Posted on 26 Sep By Visionarism

Interview w/ King-Masa, founder of AOOS.

Fifteen years after starting his blog, King-Masa from Japan published his first book. After releasing multiple volumes, he now runs his own clothing brand: Always Out Of Stock (AOOS), and it all came from his passion for sneakers. At a time when there are more and more opportunities for creatives, we caught up with Masa in Tokyo, to talk about how everything started for him, and how he manages to do so many things at the same time…

Masa… You are very well known in Japan in the sneaker scene, but for those who don’t know you yet, can you introduce yourself?

My name is King-Masa, and I am from Kyoto, Japan. I went to high school in Melbourne, Australia, and graduated from UCLA. Now, I run my own business in Japan. If you ask me what I do for a living, I’d just say that I do what I love, and my job is to be myself: ”King-Masa”.

How and when did you get into sneakers?

When I was younger, I visited Hawaii several times, and that’s where I started falling in love with the Sneaker Culture. I saw the locals chilling and rocking their sneakers, and thought it was really cool. It’s also hanging out with them that made me want to learn English.

What’s your view on the current sneaker scene?

The Sneaker Game isn’t fun anymore. It used to be. I remember camping out with my friends when I was living in LA. Back then, you could tell everyone had a real passion for sneakers, so there was a real exchange between us. We all felt part of the same community. I liked the feeling of excitement right before the store opening, when you don’t know whether or not you’d get your size in the shoes you wanted. Nowadays, a lot of the people in the scene just think “money” and “profit”, especially in Japan. Most of them aren’t even real sneakers enthusiasts. In my opinion, it all got a bit out of control.

How did you get into social media? How do you feel it has impacted and influenced what you do?

I started my blog almost 18 years ago, when I was in Australia. That was my beginning. I was writing on my blog every day. I’d post about sneakers, street fashion, lifestyle news, stores, etc… Eventually, after 15 years of hard work, a publisher contacted me, and offered to publish my book in 2016. My book ranked No. 1 on Amazon Japan. Then, other media, TV channels started to get in touch as well. I’m so grateful that my fans love what I do. On social media, I just post what I like. I don’t really do sponsored posts. In Japan, people started categorizing me as a “influencer”, “Instagrammer”, but I’m not. I’m just King-Masa.

You are very active on Instagram and we see that you enjoy interacting with your audience. Can you give us your view on the importance of engaging with your followers?

When I started my blog almost 18 years ago, I was posting every day. Now, I’m less active on the blog, as I post most of my content on Instagram and Twitter. I had to adapt, as those are the two platforms where everyone is. I post at least once a day. I have to, otherwise I feel like my audience would get bored. My aim is to keep them entertained. I also use IG Live a lot. With the amount of comments/questions I get daily, it’s a great tool to be able to interact directly with my audience. For me, it is very important to keep all my supporters happy.

You’ve mentioned your first book earlier… What made you want to create your clothing label as well?

Since 2016, I’ve been releasing my books named “Out Of Stock Sneakers”. The most recent one has been launched in August 2019. I love sneakers, but I also love clothing, so I decided to start my own clothing brand named “Always Out Of Stock” (AOOS). Both are linked through “sneakers”. I love “limited” sneakers, that’s my thing. Maybe because of how exclusive and hard to get they are. And that’s what I wanted for my brand. I liked the idea of “instant sell-out”, so I gave that name to my label. Right now, everything I produce is “Made in Japan”. In the future, I’d love to expand, to be able to show the “Japanese quality” to the world.

For all the young entrepreneurs reading us, can you share your tips on how to do so many different things at the same time?

That’s a very interesting question. Like I said, I do what I love, so it doesn’t really feel like I’m working. In my mind, I’m like a character of a Role-Play video game or something like that (laughs). I put 100% effort in everything I do. To me, there is no such thing as failure, because I don’t stop anything until I’ve achieved my goal and win.

How do you see your clothing brand evolving in the next few years?

As I mentioned, all my products are made in Japan. I have a lot of respect for my country and its culture, and I want to show it through what I do. When I’m ready, I want to expand, and I’m confident that the American and European markets will love the quality of my products. That’s the next step.

We’ve just announced the triple collaboration between Barneys New York / Visionarism / AOOS. How would you describe this upcoming capsule collection?

I’ve been building a relationship with Barneys New York since 2016. At the beginning, all I was doing was graphic t-shirts. To be honest, I found it a bit embarrassing to sell my tees at Barneys, right next to amazing brands which all had a full collection on display. That’s when I decided to do more, and do differently.

I’ve been a close friend of the Visionarism duo since they started, and we’ve always wanted to work together. We were just waiting for the right project. When we engaged the conversion with Barneys New York, everything started to fall into place. We decided to create a capsule collection that stayed true to who we are as people and brands. Because of our respective branding, the theme for our first collaborative collection is “black and white”. We wanted to keep things sophisticated, with a strong character and identity, so that’s what we did. We’ve just revealed the official images of the campaign, directed and produced by Visionarism, and I’m very excited for the launch in both our pop-ups in Barneys New York Tokyo (Shinjuku) and Barneys New York Kobe.

Any last words?

I would like to say thank you to all of those who have read this interview. Check out my Instagram channels @kingmasa2014 and @alwaysoutofstock to get to know more about me and my brand. Enjoy!


All images by @Visionarism.