Walking in Multiple Worlds: Kyle Reyes Designed Shoes

Maui's Hook
Maui's Hook - This is the first pair of shoes I designed.  For a few years, I was inspired by 8th Generation founder and artist, Louie Gong, and the way he bridged skater culture with his Northwestern Coast Salish patterns.  This first pair was a Vans leather, classic white, size 10.5. I wanted to tell a story that was meaningful from my Hawaiian heritage and chose to focus the design on the hook of the great Demi God Maui.  In Poly tribal style, I used only black ink with a bit of gray for shading.  I wanted the focus to be on the strength of Maui's hook, which he used to bring the Hawaiian islands together (Maui's Story).  Other imagery includes: repeating spear tips, woven lauhala mat, sun, stars, and ocean waves.  Each of these images is tied to the wonderful stories of Maui for many of the Pacific Islander people.  [Two sizes of black Sharpie markers, one gray fabric marker]               
First Wave

First Wave - I finished my second design while on a trip with Michele to Las Vegas.  I took the pair of Vans canvas, classic white, size 10.5's and worked on it on the plane and during our trip. With this design, I wanted to honor all of our Pacific Islander ancestors who were the first to push out into the ocean.  This pair is called First Wave signaling respect for the first wave of Pasifika voyagers.  These ancestors were the original bridge builders for our communities.  I was influenced by both Maori and Hawaiian patterns and designs as these two particular island groups hold great stories of specific canoes (wa'a in Hawaiian, waka in Maori) and voyages and continue to connect new generations to their stories.  Blue was chosen to represent the ocean and symbols of courage are woven throughout the design to inspire courageous journeys for future Pacific Islanders.  [Three shades of blue fabric markers, two navy blue Micron pens]   



Butterflies - At the beginning of the school year in August 2015, my daughter, Ka'imi, refused to go to kindergarten.  I made her a deal that if she went to school for five days in a row by herself, I would make her a pair of shoes.  The next week, I received a call from my wife letting me know that Ka'imi had attended school for the 5th straight day.  I picked up a pair of Faded Glory's from Walmart and asked Ka'imi what design she wanted.  She said, "a butterfly", which was appropriate since she had butterflies going to school.  She picked out her favorite colors and this pair is what I delivered to her.  I did most of the work on this design while down in Ganado, Arizona for the Navajo Nation Fair.  When the shoes are placed together, the body of the butterfly can be seen in its turquoise color with the purple and pink wings fanning out to the sides.  Ka'imi has been wearing them ever since.  These are her power shoes.  [Two pink Micron pens, one purple Micron pen, two shades of purple fabric markers, one turquoise fabric marker, one pink fabric marker]  


Momma Gets What Momma Wants

Momma Gets What Momma Wants - After a few pairs of shoes were done, Michele let me know that she wanted a pair of her own.  I asked her to find shoes she would actually wear.  She showed up with these heels.  This was a great challenge.  The other pairs I had worked on had surfaces (canvas and leather) that you could sketch on or that would had a rough texture to keep the markers from slipping.  On these heels, I could not sketch anything on the shoe and any marker I used just slipped thus making it difficult to maintain control of the design.  So, after sketching out my draft on paper, I patiently went to work on the design with a steady hand.  One one shoe, I put the initials "K" and "M" for Kyle and Michele.  On the other shoe, I put the initials "M" and "R" for Michele Reyes.  Other than these two elements, the design was focused on patterns that were clean, strong, but also elegant.  [One black Sharpie marker and one black Micron pen]   


Ganado Red Wedges

Ganado Red Wedges - I wanted to do something for my mother-in-law and asked Michele to get me a pair of her mom's shoes for me to work on.  This pair of wedges presented some new opportunities and challenges.  The surface is wood and very slippery.  Also, there is a lot of canvas to cover but on the back of the shoe, as opposed to most of my designs on the front. I knew I wanted to have a Navajo rug pattern so I researched some designs of the famous Ganado Red woven rugs.  I chose a combination of patterns that would both bring in the natural brown of the wood as well as offer new vibrant color combinations.  This was the first surface on which I used paint markers.  Most other pens/markers were diluted by the natural wood background.  The paint markers allowed the paint to sit on top of the finished wood surface, thus achieving more accurate colors.  [Four paint markers: yellow, white, turquoise, red; one black Sharpie, one red Sharpie, one deep turquoise Sharpie]


