. Growing up in Beijing, his goal was to find a way to turn those passions into a business model, and that’s when he came up with the idea of concocting SOULGOODS – a streetwear and sneaker boutique that opened in 2016 and now has four total locations in Beijing, Sichuan and Shanghai. As a Tier Zero account, SOULGOODS has become a hub for coveted merchandise like Off-White™ x Nike collaborations, Ye’s popular adidas YEEZY offerings and more.
Ming credits his love of basketball and sneakers to the NBA. Growing up idolizing Michael Jordan, he naturally leaned into the six-time champion’s signature sneaker catalog. And of all the iconic models in the GOAT canon, the Air Jordan 1 is the silhouette that resonated the most with the SOULGOODS founder, which is why it’s the centerpiece of his Sole Mates characteristic.
Hypebeast caught up with Ming to chat about what he loves about classic Jordan kicks, his thoughts on the rise of sneaker culture over the past two decades, and more.
Hypebeast: What made you love sneakers?
G Ming: It all started in elementary school for me. Our school encouraged us to play sports, and that’s when my interest in performance footwear and the NBA began to grow. The sneakers became novelties for me and my peers around me, and I fell in love with their designs.
Can you remember what was the first pair of sneakers you bought?
My first pair of sneakers were the Converse RAW ENERGY basketball shoes, which [Phoenix Suns guard] wore Kevin Johnson. They were equipped with a RAW (REACT At Work) oil pack system for the full foot and they had the iconic five-star badge on the heel. I remember buying a pair for around 500 yuan, which was considered quite expensive at the time.
“Even more than 30 years since [the Air Jordan 1’s] early days, he still serves as a symbolic figure within sneaker culture. Everything from the shape to the OG colorways is special.
Why is the Air Jordan 1 important to you?
I love the Air Jordan 1 because it’s representative of so many things. It’s one of the most iconic sneaker silhouettes of all time. Even more than 30 years after her debut, she is still an iconic figure in sneaker culture. Everything from the shape to the OG colorways is special in its own way.
Which pair of Air Jordan 1 is the most valuable or meaningful to you?
I think I can speak for most shoe collectors when I say this, but the Air Jordan 1 Hi ’85 is one of the most treasured models, especially pairs that are either dead or still preserved in wearable condition. The whole history of this sneaker being MJ’s first signing, the marketing campaign that said she was ‘banned’ from the NBA and the fact that she is still sought after today is what makes her so important.
When did you first think of opening your own sneaker store?
The idea came to me when I was in college. After visiting Yaxin 1990 – China’s first high-end boutique – for the first time, I was blown away. From that moment on, I dreamed of one day owning my own sneaker store.
Now that you have experience running your own shoe store, do you have a new perspective on the sneaker industry?
Over time, I realized that sneakers had become a way for many people to meet and form real relationships. You can meet new friends and participate in many communities through sneakers. Wearing a pair of sneakers or collecting sneakers can give many people confidence and find another way of life. I hadn’t realized this when I discovered the sneakers.
What do you think of the rapid development of sneaker culture today?
Twenty years ago it felt like sneaker culture was very small and niche, but now you can see people wearing all kinds of sneakers on the street. These days, there are also so many sneaker events and media platforms showcasing the culture and pushing it forward. In fact, I feel very relieved and honored that it is headed in this direction, and I hope this circle will continue to grow and more amazing products will emerge.
What do you think the perfect sneaker store offers?
I believe if you own a sneaker store, you have a few responsibilities. This includes educating its consumers about the history of sneakers and their culture – and providing them with a comprehensive yet well-curated assortment of different brands and silhouettes that they cannot find anywhere else.
You’ve been in the sneaker business for over 20 years. Do you still have unmet goals that you would like to accomplish?
My enthusiasm for sneakers has not diminished over the past 20 years. Whenever I see my favorite sneakers or talk about the history of sneakers, I still feel as excited as when I first entered the game. Personally, there are still a ton of rare sneakers that I hope to unearth one day. On the business side, it’s one of my dreams to one day collaborate with Nike to design a pair of sneakers that fully represents Beijing and Chinese culture.
This issue of Sole Mates originally appeared on HYPEBEAST CN and has been adapted accordingly.