Lil Messi


Lil Messi - My son Kekoa wears number 10, just like his idol Lionel Messi.  When Kekoa started his FC Rangers season, his cleats were beginning to get a bit tight.  So, for his birthday, I made him this pair of Nike Hypervenoms.  A few of his teammates had the same cleats...but definitely NOT the same designs.  [Two sizes of black Sharpies, one silver PenTouch Caligrapher]


Sweet Cleats


Sweet Cleats - Two of my nieces are really into soccer.  My sister asked me to do a pair for each of them and she provided these Nike Mercurials.  I struggled at first deciding how I would incorporate the existing Nike Swoosh symbol but then I decided to make the Swoosh work for me and my design.  I did different designs on each pair and the word on the street is that my nieces are scoring goals like crazy with these bad boys.  [Two sizes of black Sharpie marker]    


Maui's Mission

Maui's Mission - In early December 2015, I received a phone call from a good friend asking me to do a pair of shoes for his uncle.  He asked me to focus on the Demigod Maui as this uncle was about to do a project in which he would play the voice of Maui in an animated movie.  I agreed to do this pair of Vans Classic white, size 14, slip ons.  After I finished the pair, I sent the following description to my friend to send on to his uncle.

This shoe design contains much of the symbolism and imagery associated with the great Polynesian Demigod Maui. The symbols (and descriptions below) are drawn from both the Hawaiian and Samoan traditions and stories passed on through our community elders.

Sun God (Tagaloa Lā) - When the shoes are placed together, the primary image is that of the Sun God. I started with him because our stories often start with him. Whether Tagaloa Lā or Kalā, the Sun God’s power can be felt by all and I wanted his reach to cover the front of the shoe. His face was deliberately abstract with variations of his eyes. Ultimately, I chose to use Maui’s Fish Hook to cover where the eyes might be, symbolizing how Maui took power and controlled the Sun.  

Maui’s Hook - Maui is most known for two great feats: capturing the Sun and gathering the islands together. While the Sun image covers the face of the shoe, central to the design was Maui’s hook. Directly below each hook is a representation of the islands (eight Hawaiian islands) that Maui brought together. The hook itself is deliberately left without much design inside. This was to both help it stand out against the backdrop but more significantly, it was meant to demonstrate the purity of Maui’s power. The end of the hook is the only design element to match the tail of the sea where Maui’s hook had great affect. Directly above each hook is a Lauhala design. This design leads to the lashing of the hook and represents the tireless work of our ancestors to use the materials of the land for everyday functions including mats, baskets, clothing, and general coverings. My grandmother, Rose Pilipi was a master Lauhala weaver in the northern coast of the Big Island (Kohala) and this symbol is always meant to honor her.

“M” - Above the Lauhala design is a designed letter “M”. This, obviously stands for Maui, but it also represents the word Mana. Mana is a deeply spiritual term focusing on one’s inner power or strength coming from ancestral roots as well as godly roots.

Volcanoes and Sun Rays - At the edge of each of the sun, you will find symbols of volcanoes. This is meant to be neither positive or negative symbolism but rather a symbol of power. The volcano itself invokes connection to the Demigoddess Pele as well as the torture that the Samoan people endured from Le-Fe’e (Demon God). Shooting from each volcano is lava but when viewed as a larger piece, the very same symbol of destruction is also a symbol of light shooting from the Sun.  

Octopus (Demonic Chief Le-Fe’e) - On the back of the shoes are found symbols of the octopus tentacles of Le-Fe’e. There are four tentacles on each side and they are meant to show Le-Fe’e’s constant desire to disrupt and grab hold of goodness. But this symbol was placed in the back of the shoe demonstrating leaving our demons in the past and moving forward with strength.

Spearhead and Fan Patterns - The two patterns that outline the sun are a repeating spearhead and a woven fan. The spearhead represents a warrior’s spirit and was chosen to symbolize Maui’s warrior courage. The fan pattern represents generations and ancestors who came before. Both patterns repeat dozens of times to signal the long history of courageous warriors in our Pacific Islander ancestry and should be a reminder that we have greatness within us.   

Colors - Blue was chosen as the primary color for this piece. This is because the strong connection of the color to both the sky (where the sun lives) and the ocean (where Maui spent his life and performed his great feats). The darker shade of blue was chosen over a bright blue because of the stormy nature of the battles Maui endured. The yellow is primarily used to distinguish the main design as the Sun God. The use of black, gray, and white is meant to provide high contrast and provide a sense of strength.    

[Four fabric markers: two shades of blue, gray, yellow; four sizes of black Micron pens]